MUSIC BOX: Serenades, Rare Reggae, Classical and Bass

By on February 7, 2017

Sweethearts Show at Dornan’s, John Brown’s Body plays the Garter, a classical Winter Fest, and a dance party to celebrate the new Lotus.

Byron Tomingas, playing Saturday at Dornan’s, was awarded an Oribe guitar (left) for a lifetime of music making. John Brown’s Body plays a Valentine’s show at the Garter.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Dedication to an artist’s craft can be a lifetime pursuit, and achievement is often immeasurable.  Yet when acknowledgement comes from a mentor or a hero, the karma pendulum seems to be swinging appropriately.

Native and classical guitarist Byron Tomingas has been playing an Oribe-crafted guitar since 1971. At the time, he had just earned a degree in classic guitar performance from CalArts and launched a career as a professional musician. Tomingas has had such a profound relationship with the instrument that he wrote “Oribe Fandango” in honor of “the many magic moments we have spent together.” Master luthier Jose Oribe, along with his wife Juanita, will be presenting Tomingas with a Lifetime Achievement Award this spring in California along with an original Oribe guitar—the luthier’s final product.

“This is like having Beethoven give you his 9th symphony. Oribe contacted me and I about fell over,” explained Tomingas, who has appeared with symphonies, quartets and as a soloist on radio, television, and award-winning films throughout his career. “I have no idea who or what group is behind this [award]. I can see why they would want to hide. Every starving musician just like me would be at their door each morning.”

Tomingas said a new Oribe guitar could be priced as high as $25,000. One vintage Oribe model listed for sale at Reverb.com, a 1973 concert guitar in “very good” condition, is going for $5,800. Tomingas currently plays a 2007 Brazilian rosewood Oribe and also has one in cocobolo wood he uses as “a daily and gig guitar.” The model being gifted to him is a Gran Suprema concert guitar made from Bird’s Eye Maple, and he considers it priceless.   

“You hear of gifts like this all the time with concert Stradivari violins because musicians can’t afford them. Someone has done this for a classic guitarist now,” Tomingas said. “I’ve never known anyone to get a free Oribe—Chet Atkins, Earl Klug, Aaron Shearer, the Romeros … they all had to pay to get one, and me too. Like a marriage, you honor them, stay true to them, get to know their personalities and strengths and get better and better at bringing out the best in them the more time you spend, and they return it to you a hundred fold.”

Tomingas is producing “Byron’s Sweetheart Show” this Saturday at Dornan’s. Musical guests include bassist/vocalist Christine Langdon, vocalist Tasha Ghozali, and bassist Rob Sidle. The music menu will feature classic duets, standards “Mr. Sandman” and “How High the Moon,” and the premiere of Tomingas’s transcription of Offenbach’s “Les Larmes de Jacqueline,” originally for cello and strings.

Byron’s Sweetheart Show, 8 p.m. Saturday, February 11 at Dornan’s in Moose. Tickets are $15 at Dornan’s, The Liquor Store, and Valley Bookstore. Dinner served 5 to 7 p.m. 307-733-2415.

Rare reggae for your Valentine

Sometimes it’s all about the long haul, the perseverance. Ithaca, New York-based reggae veterans John Brown’s Body know that all too well, and the band name pays homage to a historical figure, a determined freedom fighter and abolitionist of the 1850s who was killed in a hanging.

A dozen studio records over two decades is surefire dedication, though to sustain despite the loss of two key band members—bassist Scott Palmer who died after a battle with cancer, and songwriter/singer/guitarist Kevin Kinsella—is success. JBB’s last three original albums have all debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Charts including the 2016 release Fireflies. Maturity and authenticity with respect to a roots genre such as reggae can be a tough balance, though Fireflies certainly has a progressive flare without losing hindsight.

“I have a tendency to write slightly unusual reggae music,” said lead singer and band co-founder Elliot Martin. “When I take the music to the band, it becomes more grounded in reality. The recording engineer has a big hand in crafting a classic rootsy sound too. That combination creates that sound you’re talking about. It’s a group effort.”

Martin’s inspirations are as varied as Sigur Ros, King Tubby, Talib Kweli, Radiohead and Sly and Robbie, though he also gives props to the strong reggae scene out of the UK in the 70s and early 80s, such as Steel Pulse, Aswad, Misty in Roots, and Mikey Dread. Whether it’s downtempo dancehall or dense modern grooves, you can hear these influences in JBB’s sound. Touring has changed drastically since the band’s inception in 1996, though there’s plenty of consistency with regard to the perspective it can offer.

“The reggae scene has grown since we started,” Martin said. “I remember our first trip to California. We played the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in the late 90s and it was mostly international artists. Today, a festival would probably not be terribly financially successful if it didn’t book a lot of the homegrown US reggae bands. The lifestyle of touring has influenced me in the fact that being exposed to these other artists changes my perspective somewhat. It’s good to see what modern crowds enjoy.”

John Brown’s Body with Tilted, 9 p.m. Tuesday, February 14 at the Pink Garter Theatre. $17-$20. PinkGarterTheatre.com, 733-1500.

Lisa de la Salle (left) performs Thursday at Center for the Arts. Shiny Things transforms Lotus Mandala into a dance party Saturday.

GTMF Winter Fest

Grand Teton Music Festival’s Winter Festival (February 7 to 10) is already underway, though there’s still plenty to consume. Summer festival musicians Jaren Atherholt (oboe) and Benjamin Atherholt (bassoon) return to the Hole along with pianist Andrew Palmer Todd to perform an intimate one-hour concert of jazz inspired music by Poulenc, Previn, and Bill Douglas (7 p.m. Wednesday at St. John’s Episcopal Church, free).  The following day, check out the young Lise de la Salle on the grand piano at Center for the Arts for her takes on Beethoven, Ligeti, and Brahms (7 p.m. Thursday at Center Theater, $25). For something a little different on the musical palette, take-in Dr. Zatorre’s talk at the library, discussing the brain’s mechanisms that allow humans to perceive and perform music and the implications of this research on mental health and other clinical applications (noon Friday at Teton County Library, free).

On a Jackson stage for the first time since 2013, the Portland Cello Project will close the Winter Festival weekend. Embracing the philosophy that no two shows are alike, the Portland Cello Project has a repertoire numbering more than 800 pieces of music you wouldn’t typically hear coming out of a cello—like Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” and Pantera’s “Mouth for War” (7 p.m. Friday at the Center Theater, $25). GTMF.org.

Dapper dance party to celebrate the new Lotus

Nomadic Events is teaming up with Lotus Mandala for a scorching triple bill of DJs for the restaurant’s grand re-opening. Lotus’ soaring ceilings and posh interior make it the ideal venue for a dress up to get down dance party with Canadian DJ Shiny Things, as well as local DJs Jefe and Cut La Whut.

Shiny Things is a favorite among the beat obsessed. Ex-local DJ Oh!Nassi said that Shiny was his favorite set at the massive Bass Coast Festival, hyping the futuristic and deeply psychedelic sounds that he’s known for.

Lotus Grand Re-Opening with DJs Shiny Things, Jefe and Cut La Whut, 9 p.m. Saturday at Lotus Mandala. $5. PJH

Aaron Davis is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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