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Blue Skies Airwaves

PROUDLY LEFT OF THE DIAL: What was this,
Kenny G being played on KCSB last week? It was an
oxymoronic, “what’s wrong with this picture” moment on the
airwaves, hearing king of anti-jazz cheese being spun on one of the
West Coast’s most proudly independent — and alternative-minded —
non-commercial stations. No worries: DJ Sarvatma
was playing G as a ploy to hector listeners into calling and
pledging $$$$ during the station’s annual pledge drive. Soon, real
music returned, such as the mind-altering Gonzalo
Rubalcaba
version (or remake) of “Besame Mucho.” This kind of
great music is exactly what alternative radio is made for.

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Pledge drive time for non-commercial stations can instill fear
and avoidance for many listeners, but it is also a time when a
station like KCSB can rightfully toot its horn and tout its
virtues. KCSB is an especially strong and free-range alternative
station in Southern California, with a delightful blur of diverse
programming compared to many more patternized left end
stations.

This listener’s long fave list is still topped by the
long-standing “The India Show.” Jazz-wise, the programming includes
adventurous riffs on Thursday afternoon’s double-header of
“Impressions” and “Pedal Point” and a enticing new addition, “The
Friday Riff.” For more old school goods, proceed to Stanley
Naftaly
’s venerable mainstreaming “Jazz Straight Ahead”
and trad jazz grooves (plus speechifying) of Dr.
Jazz
’s “Jassdom Hall” (jazz’ original spelling).

Officially, the pledge drive is over, but stragglers (like this
columnist) can still donate to the station, and it’s one of the
worthiest causes in town, especially now that webcasting is
expanding the range exponentially. We need the KCSB’s of the world
more than ever in this age of corporate-choked, clear(cut)channeled control of the airwaves. Tune in,
turn on, drop in.

GUITAR WIZARD DEPT.: At year’s end, when all
the votes and emotional responses are tallied amongst the local
guitar nerd continent, the prize for the hottest electric guitar
night of the year in town will undoubtedly go to Jeff Beck, who blew
rafters and synapses at his recent Arlington show. But the second
place may well go to the Sonny Landreth, the Lousianan guitar virtuoso
deserving wider recognition, who makes his Santa Barbara debut, at
Saturday’s Sings Like Hell show at the Lobero — or at least
his debut as himself. Landreth, who has been a coveted sideman
while also developing an exciting solo artist career over the
years, has been on our stages, lending his licks to his old
boss/comrade John Hiatt, and just recently to
another employer, Jimmy Buffett, at the Bowl.

Neither of those gigs, however, prepare the listener for what’s
in store with Landreth’s own music (see the clip!), as hotly
demonstrated on last year’s sizzling live album Grant
Street
(Sugar Hill). It’s an hour’s worth of scorching
hybrid-style music by Landreth and his longtime trio (also Hiatt’s
group), with blues, rock, Bayou spice (as on “U.S.S.
Zyecoldsmobile”), and rock-jazz fusion, bound to make you a fan if
you’re not one already.

sonny%20landreth.jpg

Actually, like Beck, and even more like his friend Eric Johnson
from neighboring Texas — Landreth shows an uncanny way with touch
and tone, and makes his thick-toned, distortion-laden guitar sing
with sweetness and heat. For Landreth, the critical difference is
that he has devoted himself to the cause of the slide guitar, and
come up with one of the more exciting and inventive variations on
that challenging special guitaristic art form. Few slide guitarists
have pushed the practice to new places, but Duane
Allman
, Dave Tronzo, and Landreth earn their places at
the top of the heap.

All guitar fans — and music fans, period — are encouraged to
check out this highly musical cat.

SOUL MAN ALERT: We don’t get enough high
profile soul music in this town, apart from occasional R&B
action at Chumash Casino. That lack gets some righteous
rectification with the arrival of supple and seductive vocalist
John
Legend
, at the Arlington on Friday. (got e?
fringebeat@independent.com)

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