Welcome, Visitor Number

20 August 2017


Frequent correspondent Phil Lynch in the USA is a fan of the Los Angeles-based band called The California Feetwarmers. He has written to me about them in the past.

Now, Phil has alerted me to a concert they gave at The Red Room, Cookstown, in Northern Ireland when they were on tour there in July 2017.
Fortunately for us, a generous video-maker called John Watson put several videos from the concert on YouTube. The sound and visual qualities of these videos are exceptionally good, so this concert is something available for us all to enjoy.

And what we find is that this band is seriously good! Not only are they fine musicians; they are also brilliant at putting together a truly entertaining programme, holding an audience spellbound throughout.

The seven musicians arrange themselves in a straight line across the stage - just the way I like - so that the audience can see all of them and they can see each other. These young men play high-energy music, underpinned by a sensitive, accurate sousaphone, guitar and banjo and minimalist unobtrusive percussion. The clarinet, trumpet and trombone players are technically brilliant and great team-workers. On top of all that, the members of the band can sing; and there are times when the whole band joins in with vocals, in fine close harmony.

They obviously prepared well. There are some first-rate head arrangements, so there is no need for signalling on the hoof.

Take Clarinet Marmalade. They leap about among the various themes and bridges. And there is even a vocal - something I've never heard with this tune before:

The same kind of slickness is evident in their performance of That's a Plenty:

Then, for a contrasting example of their ability to entertain - and involve an audience - try I'm Feeling Good. You can't help wanting to join in on the Chorus, which is based on one of our most familiar 16-bar [plus two-bar tag] chord sequences. The use of stop chords against the cornet solo, and the Chorus in double-time (but with rallentando ending) illustrate how well the band has prepared. 

There is even a storming 14-minute Medley of Sing On, Down By The Riverside, I'll Fly Away, Oh Mary, Don't You Weep, and Over in the Gloryland, which showcases well how brilliant each of the musicians is, both individually and in collective improvisation:

I hope I have whetted your appetite. Explore the rest of the concert for yourself. I am sure you will be impressed by the way these musicians have absorbed the influences of the early ragtime, string and jug bands and given them a new life in the Twenty-First Century. I rate The California Feetwarmers as one of the top bands playing anywhere in the world today and wish I could get to hear them some time.

According to their web page, the members of the band are:
Brandon Armstrong - sousaphone/Bass
Charles De Castro - cornet/Accordion/vocals
Josh Kaufman - clarinet/accordion/piano/vocals
Carlos Reynoso - washboard/Guitar/vocals
Dominique Rodriguez - snare drum/bass drum
Justin Rubenstein - trombone/vocals
Patrick Morrison - Banjo/Guitar.