|REVIEWS - David Rokeach, Drums
|By Jean Bartlett
Pacifica Tribune Arts Correspondent
The essential Morning and Jim Nichols - Saturday night at Pacifica Performances
On Saturday night, Dec. 3, two great Bay Area legends, Chet Atkins-style guitarist Jim Nichols and smoky-smooth song stylist Morning Nichols (also husband and wife), are taking to the stage of Pacifica Performances Mildred Owen Concert Hall to do that little something that they have a knack for magic.
Short stuff from their respective bios? Morning has taught vocal clinics in Europe and the U.S., has performed at such venues as the Monterey Jazz Festival and the Mabel Mercer West Coast Cabaret Convention, and has swung out her so-easy-on-the-ears vocals with such artists as Chet Atkins, Mark Murphy and the Les Brown Big Band.
Jim has laid down his six-string finesse with such folks as Kenny Rankin, Chet Atkins, Buddy Montgomery, Van Morrison, Tom Waits and Toots Thielemans. He has been a featured performer at the world renowned Django Reinhardt Festival in France and has received the prestigious "Pick of the Year" from Guitar Player Magazine.
Along with gigs up and down the West Coast, included among the couple's joined stages are the Olympia Theatre (Paris), Chet Atkins/Dadi Festival (Issoudun, France), Open Strings Festival (Germany), Chet Atkins Appreciation Society (Nashville), Home of the Legends (Kentucky) and Midnight Sun Festival (Finland).
Over the years they have presented a great cornucopia of music and styles from the world's songbook covering some of the tunes of such artists as Patsy Cline, Edith Piaf, Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, the Beatles, Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, Johnny Mercer, Peggy Lee, Django Reinhardt, Willie Nelson, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Lenny Welch all in their own cozy, virtuosic style.
Something that the Nichols never do is the same show twice. They also love to invite their friends to join in their gigs and these friends are also individuals who have made it their life's work to bring good music to others. Saturday night is no exception. Joining the Nichols on stage is drummer David Rokeach. Rokeach, who lives in the Bay Area, has toured with such artists as Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, Linda Tillery, Steve Miller and the late Ray Charles.
Also joining the Nichols' Saturday night program is Grammy-nominated bassist and composer Michael Manring. Manring, who was the subject of a PBS documentary, spent many years as house bassist for Windham Hill Records. He has been hailed by many critics as the world's leading solo bassist.
"It's always wonderful to play with great musicians and David and Michael are two of the best," Morning said. "Plus, they both have a great sense of humor."
Per usual, the Nichols have also invited along a couple of special guests including flutist, clarinetist and saxophonist Charlie Keagle.
Keagle has gigged with a long list of headliners but one of the "incidentals" on his résumé is he is one of the musicians to play at The Band's historic farewell performance at San Francisco's Winterland on Thanksgiving Day, 1976. The concert, which included a guest performer list of Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, Joni Mitchell, Paul Butterfield and more, was captured by Martin Scorsese in the 1978-released documentary "The Last Waltz," lauded by the New York Times as "the most beautiful rock film ever made."
Married close to 30 years, Jim and Morning met in the music community. (Morning also plays guitar.) Morning worked at Guitar Solo on Clement Street, now relocated to Townsend, and voted the "Best Place to Buy a Guitar" in San Francisco.
"We courted with one guitar," Morning said. "I'd made dinner. Then we started passing the guitar back and forth over the meal. We were playing Beatles tunes to each other. Jim grabbed the guitar and played something and then I'd do the same thing."
The couple, still head-over-heels, said that after all these years, performing is still fun and funny. (Both are known for the telling of at least several wonderfully awful jokes during a performance, particularly during the tuning of a guitar.) And the musicians are all about creating a shared "home-like" experience with their audience.
"When we perform our music, we're together with our audience, in a warm living room by the roaring fire," Morning said. "And it's the connection between performer and audience that makes it special. To transport the listener in a personal way, to share creativity with them and to give them an experience they will remember that's what performing to us is all about."