Secret house party revealed
Sea of Bees’ buzz:
The first time I ever heard Sea of Bees’ Julie Ann Baenziger perform, it was a solo gig at the now-shuttered Atelier boutique on 16th Street in April 2009. She’d had a bit too much to drink, blathered in between songs—and even took a cell-phone call during her set. A graceful singer-songwriting moment it was not, yet her voice—matchless, supreme—was glued to the lobes.
And since, it’s been all honey for Sea of Bees. Some two years ago, she hooked up with producer John Baccigaluppi, of The Hangar, who leaked me amazing demo tracks that eventually saw the light of day this year on Songs for the Ravens, Sea of Bees’ full-length on Davis’ Crossbill Records.
Also in 2010, Baenziger toured the world, her commanding alto and stage presence drawing in new fans and critics alike, from L.A. Weekly to the U.K. Guardian. And London even came calling for real: English label Heavenly, which has released records by Beth Orton and Saint Etienne, inked Sea of Bees.
Keeping this in mind, Sea of Bees’ solo acoustic set this past Thanksgiving eve at TownHouse Lounge was like witnessing a comet. She cut through pop ditty “Wizbot” with a showstopper’s ease, then settled into a ballad (don’t know the name) that revealed a grace both forceful and vulnerable. Her high notes ached, yet were precise, cutting. She’d rock forward and backward, bending at the knees before shooting upright and letting out deep, sweet whispers. Bees was true buzz—something the world too will soon discover, as she departs on a four-month European tour in January.
Sacramento surely looks small from afar. Yet she’ll be back—hopefully; keep an eye out at www.seaofbees.com.(Nick Miller)
No longer a secret:
Jurassic 5 broke up. Lootpack broke up. Dilated Peoples are on indefinite hiatus. And People Under the Stairs keep on truckin’. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t have imagined that the enfant terrible of L.A.’s indie-rap scene would be its only surviving and active group, and certainly the only one that still churns out sunshine hip-hop and deep funk loops, just like they used to make ’em more than a decade ago. It doesn’t matter if much of their audience has moved on to regional rap, overproduced electro-pop and other fads. PUTS keeps it classic. They’ll appear in Sacramento on the “Secret House Party” tour—but hey, it ain’t a secret anymore. People Under the Stairs performs with Addict Merchants, Cash Dreed, A.R.A.B., Kodac Visualz and El Conductor this Saturday, December 4, 8:30 p.m. at Sol Collective, 2574 21st Street; $12; www.solcollective.org.
In his publicity photo, Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen looks to be barely post-pubescent. But his music contains the sort of gravitas associated with old Scandinavian philosophers brooding through long winters just south of the Arctic Circle. All of which sounds rather gloomy, perhaps—unless you’ve heard Gustavsen’s work and know just how beautiful those contemplative piano improvisations can be when expressed through the fingertips of such a soulful player.
He’s a descendant of forerunners like Thelonious Monk or Bill Evans, and he’s heading a trio coming to the Mondavi Center’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre Cabaret for a series of performances that started last night and runs through Saturday.
Appearing with Gustavsen is Solveig Slettahjell, on vocals, and Sjur Miljeteig on trumpet, forming the trio with whom Gustavsen made one of the most beautiful Christmas albums you’re likely to find: Natt I Bethlehem, a series of songs recorded, as the title implies, in Bethlehem, at the Church of the Nativity. These players are hardly household names here in the States, but they’re at the center of a thriving jazz scene in their homeland, a place where people take music seriously, and Christmas, too, making this U.S. premiere of Gustavsen, Slettahjell and Miljeteig a special event for similarly inclined people here. Tord Gustavsen performs Wednesday, December 1, through Saturday, December 4, at the Mondavi Center, 1 Shields Avenue in Davis; 8 p.m. each evening; $18.50-$37; www.mondaviarts.org.(Jaime O’Neill)