Isaiah Morfin is a musician on a mission. Local music fans might recognize the 28-year-old saxophonist from his appearances at shows — sometimes at random — and with his own band, Izzy and the Fins. Whether it was onstage or busking in front of a Target store, Morfin would be there with his alto saxophone, ready to express himself and hopefully make new fans.
With one EP under his belt, 2017's “Want You,” Morfin has been currently working toward making a full-length Izzy and the Fins album titled “Human.”
“I'm trying to do as many shows as possible to try to raise money to record,” Morfin said.
Audiences will get a sneak peek of “Human” when Izzy and the Fins performs it in its entirety at Ovation Theatre Thursday. The 10 songs that were chosen for the album were born from the gauntlet of years of live performances.
“To me it feels like a ‘best of,’” Morfin said. “One things I like about the people that I’ve been playing with is they’re always open to try new things. Over the course of just playing these tunes at different places, we kind of figured out which ones were the ‘winners,’ if you will.”
Morfin, who was born in Long Beach but moved to Bakersfield when he was 8, graduated from the prestigious Berklee School of Music in 2013.
His chops and musical instincts are prodigious, forward-thinking and impressive, but he also understands how to use textures and sounds to create specific moods. Whether it’s frantic, bold, driving, sentimental or moving, Morfin’s sensitivity can drive his musical compass to whatever degree is needed in order to achieve the proper alchemy for the song. He looks like a young David Byrne and shares the same nervous artistic wanderlust.
I’ve performed with him a few times myself. On one gig in particular, the music the group was performing was a cross between jazzy improvisation and neo-soul. He jumped from one instrument to another — keyboards, saxophone, singing — and attempted to conduct a composition in real time out of the random elements the musicians were playing.
The process was delirious, but paid off with some musical moments that achieved true lift-off, even if it left the musicians exhausted. Well, all but him. Like an unstoppable funky cosmic elf, Morfin bounded off for more.
“We labored hard on just getting all of the sounds right; going through all these hundreds of synthesizer sounds,” Morfin said. “So, texturally, I think this is (going to be) one of the best shows for now.”
Guitarist Paul Cierley will join Morfin for a first set of low-key instrumentals that will range from jazz standards to more offbeat fare like "Do You Realize" by The Flaming Lips.
"Basically, just medium tempo, ballads, and chill instrumental tunes,” Morfin said. “I know it’s going to be hot and people will want to chill once they get inside."
Once they’re done, Morfin will be joined by the Fins: Nick Gonzales on bass, Rodrick Pleasants on drums, Rebecca Spickler on keyboard, Jeff Ardray on guitar and his wife, Jessica, singing harmony. Morfin will be on alto sax and singing lead vocals. Keyboardist Tony Rinaldi will be featured on the album, but will not be performing at Thursday's show.
It’s quite a treat to see a concert at the Ovation Theatre. It offers a sense of immersion that most music venues around town just can’t compete with. Its amphitheater-type seating makes sure that there isn’t a bad seat in the house and the acoustics are balanced both on stage and off. Once those lights go down, it’s showtime — for the ears and the eyes courtesy of visual artist and musician Squishynoize aka Dusty Gonzales.
“One big thing that's different about this show,” Morfin said, “is we have visuals to go with the songs. That's something that I've been wanting to do for a really long time, so I'm super pumped about that.”
Between working on a new album and the infrastructure that goes along with that, Morfin adopts the philosophy of “keeping the lines open” musically and professionally. Doing so has led him to opportunities that have helped give him valuable perspective on whatever he happens to be prioritizing at any given moment.
For those who can’t make the show or who would like to contribute to the album, Morfin has started a crowdfunding campaign at gofundme.com/izzyandthefins2018.
“Hopefully,” Morfin said, “this can lead to something really, really, really good.”
Summer Vibes with Izzy and the Fins, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Ovation Theatre, 1622 19th St. $15 with a two-item purchase.
Motorbäbe, Cadillac Gangsters and The 08 Orchestra, 9:30 p.m. Friday, Sandrini’s Public House, 1918 Eye St. $5.
Motorbäbe, a Southern California-based all-female tribute to Motorhead that’s as loud and aggressive as the real deal, is returning this Friday to Sandrini’s Pub. Now that Motorhead’s frontman Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister has passed on to that great gig in the sky (or wherever), tribute shows like these are the only way fans can listen to Motörhead songs live now. At least the ones that don’t necessarily include the words “ace” or “spades.”
Motörbabe’s Australian guitarist Zebidy Tank, from the band Drop Tank, is a face-melter. Her playing is killer and the rest of the band is game as well. Also on the bill is The 08 Orchestra and the winner of the “Best Band Name of 2018” so far, the Cadillac Gangsters who play brainy, heavy rock that toes the line between prog and straight metal. Very fun to watch and spot the influences. Bring earplugs; it’s gonna get loud.