Smoke and soul

Blue Paradise Feather Falls Casino, Fri., May 28

I caught Chico’s soul-funk band Blue Paradise on Friday night, mid-way through its five-night run in Feather Falls Casino’s Bow-and-Arrow Room, and wow! The band’s current line-up is fantastic and definitely worth the drive.

Charismatic front man Sam Johnson on lead vocals and trombone led the band and charmed the audience with what were possibly the coolest tunes being played in Butte County that night. Johnson’s smooth voice and harmony horn lines, along with sax monster Eric Weber, on the 1978 Bobby Caldwell hit, “What You Won’t Do For Love” were sexy-sweet. Weber’s wild, squawky alto solo on “Who’s Making Love?"…yes! The fine four-part vocal harmonies among Johnson, Weber, guitarist Clair Hinton and lead guitarist Jim Willeford on the Marvin Gaye classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” elicited some rather appreciative howls from the ladies in the audience. Drummer Jeff Forehan sang lead on Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” with five-string funkmeister bassist Joe Gardner backing him up perfectly.

BP’s cover of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’ 1972 hit “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” got a few couples off their bar stools and out on the floor, drinks in hand and eyes closed in bliss. Weber’s mellow tenor sax solo and Willeford’s interesting solo suited this tune perfectly.

The only thing I would have changed about that night is the amount of cigarette smoke floating around, but it was a small price to pay for a funkin’ good time.