Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Godspeed Mountain Man: Remembering Jeff Sanders

Earlier this week I heard the devastating news that my friend and former band mate Jeff Sanders had died in a house fire. Jeff was someone I met when I was a member of the band Come Thirsty and was someone I worked with for a little over four years before he decided to move on and do other things. To say that my heart is broken over this would be an understatement because he was such a great guy that everyone loved.

We first spoke on MLK Day in 2009 when I was driving home from CA after spending a weekend at NAMM in Anaheim, CA. I was helping put together a Christian band with my wife Minh and another musician friend of mine named Rich Phillips. Jeff was responding to one of our ads and we had a great conversation on the phone. I couldn't wait to meet him.

When the four of us met there was a magic that I can't describe. Jeff fit right in because he was such a nice guy and was the exact person we had hoped to find in a guitarist. Like the rest of us he had this urge to use his musical gifts to praise the Lord and he coulnd't wait to get together and rehearse for the first time as a quartet. Once that happened it was absolutely incredible! The chemistry between the four of us was amazing with Jeff really being the last piece we needed to complete the sound of the band.

Right away we had put together a few original songs along with some covers and before we knew it we were out there performing at various churches and faith based events. The band always received a great response from those in attendance with everyone of course loving Jeff's playing. He was such a great rhythm player so the groove was always solid but he also played these great solos that told stories, which was great because it helped push the emotion of the stories Minh sang in the songs. Aside from that, he loved people so he was always very approachable and was willing to talk to anyone about anything, regardless of how long it took.

Jeff was very proud of the songs that we wrote and he had a right to be since he was a big contributor to our sound. We all collaborated on everything we wrote but Jeff and Minh really defined our sound. When they two of them got together he would throw out these riffs that always set her off. Then Rich and I would add our flavors to the song and then it was done.

Our first encounter with Jeff musically was an idea he had for a song that would be known as I Surrender. He was a great acoustic guitarist and he had this lick that just propelled us to create this great song.  He also loved that Spanish sound of the guitar so to put something like this together took very little effort from him as he was totally in his element. This was a song people loved to sing along to and dance to at all of our shows: https://www.reverbnation.com/comethirsty/song/11278195-i-surrender

He was really proud of the song Elijah, which was the song that was known as our epic because it had such a beautiful story based on the life of the Old Testament prophet. I remember he had some cool ideas both musically and in terms of the visuals he would speak when he played his riffs for us. This was always such a fun song to play live because it was always so dramatic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSXUNKT9eI0 

He had a very unique rhythm style and the song that really displayed his amazing technique was the song I Love You Anyway. Once Jeff came up with the opening riff Minh wanted to write a song for those people we met at shows who would tell us about their personal struggles and how God's grace saved them from these struggles. Aside from that he could really throw down a lead and I have always loved his lead on this song because of the story it tells within the story shared by the lead vocal performance.  https://www.reverbnation.com/comethirsty/song/11278187-i-love-you-anyway

Finally, when talking about the special chemistry we had as a band, this version of the classic Christian song Breathe really says it all. You will hear why it was also a song that many people asked us to perform at each our our shows. https://www.reverbnation.com/comethirsty/song/14775185-breathe

Aside from being a great musician Jeff just had what I call a positive enthusiasm. He was always in a good mood as he saw any chance to play music as a gift. But he was just an enthusiastic about his other interests. He was into all kinds of things from painting to making weapons to being a survival enthusiast. That's what led us to call him Mountain Man because he always loved being outdoors.

The other thing he was really passionate about was teaching guitar. He had several private students as well as classes at places like Pima Community College and he would talk all the time about his love for teaching. One of my favorite memories of Jeff the guitar teacher was when we were all hanging out after a gig one Sunday afternoon. We ended up at Guitar Center and the moment he walked in the door many of the sales people as well as the customers approached him and gave him hugs and pats on the backs as they talked about how great a teacher he was. Jeff just smiled and stood their with great humility and gratitude as you could see how much that meant to him.

Finally, and most importantly, Jeff really loved his family. When he wasn't talking about his interests he was always raving about how long he had been married to his wife as well as how much he loved her. He was also very proud of his children and would just glow every time he spoke of their recent activities. He was such a simple person but you can see how much he appreciated all that he had with his family being his greatest treasure.

I miss you brother! God bless you! 

Carlos Solorzano

Monday, April 16, 2018

Jazz You Can Dance To: Back With Sonoran Sol

The life of a musician is like a wave. Gigs come and go and the scene is always changing so all you can do is go with the flow and see what happens. Recently the Tucson music scene has allowed my old Jazz Trio called Sonoran Sol to come out of mothballs for yet another exciting run and I am happy to say that it has been a great start. 

My partner throughout each run has been the incredible Dan Griffin. He is not only the guitarist but acts in many ways as the music director. Some of the other musicians that we had worked with in the past had moved on in one way or another so it was Dan who suggested that we recruit the great Bobby Elias on bass guitar and that was when I decided that we would remain as a trio, at least for now.

We decided to have a lunch meeting in order to go over a new set list and discuss the vision of what we wanted to do musically at that point in time. Once we made our official list of songs we were all really excited as we had more than just the normal swing tunes that people might expect from a Jazz Trio. We also had some Funk Fusion, Latin, Blues and even some Instrumental Rock. Most importantly, these tunes have some serious groove so we already knew that our group would have more of an edge than most Jazz groups.

Right away I had a good feeling about things as we had a great batch of tunes while also knowing that I had learned even more than I had known previously about networking and booking gigs. In fact, it didn't take long for us to have several dates booked before hitting the stage for the first time with this particular lineup. It started out with me writing out a short but detailed bio before Dan and I putting together a great demo for some of these venues to hear. Right away we had a positive response from so many people who couldn't wait to bring the band to their venues.

Our first performance was actually on The Morning Blend television show on KGUN Channel 9 in Tucson, AZ. I was able to get the group on the show because I had performed a couple of times on the show previously as a solo drum set performer. Our objective was not only to perform for the whole city of Tucson but to also advertise our first few gigs while also filming what turned out to be a free promo video for the band to use.

We had a great time handing at KGUN studios with their amazing staff so to no one's surprise we performed really well to the raving reviews of those working in the studio. Once we had the video in our back pocket it led to even more gigs as so many people got a chance to see the type of energy we produced when we performed together.

That energy would continue to flow as we performed our first full show later that night at Bear Track U on University Blvd. We had a great time performing for a small crowd of enthusiastic music fans and couldn't wait for our next show, which would be a couple of days later at The Artful Space. That's where things got really interesting. Aside from the fact that we had a great set of songs to perform we also had a chance to jam with resident Conguero Miguel Bazemore who added so much to our sound. The audience really enjoyed what they heard with everyone asking when we would return for another performance.

All of this was more than I could hope for. I was confident in what we would bring to the crowd because of the fact that I was performing with two experienced professionals but there was no way to foresee how the public would react to what we had to say musically. After all, we are approaching things in a way that is quite different than what many people would expect from a Jazz Trio. But one thing I can say for sure is this: after all of these years, never underestimate the power of a good groove and that is something Sonoran Sol can do all day long.

On a personal note I am also having a blast because the band is giving me a chance to really stretch myself as a drummer. During my time as a working musician I usually hook up with a band that keeps me busy enough where I find myself playing almost one style of music on an exclusive basis. I have never minded doing that as the objective is always to keep a steady gig for as long it will last. During this run things are a bit different and I can already see the difference in my playing.

For the past 6 years I've been playing a lot of Country and Pop/Rock music, which means that most of my gigs have been straight ahead grooves and having to be as consistent as possible in order to keep that dance floor moving. Aside from that most of these gigs are about 4 hours long so my stamina was definitely there. I am still performing this kind of music as I have recently returned to the Tony Corrales Band while also having some other work on the horizon that is of a similar musical style. Of course we can now add music that is more syncopated with me having a chance to play some Funk, Latin and Swing beats along with some drum solos!

It did take a moment or two for me to reacquaint myself with these other styles of music but they are songs and grooves that I had played many times before. Overall, it has been a lot of fun to reacquaint myself with music that I had played a number of years ago during another time of my performance career.

We are already excited for this coming summer as we already have a number of gigs on the books. The best way to get news on the band while also getting updates on our performance dates is at: https://www.facebook.com/sonoransoltucson/

We hope to see you all at one of our shows real soon.

Here are the links from our appearance on The Morning Blend television show



Carlos Solorzano

Sunday, April 15, 2018

"Back Where You Belong:" Returning to the Stage with the Tony Corrales Band

On numerous occasions many who have waited for the return of the Tony Corrales Band have uttered these words to me: Carlos, you are back where you belong. Honestly, I couldn't agree more and while so many people tend to focus on what we were known for onstage there is in fact so much more to the band than that.

It all started for us in early 2012 when we had our first rehearsals. Right away there was a great chemistry and friendship among the original members which included Tony Corrales, Joey Cota, Mike Yanoska and AJ Gonzales. Right away we had some great jam sessions and tons of laughs in between those hours of working to perfect our craft. As time went on some members decided to move on to other things, which led us to adding Thomas Charbonneau, Robert Rojas and most recently Alex Quinonez to La Familia. It didn't matter who we had though because each person has been a brother to all of us and an outstanding musician to work with.

Our first gigs were magical. Deep in our hearts we knew that we had something special going on but those first roars from the crowd affirmed all that we had done to earn our shot onstage. Aside from that, we were also given many opportunities to perform on different stages all over Arizona from local watering holes, private parties, casino after party gigs for national acts to providing pre-show music for a big Vince Gill concert at AVA Amphitheater. Most of our gigs have been outstanding and whether it was a great gig or a night where we had some rough spots we stuck together and did what we had to do as a team to move forward.

Recording and releasing our own music has also been a great joy for us. To hear that our music has been played on various country music radio stations all over the nation has been an honor. Aside from that, our first music video has been well received and we are looking forward to making another one real soon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFH-KqkU0Lg

Aside from that we have had our ups and downs as a family. We have stood by each other when one of our brothers lost a family member, encouraged each other when one of the brothers was going through a tough time personally and worked through our disagreements, even if we needed some time away from the fold. All of that is the root of what this band is about and now that we are back in the public eye again people are going to see not only a great band but also a united band as we are more than just musicians doing our business onstage. We genuinely love the music we are playing, we care about each member of the band and we love each member of the audience who we also see as our extended family.

Life is very unpredictable and unfortunately we've had our moments when the band needed to go on an extended hiatus. The good thing about it though was that it didn't have any impact on our love and respect for each other. While we all would have preferred to stay together without any type of interruption there are times when people need to do something else and/or find their own way. Eventually all roads lead back to TCB and here we are, again!!!!

I remember the feeling I had when we had our first rehearsal in order to prepare for our return gig at the Tropico Lounge at Casino del Sol. We met, we hugged it all out, set up our gear and then it was time for me to start the first song. I was so excited to feel the energy come from my brothers again and it was nothing short of amazing. Once that song was over I just shook my head and couldn't believe we were back to doing our thing again. There were moments when I just lowered my head and took it all end. I took a few breaths and was actually surprised that tears didn't fall from my eyes because it was a true homecoming for me.

For that reason alone the first gig back couldn't come any sooner as I was more than ready to pound those drums.

The next two rehearsals continued to show progress as we added some different flavors to those familiar songs in our set list while also adding some other great songs. I was really excited to bring it all to the people because all of the songs were going to be crowd-pleasers since they had great hooks and grooves.

The day of the gig arrived and I was so glad that I had a lot to do at work that day because it helped keep my mind off of wanting to load my gear and head off to the show. Before I knew it that was exactly what I was doing and to my surprise my truck was loaded pretty quickly. I brought along some live KISS albums in order to get me a little pumped up for the show (as if I really needed any more excitement) and while I did obey the local speed limits I arrived quickly to the loading area at Casino del Sol. 

It didn't take me long to get my drums ready for the show with the best part of setting up being the moments when the other guys in the band showed up. We were all hugs and smiles as he couldn't wait to hit the stage. I guess our following was just as excited since many of them arrived early as well. It was good to see some old friends as my time away from the country scene also meant that I didn't see a lot of these wonderful people for several months.

The next thing I know we're backstage changing into our stage clothes. Then all of the guys got into a huddle, said what we had to say to each other and about the show and then the announcement was made: Please welcome the Tony Corrales Band! 

We hit the stage with more energy than we had before and the response from the audience was amazing. The dance floor was full while others sat around and sang along to the songs. I have no idea how many people I waved from the stage but every one of them had a huge smile on their face.

Lead singer Tony Corrales was back to doing what he does best for the first time in quite a while. From what I could tell he didn't miss a beat and I could see that the audience was more than happy to see him onstage again. Then there was lead guitarist Joey Cota throwing down those blazing lead lines while also filling the songs with his sweet licks while people screamed his name from the crowd. Acoustic guitarist Robert Rojas was a solid rock as he filled in the groove while also adding some great background vocals before performing many great lead vocals of his own. Now, we add bassist Alex Quinonez to the mix who joined us onstage for the first time. He is a pro musician in his own right and did a great job making his debut with TCB. He was solid as a rock as he thumped his bass along with my bass drum as we kept the dance floor shaking and moving.

The TCB family was also joined onstage by our old acoustic guitarist Mike Yanoska who added some background vocals and a little mandolin when needed. It was good to have him there again and as usual he added so much to the sound of the group. Finally, to further show the true connection we have with all of our brothers I received a text message from our old bassist Thomas Charbonneau right before we hit the stage as he greeted us and wished us well. It was so good to hear from him especially at that point in the evening.

Honestly, the set flew by for me as I had a blast that night. If I wasn't grooving onstage I was out in the crowd during the breaks greeting old friends as well as my amazing co-workers who also came by to offer their support. Performance wise I felt really good and stronger than expected as I hadn't played a four hour gig in close to five months. I also felt really good because my drums sounded really good that night as I had made some extra adjustments both at home and when needed before sound check. Therefore, all of my preparations both physically, musically and equipment wise worked out for the best as I was proud to do my part to give the people the show that they expected from us.

When I finally got home I washed up and went to bed but couldn't sleep right away as I was still pretty wound up from the evening. I caught myself smiling quite a bit as I hit the pillow as all I could do was feel most grateful for what turned out to be an amazing evening at Casino del Sol. Whether it's being with the guys again or seeing my wonderful friends, it was just a great time that I didn't want to end. 

Let's do this again real soon!!!!

Carlos Solorzano