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Gordo's Humpin' A Cinnamon Tree

LES CLAYPOOL is the illegitimate son of GEDDY LEE. Somehow the seed of the progressive Canadian bassist found its way to EL CERRITO and blessed young Les with both frightening musical skills and a voice that could cut glass. It's entirely appropriate that both SUCK ON THIS and FRIZZLE FRY open with RUSH quotes before resolving into the psychotic Primus sound that most stoners in Northern California have come to know and love.

Despite the overwhelming similarity in timbre between the men's voices, young Les did not repeat the sins of his father. So far he has yet to release a concept record about the Internet, has yet to take a 20-minute uninterrupted bass solo and has yet to bail ALEX LIFESON out of jail.

Instead of kicking it at RANCHO RELAXO (the Claypool Compound outside Santa Rosa), Les put together a group of faux-hippies called ELECTRIC APRICOT to traipse around the state in wigs and tie-dyes, singing songs about humping cinnamon trees and going to BURNING MAN (I wanna feel the Playa sand).

Forsaking the bass for the drumkit, Les has been using the stage name LAPLAND MICLOVICH in his latest endeavor. Joined by AIWASS on bass, GORDO on guitar and HERSCHEL TAMBOR BRILLSTEIN on keyboards, this group is taking the hippie aesthetic to the absolute extreme. Exactly what their reasons are remain unclear as of presstime, but the results are hilarious.

With a catalog built out of monochromatic pentatonic licks and endless vamps, the Apricot might not be all that great except for the fact that everyone onstage is totally hilarious to watch. Whether it was Les' biker gloves, Aiwass' canvas suit or Gordo's really uncomfortable O-face during his solos, the group was visually stimulating in inverse proportion to the interestingness of the musical material that they were playing. The more ridiculous the vamp, the better it was to watch.

Life was good at MOE'S until SOME DRUNK DRIVER took out a transformer somewhere and plunged all of SEABRIGHT and most of the EAST SIDE into a BLACKOUT. After a valiant attempt at an acoustic set, the Apricot left the stage, taking their Nag Champa and a bit of our hearts with them.

A Tale of Two Trios

On Aug. 24, the JACOB FRED JAZZ ODYSSEY blew through the Kuumbwa. Purveyors of fine improvised music form Tulsa, Okla., their sense of collective improvisation and genuine joy in music making is a joy to watch. However, for all their talents and skills, my memories of their show are a bit blunted by the performance that MEDESKI, MARTIN AND WOOD gave the next night in Saratoga at VILLA MONTALVO.

After almost 15 years together, MMW is the platonic ideal of a jazz trio. They artfully blend both the supergroovy with the utterly abstract in almost every composition that they bring to the stage. With a set of nonverbal cues that they have refined over the course of thousands of shows together, they can segue from odd-metered originals into JIMI HENDRIX tunes and quote MINGUS on the way back into the original.

With the usual lack of stage announcements, they traipsed through two hours of material, culling new sounds from old instruments and redefining that endless circular question of "What is jazz?" Medeski reached inside his MELLOTRON (a late-'60s tape-driven synthesizer heard at the beginning of "Strawberry Fields Forever") to manipulate its flywheel to get scratching sounds, Martin took a file to the end of cowbell (take the Blue Öyster Cult) and Wood even brought out a pick to play power chords on an electric bass. Somewhere jazz purists are spinning in their graves while the rest of us keep dancing.

Peter Koht

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From the August 31-September 7, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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