Brian Ross, who runs the UC San Diego nightspot the Loft, continued his tradition of pairing local talent with national touring acts on Dec. 3, with a dynamic evening opened by the Bomb Squad and headlined by the Charlie Hunter Trio.
Ross is a gracious host who pays attention to the details, and I was especially grateful that he pointed me to a jar of earplugs as we entered. The Bomb Squad, is a guitar trio led by Ricky Giodarno that leans heavily on the organ prowess of multi-instrumentalist Tonga Ross-Ma’u and the deep pocket of drummer Tim “Figg” Newton.
Giodarno’s guitar screamed throughout, (he may bear a stronger connection to Eric Clapton than say, Jim Hall) but it was always tasteful especially on the unannounced third selection, which had a definite Weather Report kind of vibe to it with an excellent Ross-Ma’u essay in conclusion.
Especially moving was the band’s tribute to vocalist Phylicia Ashley Barron, who recently passed away.
Headliner Charlie Hunter’s set was rhythmically thrilling, thanks to the razor-sharp interaction between Hunter (who plays a custom-hybrid 8-string instrument that combines electric guitar and bass elements) trombonist Curtis Fowlkes and the manically hip drums of Bobby Previte.
Hunter’s ability to keep a groove simmering with simultaneously generated bass lines and guitar voicings was impressively seamless, and Fowlkes’ trombone was the perfect secret weapon to keep the pot stirred. But it was Previte who stole the evening. His meter and attitude were infectious, and he seemed to bring out the best in his bandmates, whose rapt attention allowed for multiple exploratory missions to the heart of their very own kind of swing.
Thrilling, in every respect.