Dave Mason and Steve Cropper are two undisputed titans in the worlds of rock and soul. Both are members of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall of Fame (Cropper was inducted in 1992 as a member of Booker T. and & M.G.’s and Mason in 2004 as a founding member of Traffic), both were prolific sidemen, producers and songwriters and both are touring together in a kind-of supergroup that truly deserves that hyperbolic designation.
“We sorta got together about a year ago,” Mason said in a phone interview from Berkeley. “We were doing a benefit in Maui, and we started talking about some ideas. I asked Steve if he would be up for doing something together and he basically just said, ‘Yeah! Sure.’ So that's how it all can together, really: that simply.”
They’re stopping at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace on Sept. 27 for the Rock & Soul Revue, the latest installment of the Guitar Masters series. If you are a fan of classic rock and soul you should already have your ticket: This is going to be a killer show.
“I do 'Dave Mason stuff,' obviously,” Mason said, “and we do a couple of things out of Traffic. Then we do songs that Steve co-wrote: ‘Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,’ ‘In the Midnight Hour,’ ‘Knock on Wood,’ ‘Soul Man,' and then we throw some other stuff in there that that neither of us wrote but because we have a great female singer, Gretchen Rhodes, who’s a part of my band. It's sort of a tour-de-force of great songs, really. There's no dead weight at all.”
Dave Mason’s name might be the more familiar name of the two, mainly for his tenure in Traffic and the 1968 song “Feelin’ Alright” (made even more famous a year later by singer Joe Cocker) and also his 1977 single as a solo artist “We Just Disagree” (made even more famous by country singer Billy Dean in 1993). Mason was good friends and recorded with Jimi Hendrix, played with every Beatle except John, and even appeared, uncredited, on the Rolling Stones’ album ”Beggars Banquet.”
Cropper is also no slouch: The man was a Blues Brother! Yes that’s him in both “Blues Brothers” films and it’s also him playing the guitar intro on Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” and on Booker T. & the M.G.’s “Green Onions.” As part of the house band at Stax Records in the 1960s, Cropper played on hundreds of albums featuring artists such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. The recording credits for Cropper alone is intense. For the two of them? Massive.
“It's just a real kind of thrill to be playing with Cropper,” Mason said. “I mean, apart from the writing, the man played on pretty much on every Stax record that was ever released. There’s a huge heritage there. For me, it's great because that's the stuff that I was listening to when I was 17, 18 years old.”
The ticket price might be a bit steep at $60, but the catalogs these two musicians have combined are staggering in their quality.
This is a rare opportunity and consider the ticket price an investment to enjoy some incredible music and some peace of mind where you can just unwind.
That’s really the whole point, isn't it? These two are closing in on five decades in the music business and are as pumped about performing together as teenagers going on their first tour, but each with a masterful sense of song craft and performance with a working man’s humility and mileage.
“I’m basically a working musician,” Mason said. “That’s what I am.”
“We're just trying to have as much fun as we can on stage.”
Guitar Masters presents Dave Mason & Steve Cropper Rock & Soul Revue, 7 p.m. Sept. 27, Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace, 2800 Buck Owens Blvd. Tickets $60 at vallitix or evenue.net.
Birchwood back in Bakersfield
No Stinkin’ Service Charge Blues Series Part 92 with Selwyn Birchwood, featuring The Patterson Family Band, 7 p.m. Friday, World Records, 2815 F St. Tickets $30, available at World Records. 325-1982.
Since performing here in December as part 87 of the No Stinkin’ Service Charge Blues Series (No. 100 is in sight!), Selwyn Birchwood and his band has been touring nonstop in support of his intoxicating 2017 album “Pick Your Poison.”
On it, the talented Birchwood tackled some social commentary on songs like “Police State” and “Corporate Drone” that, unfortunately, still have as much relevance now as they did when he recorded them. Birchwood lets the songs do the talking for him, avoiding any misrepresentation about where he’s coming from, even if where he’s coming from is personal.
“All of the songs that I do are personal, that’s why I write them,” Birchwood said. “I think that is when music gets really deep and really cool: when you hear a song and can understand someone else’s emotion or story. It helps us feel like we aren’t completely isolated in the human experience.”
Birchwood doesn’t employ set lists, making each show a spontaneous experience, with the “Pick Your Poison” material finally assuming its final forms after being played live for a year.
“The songs are always changing and evolving,” Birchwood said. “So you will definitely notice that nothing is exactly the same."
He’s a magnetic and impressive performer with killer material and people are taking notice. He’ll be heading out on a European tour next year as well as the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise next month, but, for his part, looks forward to returning to perform here.
“We had an absolute blast last time we were there (in Bakersfield),” Birchwood said. “It was such a great surprise and blessing to be met with so much enthusiasm and support at our first performance there and we look to give back, three-fold, all of the energy you give us!”
Check out this killer, hard-working musician right at the precipice of bigger things, playing right here in our own backyard.
Also performing Friday is The Patterson Family Band, a cool local trio consisting of a father, Deryl, and his two grown daughters, Breeia and Latti. They cut their teeth playing at the 24th Street Cafe over the last few years performing acoustic covers of a variety of songs and styles ranging from soul to country.
Kenny G, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Spectrum Ampitheatre, Park at River Walk, 11200 Stockdale Highway. Tickets: $24-$80; 852-7300.
Rompiendo Fronteras Tour 2018 with Los Tigres del Norte and Alejandro Fernandez, 8 p.m., Rabobank Arena, 1001 Truxtun Ave. Tickets $49-$159; 852-7300.
Two other shows of note are happening this weekend: Kenny G at Spectrum Ampitheatre on Thursday and Los Tigres Del Norte and Alejandro Fernández at Rabobank Arena this Saturday.
Best known for his signature song “Songbird” and for pretty much single-handedly sparking the smooth jazz fad of the 1990s, Kenny G (aka Kenneth Bruce Gorelick) has been the punchline for a lot of jokes over the years, but he’s the one that gets the last laugh: That song made him a mint and netted him a career as one of the best-selling artists of all time. I wager that a lot of readers out there have a copy of his over-10-times platinum 1992 album “Breathless.”
People tend to forget that the guy can play, like really play. And for all the barbs thrown this way, this is still the same guy that broke a Guinness World Record for the longest note ever recorded on a saxophone in 1997. That’s right. Dude played an uninterrupted note for 45 minutes and 47 seconds. Granted, playing one note for a long time can’t reliably determine how good or not good a musician is, but the ability to exhale a note while simultaneously breathing in is a formidable technique. The guy takes his craft seriously and that’s commendable.
His last album, 2015’s “Brazilian Nights,” is a breezy blast of bossa nova-tinged Latin jazz. The string and piano intro to the title track is simply gorgeous and reminiscent of Dave Grusin’s soundtrack work. The rest of the album is enjoyable as well and what you’d expect from a Kenny G album: solid production, tight arrangements and a smooth, soothing vibe. At 62, he has a working formula and gets a lot more done with consistency than fire-breathing artistic abandon. Why not? I think that’s the strength of his particular artistry that connects with — and emboldens criticism from — so many people across the board: painting within the lines so cleanly, you can’t tell where, or if, colors bleed together.
His show might convert a few skeptics, but I wouldn’t hold my breath (zing!): Old habits — and targets — die hard. So what? With a reported over-75 million albums sold, he can laugh at your jokes from his plane. That’s right. He flies his own plane. Who’s laughing now?
Later this weekend comes a big show to Rabobank. Los Tigres del Norte is one of the most popular norteño groups working today. Ever since the release of its first corrido, ”Contrabando y Traición” (“Contraband and Betrayal”) in 1974, the band has kept a steady career trajectory going with lyrically cinematic songs. Singer Alejandro Fernandez will perform that night as well.
The push of this Rompiendo Fronteras (Breaking Borders) tour is to bring a message of hope and support, along with a celebration of Mexican music, culture and heritage, to the Latino immigrant community in a challenging time.