Travis Colby And Friends is a blues-jazz-funk-soul trio that the youthful keyboardist from Roomful Of Blues presents every Wednesday night at L’Attitudes in Cranston, Rhode Island. And last Wednesday’s gig was a lot of fun.
Colby had Roomful’s trumpet player Doug Woolverton and freelance drummer Mark Teixeira joining him in the corner of the bar at L’Attitudes. Colby opened with some light dinner hour tinkling that fit the room just right at that hour. Woolverton, too, was in a mellow frame of mind, his trumpet quiet and sweet in the beginning, and, drummer Mark Teixeira was taking it easy on his cymbal and snare.
Colby, tapping out a pleasant interval of notes, conjured a breezy jazzy melody that garnered him applause. His second piece was more jazzy pop, and his low end notes on the keys gave just the right amount of platform for Woolverton to glide around, blowing slightly more intrepid trumpet notes than he began with. It was only a hint of the horn notes that soon spiraled up in pitch and engulfed the room with their warm, wide, fulsome tone.
Colby got his early blues piano fix on a Jay McShann’s piece, taking to the microphone to breathe even more life into this lively work. Woolverton’s spicy intrusions too took it to a higher level. By this point, it was interesting to note that Teixeira can get a lot of sounds out of his small drum set of bass, snare, high hat, and couple of cymbals. He does it up with dynamics and tempos and he soon made you forget that he didn’t have a full kit in front of him.
The Ray Charles tune “In The Evening(When The Sun Goes Down)” found Woolverton briefly sustaining notes over Colby’s chords. It was more feeling than technique involved here but those shots eventually grew into blasts of melodic bliss. The three players kept giving each other enough room to shine on their individual instruments, and this opened up many pleasant avenues in the sound. And when the three locked into a really heavy groove, the three-cornered symmetry brought out an extra spark in each of them.
You could feel something groovy coming on when the trio went into “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers. Teixeira brought the funk to the surface with his snappy smacks on the skins. From here, everything fell into place, including Woolverton’s well timed backing vocal.
Colby got raw and earthy on “Worried Life Blues” with Woolverton getting vintage sounds out of his trumpet by holding a cap over it to muffle his notes. The melodies on this one were swinging, and it made you picture turn of the century clubs on Beale Street where this kind of music was played nightly.
At one point, Colby brought modern rock and roll aggression into his interpretation of older styles like Ragtime and Barrelhouse. Solo, his hands flew all over his keys and the wildly entertaining effect was immense.
The second set was marked by some jazzy excursions from the lower end of the trumpet while Teixeira stretched himself to meet the demands of the melody instruments. Colby played his rendition of what was probably Ray Charles’s arrangement of Count Basie’s “Smack Dab In The Middle.” The trio got a kind of bop element going on that made this song feel like the beat was mobile, challenging the trio to keep working with it, bringing in newer dimensions as they went along.
Colby brought up some of his friends to play, as the gig is titled “Travis Colby And Friends.” It is not an open jam, but Colby does invite some players he feels can expand on what he does in this Wednesday night L’Attitudes format. Guest drummer Alex Chapman had a subtle technique that kept him focused on the snare’s rim, getting a persistent snap while his high hat work gave off a finger snapping consistency.
A singer named Leslie Avilla had her rasp nicely under control and her self-restraint on soul songs provided a svelte vocal approach. This lady just knew the right moments to belt, finding nifty spaces in between Woolverton’s mellifluous phrasing and Colby’s soulful meanderings. Avilla also hits the listener’s emotional soft spots by aiming her uncanny belt right into the heart and soul of a number.
Bass player Khin Fabrizi got busy on his fret board and that kept things interesting. That low end platform gave Colby and Woolverton something to strut around on top of, allowing more room for dynamics. Here, Colby used a synthesizer to replicate human voice cooing the notes.
The group closed out the evening with fun interpretations of “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and “Why Get Up.” It was nice to hear such a classy presentation at a neighborhood bar on a weeknight. The food, too, was really good at L’Attitudes. I had a meatloaf and a salad that couldn’t be beat.
Travis Colby is on Facebook.