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Oct 01st
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Music

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Features

Paying it Forward

Paying it Forward

Pianist Benny Green wants jazz’s past to continue to inform its future

I can honestly say I’m still learning.” Hearing such an admirable, humble statement from someone like Benny Green—a jazz pianist, arranger, composer and band leader whose 30-plus year career includes performances and recordings with jazz luminaries like Oscar Peterson, Art Blakey and Betty Carter—might be surprising at first. But Green’s insatiable desire to keep learning has served him well. That desire—and his deep love of jazz—is something he wants today’s younger musicians to feel, too.

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Love Your Local Band

North Pacific String Band

North Pacific String Band

Jeff Wilson, who plays banjo for North Pacific String Band, loves being part of original music experiences. “What I like about the music we play is that it’s fairly unique and kind of hard to put your finger on,” Wilson says. “We’re not just trying to do bluegrass or country or folk. It’s a mixture of those things and we try to add in a lot of musicality to all of that.” Originality and musicality aren’t ideas which are limited to the band’s exploits either.

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Features

Stranger than Fiction

Stranger than Fiction

Memphis singer-songwriter, Amy LaVere, finds joy and humor in painful situations

Producer Craig Silvey likely saved singer-songwriter Amy LaVere’s life a few years back. Before recording 2011’s Stranger Me, LaVere had endured a breakup with her longtime boyfriend and was in the midst of one of those I-need-to-find-out-who-I-am phases. She knew the content for the album was going to be incredibly dark and moody, but Silvey did something which changed the course of the recording sessions entirely.

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Love Your Local Band

Mark Twang

Mark Twang

Mark Twang plays a little bit of everything—rock, roots, jazz and bluegrass for starters—but so far they haven’t played much in public as evidenced by the fact that their upcoming show at Don Quixote’s will only be their second gig. But there’s a reason why the band isn’t performing a lot right now. “We have plans [to make an album],” says drummer Jeff Wilson. “We’re trying to do some things differently though and not just come out full-steam ahead and start playing all these shows.

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Features

The Evolutionists

The Evolutionists

Bluegrass band-turned-rockers embrace change, new challenges

Kenny Feinstein, the multi-instrumentalist, singer and sole remaining founding member of Water Tower Bucket Boys, has seen his share of changes occur in the band over the years. For example, their moniker has recently been shortened to Water Tower.

“We took ‘Bucket Boys’ off our name because we lost our banjo player and gained a drummer about a year and a half ago,” Feinstein explains. “We’ve started leaving bluegrass music behind to a certain extent, from a traditional standpoint, because we’re a lot more rockin’ now. So we changed the named to just Water Tower because Bucket Boys has that traditional sound to it and makes it sound like the Soggy Bottom Boys.”

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Love Your Local Band

Amanda West

Amanda West

Amanda West started singing sometime after she began walking, but before uttering her first words. Or that's what she's been told, at least. "My mother says that I sang before I talked," the Santa Cruz-based singer-songwriter recounts. "I just always loved singing." When the 11-year-old West picked up a guitar for the first time—a cheap garage-sale find belonging to her "hippy" parents—she says it was more in the interest of having "someone accompany me when I sang" than out of a particular urge to strum. It makes sense when you think about it.

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Features

Waiting for Snow to Melt

Waiting for Snow to Melt

José González on the chilly atmosphere pervading Junip’s mesmerizing new record

Ten years ago, I used to have music as my hobby. My main thing was studying biochemistry,” reflects José González, from his home in Gothenburg, Sweden. “Nowadays, I have music as my work, but also as my hobby.”

As a full-time musician, the established indie folk singer/guitarist has had the opportunity to put out two LPs. He also has a knack for composing covers that rival their originals—Kylie Minogue’s “Hand on Your Heart” and The Knife’s “Heartbeats” being two prime examples.

But these days, it’s his work with Tobias Winterkorn (keys) and Elias Araya (drums) that has the internet abuzz.

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Love Your Local Band

The Inciters

The Inciters

Betsy Jane Kniffen may have performed the national anthem at the opening Santa Cruz Derby Girls bout in March, but the lead siren of The Inciters has no intention of going solo. “The Inciters are a team,” she says, “and I’m honored to be a part of it.” While Kniffen fronts the 11-piece electric-soul outfit, her four back-up singers and band put on a mesmerizing synchronized show.

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Features

The Gypsy

The Gypsy

French-born jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimée lives for musical freedom and improvisation

Cyrille Aimée is a musical gypsy. Her sound incorporates elements of Latin American, American, Brazilian and other styles of jazz, she has recorded albums as a duet with Diego Figueiredo, she currently performs with the Surreal (same pronunciation as her first name) Band, and she is working on a new album with yet another band.

As it happens, Aimée can actually blame gypsies for her love of jazz. “I grew up in Samois-sur-Seine, which is a little town in France where Django Reinhardt used to live,” she says. “Every year they have the Django Festival in his honor, and so gypsies from all parts of Europe come and honor him and play guitar. I started hanging out with the gypsies and became obsessed with their music, their way of living, their freedom. What drew me to jazz music was the freedom of it, all the improvisation, and the fact that it’s a style of music that is constantly changing.”

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Love Your Local Band

Transoceana

Transoceana

Danny Moriarty’s musical influences have been known to impact his life beyond his local rock band, Transoceana. “I went through two periods,” confesses the singer, guitarist and songwriter. “I borrowed Bono’s mullet look from the ’80s for a while, and then I dressed like I was from the ’70s and had big hair like Jimmy Page.” Bono and Page are also symbolic of Transoceana’s evolution as a band during their three years together.

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Love Your Local Band

The Tilt

The Tilt

Although Jesse Malley, lead singer of the outlaw country, blues and rock ’n’ roll band The Tilt, no longer lives in Santa Cruz, she was born and raised here and this is where her love of music and performance began. “My dad worked at The Catalyst for 27 years, so I got to see a lot of music acts come through town,” she says. “Music always seemed to me to be such an incredible way to express yourself that I just stumbled upon my voice and jumped into it.” That jump eventually led to Malley heading down to San Diego to pursue a music career, and her band The Tilt has just released their full-length debut, Howlin’.

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Features

Making Sense of Soul

Making Sense of Soul

Allen Stone wants to give R&B back some of its depth

Whether fairly or unfairly, R&B and soul music often get typecast. Much of the music is groove-inducing and has an overtly romantic, sensual or sexual side to it, and the suggestive lyrics only reinforce this mood. That is fine and well, but for R&B and soul singer Allen Stone, it is not enough.

“I love music that’s about love, and I love R&B songs, but I also like songs that have influence on culture,” Stone says. "I believe that if you’re given a microphone you need to use it in a positive way, and I feel like pop culture, more often than not, doesn’t. I think that [pop stars] are very bad stewards of the microphone they’ve been given, and the voices they’ve been given, and they tend to talk about pretty futile and shallow things, rather than subjects which uplift the children in our culture, or the teenage culture, or the young adult generation. If you’re given a microphone, you should say something that’s deeper than, ‘I’m going to the club and I’m going to drink cognac.’”

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Reflecting Glass

Composer Philip Glass’ first trip to Big Sur was by motorcycle; little did he know that he’d establish a music festival there six decades later.

 

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, occurs this year during Libra, the sign of creating right relations with all aspects life and with earth’s kingdoms. We contemplate (the Libra meditation) forgiveness, which means, “to give for another.” Forgiveness is not pardon. It’s a sacrifice (fire in the heart, giving from the heart). Forgiveness is giving up for the good of the other. This is the law of evolution (the path of return).

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 26

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
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Wurst Case Scenario

Venus Spirits releases agave spirit, Renee Shepherd on planting garlic, Sausagefest 2014, and wine harvest in full swing

 

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Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Apricot Wine for Dessert

Thomas Kruse Winery, a participant in the new Santa Clara Wine Trail, has been around for a long time—since 1971, to be exact. When our little group arrived to try some wine at the Kruses’ low-key tasting room, Thomas Kruse and his wife Karen were there to greet us. Theirs is a small operation, and they’re proud to offer quality wine at affordable prices. “Because we are small and low-tech, it’s easy to relate to the whole winemaking process,” says Karen—and the Kruses take pride in making wine “just like it has been made for centuries.”