Given the nickname “El Buho” (“the owl”) by his South American musical cohorts, Gary Gazaway left his native Pocahontas years ago to become an internationally known established composer and trumpeter. He’s also been known to toot a flugelhorn and sit in on keyboard playing music that has been described as “Latin-jazz R&B fusion.”
Work has enabled him to travel to South America and perform alongside renowned musicians, and now he’s back in his Northeast Arkansas hometown, where he and his wife (vocalist Lisa Ahia) have a ranch.
He’s making a weekly pilgrimage to North Little Rock’s Cornerstone Deli and Pub, where we caught him playing his regular Thursday night gig as the bandleader of El Buho Jazz Project. The musicians with him were ones we recognized as regulars at the Afterthought: pianist Buck Powell, bassist Joe Cripps, and drummer Brian Brown.
Why would a musician who has worked internationally and recorded with the likes of Israel Lopez, the Machito Orchestra, Joe Cocker, Stevie Ray Vaughan, George Jones and Phish want to play a small club in Central Arkansas?
“Playing improvisational jazz is no doubt the highest expression of musical skill that a musician can attain,” Gazaway said. “Buck Powell, Joe Cripps and Brian Brown are musicians that are as good as it gets on a local, regional, state, or national level.
“That is why I make the drive … to play once a week at Cornerstone. It is an intimate room, it has nice acoustics, some of my fans from the jazz band scene play and hang out there, and they are really kind folks who respect our musical heritage and its history.”
He’s planning a big event at Cornerstone on St. Patrick’s Day, Thursday, March 17, with Ahia and other guests. In the meantime, his usual Thursday start time at Cornerstone is 7:30 p.m.
Some of us might remember them as the baby-faced Benders, but they’re all grown up now. Heber Springs-based emo-pop rocker group Grand Serenade, which plays Vino’s Brewpub on Friday, Feb. 25, has had some big breaks — and some not so great breaks. Last month, Grand Serenade won radio station 100.3 The Edge’s “Local Edge Live” band contest — no small feat. Then, as they loaded up after winning, they discovered that much of their equipment had been stolen. As if that wasn’t enough, the band’s van blew a head gasket on the way back from a gig in Fayetteville.
Grand Serenade is still trucking, however, and their newest CD, “Crashing Cars,” is selling well locally, as well as getting radio play here and in the northwest part of the state.
Opening Friday’s all-ages 8 p.m. show will be Jackson, Miss., indie rock group Colour Revolt (formally Fletcher) and Malvern’s Isra. Admission is $5.
Grand Serenade also will open for Lovedrug at Juanita’s on Thursday, March 17.
No drums or amps are needed for the South Austin Jug Band, a skin-tight string quintet that performs Friday, Feb. 25, at Sticky Fingerz. James Hyland, Matt Slusher, Dennis Ludiker, Willie Pipkin and Will Dupuy have a self-titled CD featuring selections that range from bittersweet and traditional (“Long Journey Home” and “My Baby in the Sunshine”) to droll and capricious (“Ramen Noodle Rag,” and “Cutting the Mullet”). Hyland and Dupuy have also produced solo projects. We note that the band has no jugs.
Runaway Planet, which will represent Arkansas in Austin’s South by Southwest conference next month, opens the show at 9 p.m. Tickets are $6.
Rose Hill Drive, a trio of oh-so-young long-haired raucous rock ’n’ rollers appearing at Sticky Fingerz on Tuesday, March 1, cheekily states in its press material that the band’s combined ages are less than that of the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards.
The group is from Boulder, Colo., known as a hippie-jam and bluegrass music haven. The “baby” of the group, 20-year-old guitarist Daniel Sproul, was adamant in a recent interview that his band not be lumped into the typical Boulder genre, but he appreciates the different types of audiences that assumption produces.
“It makes us want to rock harder,” he says. And these guys do rock hard, having shared the stage with Van Halen (including at Alltel Arena last September) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. But they’ve also played with a wide range of other artists, including Snoop Dogg and the North Mississippi Allstars, and around this Little Rock date they’re touring with blues/funk steel lap pedal guitarist Robert Randolph.
Sproul says the trio has been in the studio with hopes of having a debut CD out by summer. He also mentions that Sammy Hagar wants to fly the group to Mexico in a couple of months to open for him there. Sproul’s hope for the upcoming CD? “It’s pretty simple,” he says. “We just want to have a raw-sounding live rock ’n’ roll album.”
Cover is $5. Showtime is 9:30 p.m.
Another national act to catch next week at Sticky Fingerz is Vermont-based jazz-art rockers RAQ, who have played at the Bonnaroo Music Festival and will be appearing here Wednesday, March 2. The group’s members are Todd Stoops, Chris Michetti, Jay Burnwick and Greg Stuke. RAQ has released the CD “Carbohydrates.”
The music starts at 9:30 p.m. and the cover charge is $5.
Acoustic Sounds Cafe, held at Second Presbyterian Church, 600 Pleasant Valley Drive, has Austin, Texas, acoustic guitarist/songwriter Caroline Herring and Boston Folk Festival Songwriter winner Michael Troy on tap for Friday, Feb. 25. Herring, named Austin’s best new artist by the Austin American-Statesmen in 2002, has two CDs: “Twilight” (2001) and ‘Wellspring” (2003).
Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for students. Troy opens the show at 7:30 p.m.
Maybe it’s something in the red dirt, or maybe it’s just the great creative scene. Either way, Tulsa’s Electric Rag Band does its city proud with its roots-minded music, paying tribute to ragtime and Depression-era blues (like legends Blind Boy Fuller and Blind Willie McTell), while speeding it up some with a bit of Chicago blues and swing.
Electric Rag Band will do it late night at Midtown Billiards Friday, Feb. 25 — technically starting Saturday morning at around 1 a.m. The band has several CDs under its belt, the latest called “Too Tight.” Midtown is a private club; memberships are available at the door for $7. Members and their guests pay a $3 cover.
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