Bizar Bazaar is a super group of Bay Area musicians joining forces for a month long project reinterpreting funk/jazz/soul dance hall classics. Every Tuesday night, they come together at the historical Boom Boom Room
, San Francisco’s blossoming home base for the area's funk, jazz, and jam scene. Event creator and guitar wizard Michael Bizar (AJ Croce, Wayside, Citrus) is joined by Simon Rochester (!Tang, Tangria) on electric piano and Hammond B3, Murph (Citrus, Freddy Jones Band) on bass, and Jim Richards (Soultree) on drums. This weeks spotlighted local special guest musician was Will Bernard
(Motherbug, TJ Kirk) on guitar.
Bizar Bazaar is steeped in interlocking rhythms where each song felt like a fractal set with its own clearly distinguishable image. While there are boundaries and limits to the structure, there are endless possibilities in color, focus, and speed. Their jams feature a soloist working against the other four musicians. The soloist wanders around the fractal, digging deeper and deeper, finally turning around to fight their way back out. Smooth bass lines and steady drumming are in constant collaboration with the two non-soloing musicians to deconstruct themes while keeping the fractal together.
A small but growing crowd finally hit the dance floor when they broke into Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island
. Bernard took the first solo improvising in a relaxed note-to-note jazz style, uniquely working around the starts and stops of the composed section of the song behind him. This contrasted magnificently to Bizar’s follow-up solo that was wailing guitar rock intermixed with ferocious rhythm that pumped up the energy in the place.
The musical highlight of the night may have been the tripped out rendition of John Scofield’s Kool
. The interaction of all five musicians on this song could be described as a spiral graph, the toy you had as a kid where you put different color colored pens inside a stencil that then spun around the inside of a circle. Bernard’s playing was extremely spacey with a rubber band phrasing that added beautifully to the greater collective. It was magnificent, inspirational, and triumphant.
The zany Sanford and Son Theme Song
was one of the most memorable moments of the night. Elizabeth would have been proud of the way they turned this one into an extended dance number reminiscent of late seventies Grateful Dead. Towards the end the jam, Murp started to slowly weave the bass line from the theme song back into the mix in an elongated time sequence. Meanwhile, Bizar took an electrifying solo that took on a life of its own.
Bizar’s guitar wizardry is a sight to be seen and heard. His solos are active and energetic, incorporating together elements of progressive, psychedelic, surf, jazz, and rock to create something completely new and refreshing. This talented musician shined all night long, appearing confident and comfortable with the rest of the band. He consistently hit those elevating moments that had the crowd cheering.
As the special guest, Bernard was an integral part of the music. One of the hottest moments was a monster solo reminiscent of Frank Zappa. Bernard’s solo was an emotional exploration through a thematic mood. He showed no regard for time signature and was completely removed from the underlying music. He intentionally was in the middle of his phrasing every time the rest of the band hit their one
. At one point, he had both hands on the base of the guitar and was attacking and tearing at it.
Other highlights of the evening included solid versions of Jimmy Smith’s Root Down
, Hancock’s Spank-A-Lee
, the Meters Live Wire
, and Scofield’s Chank
. The band has gelled together well and was having a lot of fun. There was a good turn out and nice vibe at the Boom Boom Room for a usually sleepy Tuesday evening.
Bizar Bazaar is something special for both musicians and audience. The next installment is with the uniquely amazing Paul Hanson (Wayne Shorter, Bela Fleck and The Flecktones) on bassoon and midi effects.