SMOKEY PETE’S CAFE
At Smokey Pete’s Cafe, some really hot West Coast players get to hang loose, have some fun, and present the music of Russell Peterson with lyrics by Allycen Quan. Passionate and edgy, the group’s sound is a great showcase for singer Smokey Pete, Smokey Pete got bit by the music bug early when, as a young child, he sang along to Neil Diamond’s “Shilo,” and listened to
His father playing guitar, piano, banjo, trumpet, and accordion. “He has a great ear for music,” says Smokey, “and encouraged me to play simple melodies on the family piano, then guided me towards violin and trumpet studies. ”While Smokey secured a music scholarship to Weber State College in Ogden, Utah, he only lasted a year before embracing firefighting as a career. His horn sat sadly in its case for a decade before seeing daylight again when Smokey joined Nevada’s Carson City Community Band. Later, Smokey was hired by the Fremont Fire Department in Northern California, where he met respected bassist Ed Zingaro who drafted Smokey into a 10-
Piece jazz band and, later, invited him to become a member of The Family, a Bohemian style club in San Francisco where Smokey sang in the choir, played in the orchestra, joined the big band and started blowing trumpet with the rock band. He also played with The Ravens, who re-staged a full production of the Moody Blues’ DAYS OF FUTURE PASSED, a performance still hailed years later. Encouraged to start penning his own tunes, Smokey hooked up with lyricist Allycen Quan through the internet. The cyberspace rendezvous proved magical, and the duo collaborated on the tunes that became OPEN FOR BUSINESS by lines and demo tapes.
Explaining their unusual creative process, Smokey notes “Allycen will send me song lyrics, and then I will sit down at the piano and let the lyrics find their natural rhythm. I try to create a melody that will match the feelings expressed in the lyrics. I do not try to fit the lyrics into 8 or 16 bar phrases; the result is often odd bar phrases and measures with different time signatures. Yet the music flows so naturally, the listener does not pick up on the anomalies.” To date, Smokey and Allycen have never met in person. Smokey Pete’s Cafe producer and keyboardist Doug McKeehan has played with Ancient Future (Narada/ MCA), his own band Aircraft, and has produced noted Pakistani vocalist, Shafqat Ali Khan. Joni Maxx, backing vocals, has appeared with Bobby McFerrin, Mary Wilson, Maria Muldaur, Holly Near, Tom Scott and others. Tina Osinski, backing vocals, has sung with San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, and for 15 years has been the swing vocalist with the Bill Lombardo Orchestra. John Capobianco, trumpet on “Origami Princess,” has played with Louis Bellson and Jessica Williams; he also leads many other bands in the San Francisco Bay Area. (see CD booklet for all members of Smokey Pete’s Cafe). OPEN FOR BUSINESS was mixed by Bruce Kaphan, whose seminal slide guitar album, SLIDER, was named a 2002 Top 10 CDNOW recording.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Striding between powerful ballads and stinging rockers, OPEN FOR BUSINESS is characterized by Smokey’s dynamic vocals, tasty backing harmonies and a very tight ensemble sound. “Smoke” (by Peterson & McKeehan) finds Smokey’s vocals reminiscent of Peter Gabriel at his most fiercely plaintive. On the inventive retro-interpretation of Barry Manilow’s hit “Mandy,” Smokey’s singing calls to mind Faces-era Rod Stewart (yeah, when he was considered “cool”). This deep disc even has sweet Brit-pop era harmonies balancing the bluesy jazz inflected ballad, “Origami Princess.” But while subtle English influences abound, Smokey Pete’s Cafe is very
Definitely an all-American band with plenty of vivacity and groove highlighting by hot horn parts and searing guitar solos. “I am very passionate about music,” Smokey shares. “It touches the depths of my soul, and I try to bring that out with every live or recorded performance. I have music running through my head at all times; during a conversation or watching television, I will
Find myself tapping out rhythms to a song. My favorite part of being a musician is being able to share my most intimate thoughts with all those around me through music. Stylistically, I draw from a long life of musical influences: The Beatles, Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Stravinsky, Mozart, Beethoven, Maynard Ferguson, Sting, The Rippingtons, Weather Report, Dizzy, Miles, Match Box Twenty, Five For Fighting, Nickleback, and more. Because I bring a little of each of these influences with me when I write and perform, it gives my music a unique quality and still feels like an old friend.”