An Evening at Tangier

On February 27, 2008 I met my friends Gwendolyn and Brandon at Tangier Restaurant in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles to hear them and their friends play in two bands. I’m the second from the left. On my right is Shereen Khan, fiancee of Douglas Lee, whose band would perform first, and back-up singer in Brandon’s band Quazar and the Bamboozled, which played last. The alien princess on the right is Gwendolyn, wife of Brandon Jay (aka Quazar), and a star singer/songwriter/guitarist in her own right. She was substituting for another back-up singer who was not feeling well that night.

Tangier has loads of ambiance, including a patio wall imported from the city of Tangier in Morocco.

I turned on the flash so I could see the details of the wall.

Warming up for the bands, a lovely young singer/songwriter/guitarist. The bar crowd listened and cheered.

Douglas Lee plays the glass harmonica, an arrangement of crystal goblets in a wooden box; the goblets are pitched by adding specific amounts of water.

Inside the glass harmonica. Douglas told me he keeps his hands extremely clean to play this instrument. I’ve owned and loved a classical recording called Music For Glass Harmonica since the 1970s. Previous to hearing Douglas in Gwendolyn’s band at the release party of her Celtic psychedelic folk CD Lower Mill Road at the Bordello Bar last August, I’d never heard a glass harmonica played live before.

Imagine my surprise when Douglas played an entire set of jazz standards (plus one bluesy original), starting with “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” and “Caravan.”

His instrument gave an otherworldly cadence to these tunes, even as he was surrounded by a jazz instrumentation of upright bass (Robert Petersen), piano (Scott Doherty), drums (Brandon Jay)…

…and saxophone/flute/clarinet (Paul Pate).

Brandon’s drum kit was no ordinary drum kit, but a melange of “found percussion” along with a floor tomtom, a timbale, and a set of bongos.

In the midst of the set, Douglas switched to musical saw, played with a violin bow, from which he produced “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and “In the Still of the Night.”

Douglas also played a set of jaw harps on a couple of other tunes, beautifully. I don’t think I’d ever heard that instrument in a jazz setting, either.

When Brandon returned to the stage to front his ‘60s rock band Quazar and the Bamboozled, he had donned a frilly formal shirt, a stovepipe hat, and sparkly silver platform shoes! Even his piano had sparkling mirror tiles on it. He sang and played all original songs, in the vein of Elton John, Dr. John the Night Tripper, the Rolling Stones, and Leon Russell. Considering that he and the rest of the band were BORN at the end of the ‘70s and in the early ‘80s, it was astonishing how they captured the sound of ‘60s rock, and made it even more fun and funny.

Gwendolyn, now a go-go dancer from Mars decked out in white platform boots, eight ponytails, space alien facepaint, hot pants, rainbow serape, and multi-megawatt personality, blazed in the stagelights. Hiding in the shadows behind the singers, playing crunchy rhythm guitar, is art dealer Matt Chait.

Paul Pate turned up the volume on his saxophone next to the screaming back up singers Gwendolyn, Shereen Khan, and Jonathan Underle.

Rocket-propelling Quazar and the Bamboozled, the rhythm section: Robert Petersen (this time on electric bass), Dusty Rocherolle on drums, and Spidey on lead guitar. Too much fun!