For the members of bluegrass/folk band Steep Ravine, springboards are important. “Bluegrass is a springboard for our compositional ideas,” says violinist Jan Purat. “A lot of bluegrass bands play traditional bluegrass or learn a Bill Monroe mandolin solo and play it note for note. But with us, each player brings something special to the table when they’re soloing. We’re not intentionally trying to make these songs sound new, but that’s what pours out of us.”
The quartet—which also features Simon Linsteadt on guitar, Andy O’Brien on mandolin and Alex Bice on upright bass, with the group sharing vocal duties—will stop by Moe’s Alley on April 10 in support of its recently released self-titled, debut EP. The album showcases the ways in which the band bends the traditional bluegrass sound in different directions, as well as the diverse musical backgrounds of its members. “Jan has an amazing classical background and is good with melodic ideas,” Linsteadt says. “Andy has a very traditional bluegrass background. And Alex has a very rhythmic funk background. All of this helps our songs sound very eclectic.” Such variety gives their music a fresh feel, whether it’s on a track like “Lazy Tide,” which sounds like a more languid version of The Doobie Brothers’ “Black Water,” or on their upbeat, dance-ready rendition of the bluegrass classic “Hello City Limits.” But while Steep Ravine’s music is rooted in the past, the band members are always looking forward. “If you’re trying to play the music of the past, you’re never going to do it as well as the people who did it first,” Purat says. “People try to sound exactly like Charlie Parker, but bands like that can’t succeed, and more importantly, can’t satisfy their own musical desire to create something new, and that’s what art is really all about.”
INFO: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 10. Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. $7/adv, $10/door. 479-1854.
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