M a r c h   2 0 0 2

Aural Report

Things are somewhat intertwined
Albert Reda and the Portland blues
by Kurt Dahlke

ight's grip is loosening on early evenings, a fact with no bearing on the interior of the White Eagle. Warm tapestries and framed memorabilia from the structure's biker-bar days climb the towering brick walls – walls that absorb the forever-twilight glow emanating from the dim sconces. It looks the same here, day and night. Except on most Sundays at 7 p.m., the joint might not be this packed.

Albert Reda: thoroughly real, totally satisfying.

Lots of adults who have to get up and go to work tomorrow can enjoy tonight's early show, but they'd probably attend if it was 10 p.m. on any weeknight, too.

I see two reasons for this: first, Portland's blues fans seem wildly committed to keeping their family-like community going. And second – and this reason has a large bearing on the first – they know they are going to get an astounding show.

Albert Reda hops onto the Eagle's small stage in a slick-looking black sportcoat and slacks, with a slick black little Danelectro electric bass, a big change from his usual upright acoustic.Backing Reda are three other heavyweights: guitarists Terry Robb and Alan Hager (tonight, both play acoustic), plus drummer Jeff Minnick.

All the players have their own reputations and careers, yet since they often selflessly back up each other's efforts, things are somewhat intertwined.

While Reda plays with a number of regional acts, this is his first turn in the driver's seat. The amazing synergy between Reda and his friends makes for a fine ride.

There is seemingly no effort, and definitely no artifice involved from these consummate pros, just rocking, semi-acoustic blues from guys obviously enjoying themselves, playing like a well-oiled machine.

Robb and Hager juggle duties, trading solos back and forth and harmonically grounding the songs. Robb's singing slide solos find him either cannily scanning the audience or getting totally lost in his work, with either state producing excellent sounds. Hager contributes equal character and soul to his peppery solos and back-porch strumming. Their solos sometimes converge like playful twin snakes before slithering apart again.

Reda's position at the microphone necessarily brings the rhythm section front and center, where he and Minnick's rock-solid, air-tight pulsations set the train rolling through Reda originals and well-chosen covers.

"Crossroads" escapes Clapton's popular riffing clutches, becoming a harmonic exercise of compelling passion and building intensity. Meanwhile, "Little Wing" gathers dusty authentic beauty.

Reda's tasteful and stylish bass work shows that he has nothing to prove, save bringing passion, energy and fun to the show. "Brickyard Blues," an Alan Touissant song from Reda's new CD, points out two of his greatest strengths: the material he chooses and his voice. It's a voice that fits over his songs like a warm, cozy sweater; tough, like leather patches on the elbows, but soft, too.

Reda spends much time playing for friends, but when word gets out about his own stuff, he'll have to claim more time as his own. The honest enjoyment he demonstrates in this night's thoroughly real, totally satisfying set is the type of stuff many differing music fans can support – not just fans of NW blues.

Catch Albert Reda and friends:
March 8: Viscount Ballroom, with the Woolies
March 15: Mock Crest Tavern, with Terry Robb
March 16: JazzBones (Tacoma, Wash.), with Lily Wilde
April 12: Viscount Ballroom, with Lily Wilde

E-mail Kurt at orangeandorange@msn.com, and don't miss his previous reports.

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