SUISUN CITY — The Suisun City Waterfront Jazz Series kicks off Sunday with a performance by Walnut Creek-based Loose Blues with special guest Herman Wilson adding tenor saxophone.
Loose Blues was founded in 1992, but according to lead singer Hillary Lee, the musical style has evolved over the years.
“The group started as a garage surf metal band in Concord with three guys,” Lee said. “They played all originals and gathered a loyal following. When they met me 14 years ago, they decided to do more rock ’n’ roll and pop cover songs. Then seven or eight years ago when they discovered that I sing the blues really well and we got a guitar player from Leeds, England, (who) played the blues really well, we shifted into the blues.”
In addition to Lee’s vocals, the band includes Jack Collins and Steve McConnell on guitar, Dan Beck on bass and Rand Stadtman on drums. The “Loose” part of their name refers to the fact that they can tailor their set to any particular audience.
“We have a new set list for every single show. We do just as many rock ’n’ roll songs as blues and we can do one or the other. Or both, like when we played recently at Winterhawk Winery,” Lee said.
The band will be joined by Herman Wilson as special guest on tenor saxophone. Wilson’s musical journey began when he got some good grades in elementary school.
“When I was 11 years old, I got my first good report card and my parents were going to reward me by getting me an instrument,” Wilson said. “They were thinking of a French horn, but were talking to my uncle on the phone and he said he had a saxophone that he could send me.”
When learning to master his instrument, Wilson took to heart something he had once heard that jazz musician Miles Davis said: “If you don’t know Charlie Banacos, then you don’t know music.” Wilson became a student of the influential Massachusetts-based jazz instructor who had a huge impact on his life and playing.
“He saw the soul of who I was. He would have me play songs where I could express myself like ‘The Shadow of Your Smile’ and ‘Yesterday,’ ” Wilson said. “He would also write short pieces for me to play. He saw me ‘out of the box.’ ”
Wilson plays with a quartet called the Suspects of Soul with a local popularity that has grown after repeated gigs at Sticky Rice Bistro.
“The Suspects of Soul met when we were covering a job for someone at a restaurant. We had never played together, but when we got on stage, we just clicked,” Wilson said. “We can play straight ahead jazz, acid jazz or contemporary R&B tunes where we add a nice jazz feel to them.”
Wilson has played with Loose Blues before. Years of experience playing in bands has taught him how to coax sounds out of his instrument and service the song.
“I understand now that I don’t have to play a lot of notes, that it is more about playing the note at the exact right time,” Wilson said. “I am allowed to bare my soul and what I play touches other people. It is like speaking another language without using words.”
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [email protected].