Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Sue Orfield Band

Pizza Plus.
Friday night.

I could almost end this blog now, because if you're reading you've probably already seen Sue in one or all of her bands and you've experienced the magic. But I'm a gal of many words and while I won't do The Sue Orfield Band (SOB) justice, I'm going to go ahead and give it a whirl. And because I've written about her before, here, here and here, I run the risk of repeating myself but I don't mind and I hope you won't either. And here's an added caveat: I'm heavily, blindly and passionately biased. I love Sue and I love her music.

As previously stated, I'm a lyrics gal. Words are the way I define, relate and make sense of my world. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy instrumental solos, but unless they're attached to lyrics and the emotions those lyrics evoke I can't easily ascribe emotion to purely instrumental music. Or so I thought, before I met Sue and her music. I'd love to get into her head. She seems to hear the world differently, like her relationship with music is tangible. It's almost as if a note is a syllable, a musical phrase a clause, a musical stanza a paragraph, and each song is a chapter in Sue's story. And can she write a story. What initially made Sue's music assessable to me was her obvious generosity of spirit when onstage. She's the opposite of a spoiled Diva. She radiates goodwill, patience, happiness and passion, and it was these qualities that encouraged me to step out of my musical comfort zone and listen to her music in a different way. But enough singing the praises of Sue (for now) and let me move on to the rest of the band.

The Sue Orfield Band is composed of Sue with her saxophone, her honey Randy Sinz on electric bass, Dave Schrader on drums and Mike Schlenker on lead electric guitar. (I wrote about Dave when he sat in with Mojo Lemon.  You can read about that here.)

They have three CDs out: “Bonk” "Now Let Us Sing" and their most recent, “Fight The Good Fight.” Sue has an earlier CD with another incarnation of SOB titled, “Nobody's Looking.”

People who tend to arrive to events fashionably late will miss out on good seats at a Sue Orfield event. I got to Pizza Plus a few minutes early and was darn fortunate to find a place to plant myself. SOB kicked the show off to an enthusiastic audience with an Orfield original, “Sway.” Mike Schlenker was all tall and aloof in his denim button-down collared shirt with an American flag on the back and matching American flag guitar. His playing is effortless and while he's usually pretty straight-faced, I caught him having fun several times. Randy was distinguished and smiling on his bass and Dave kept enthusiastic time behind his drums—though he was hard to see back there, he made his presence known. While I was able to write down a lot of the songs, I was too busy dancing and won't be able to offer blow-by-blows of the action. Suffice it to say that this band puts on a great show.

Other songs played Friday night include: “Same Kind of Crazy” and “Wild Me” Delbert McClinton songs, sung by Randy, Steve Goodman's “City Of New Orleans” sung by Dave, what I believe is a Mike Schlenker original, sung by him called—I think, “Good Work If You Can Get It” and a beautiful instrumental originally by The Youngbloods titled “Darkness, Darkness.” Randy sang “Unchain My Heart” and a Jimmy Rogers' song, “T For Texas” and the band performed the Harlem Globetrotters' theme song and the song from the Andy Griffith show. There were more Sue originals: “Inner Pippy” was dedicated to the family of Sue's first music student in Eau Claire who donated an alto Buescher sax to the band. Sue introduced two new songs, “Hope For The Girls” and “Mesa's Boogie.” She also performed “Herd of Rubies” and “Two Cats Named Bob.” (FYI, both Mesa's Boogie and Two Cats are about....cats.)

My personal highlights were when the band invited Gregg Wheeler and his harmonica onstage to accompany Randy as he sang a gorgeous song by Greg Gilbertson, a Chippewa Falls native, titled “The Gold.” I wrote about this song here. It gets better every time I hear it. And it rocked when Gregg Wheeler jammed on his harmonica to one of my personal favorites, Sue's “Atomic A Go-Go.” You haven't heard harmonica playing until you've listened to Gregg.

Later another local guitar player, Luke Fisher, was invited up and he sang his original cover of Cash's “Folsom Blues” and his own song, “5 AM.” They also sang happy birthday to Olaf Lind, another musician. Both Olaf and Luke join Randy and Sue to make up the band, AcoustiHoo.

All in all, it was well worth braving the snow and cold to hit this event. If you missed it, you can redeem yourself and catch Sue with Catya's Trio at From The Vine on February 14th and with Code Blue (Catya's 5- piece blues band) at Pizza Plus on February 21st. Be there, I guarantee you'll love it!

You can buy SOB's CDs here.

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