Saturday, March 15, 2008

Eleven Eyes and the Excellent Gentlemen

An evening in which I was able to head bang to a rousing cover of Radiohead's "National Anthem" is anything but wasted.

I went to Sam Bond's Garage again, there for Eugene's premier jazz/fusion/funk/electronica band. I had intended to go to some shows at other venues between my last post and this one, but life got in the way of the Led Zeppelin tribute concert at John Henry's and subsequently this is the first event I've been able to go to in Eugene within the last two weeks.

The opening act was the Excellent Gentlemen, a Portland band I hadn't heard of before. I was a tad apprehensive when their set started, as they were four white guys attempting R&B. Much to my surprise, they sounded nothing like the Maroon 5 and subsequently were an enjoyable performance. Blending funk, neo-soul and R&B, along with a health dose of Prince, they put out a more than solid set of tunes intended for use during heavy fornication. I'll be keeping an eye out for them next time I decided to take a show up in PDX. Should they not find success as a live act, I'm confident they will find gainful employment in the porn soundtrack business.

Next up was the band I came to see, Eleven Eyes. I caught them a few times back during my college days and promoted their first album heavily on the campus radio show I operated at that time (which is like saying I played it for two or three people every week. Euphemisms are primarily to protect our dignity at the expense of honesty). This is the first time I've seen the group in about three years. I thought they were excellent then, and they've only improved. A tight jazz outfit above all else, the six-man combo of tenor sax, trumpet, electric bass, guitar and two percussionists put out a solid set of jazz fusion that managed to fill the dance floor. Ever seen a group of slightly intoxicated hippie-types dance to cuts off of Miles Davis's "On the Corner"? I don't recommend it.

Eleven Eyes, however, I recommend highly. I stuck through their first set but wussed out on the second. What I did see impressed me enough to make sure I'll try to catch any other show they play in the area. While jazz fusion might have gotten a dirty name due to the endless diddling of John McLaughlin wannabes, Eleven Eyes takes the basic concept of "fusion" and does something worthwhile with it. Finding room in their set for everything from stuttering horn charts to dancefloor-packing funk grooves, they give a prime example of what jazz might have become had it not been institutionalized so throughly, reduced to the tired retreads of classic cuts by players who are more jazz recreationists than artists.

But enough pontificating. Eleven Eyes is one of my favorite Eugene acts from the old days that are still performing. I hope they keep performing for some time, and it's more than likely they will end up mentioned in this blog again.

No comments: