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San Francisco Examiner Review
Dave Mathews, Live. "Down With It!" Jesse's Dad Records

Although he says his real love is jazz, Berkeley pianist Dave Mathews has gained more recognition and considerable fame as a blues organist. It's this role that he plays on this delightfully swinging, soulful disc.

In the mid-1970s, teenage pianist Mathews was playing organ in Bay Area blues clubs; by 1982 he was on organ with Tower of Power. Since 1985 he's become an important part of the local scene, working with Pete Escovedo and Sheila E. , Boz Scaggs, Ray Obiedo, Etta James and a variety of club bands, often under his leadership.

Those at James' recent S.F. Jazz Festival show will recall how Mathews, playing electric keyboards and organ, nearly broke up the Masonic Auditorium crowd even before James got on stage.

This CD includes tracks recorded at the Club Ibex in San Jose, Bruno's and 100 Natoma in San Francisco and at Fantasy Records in Berkeley.

"T-Bone Steak," one of the San Jose tracks, includes Chris Cain on guitar and Ron Marabuto on drums; the other, "Old Folks," adds Wayne DeSilva's fine tenor sax to that group. At Bruno's, the band members are Jules Broussard and Hal Stein on saxes, Carl Lockett, guitar, and Marabuto. The 100 Natoma recording includes Dewayne Pate, bass; Kevin Hayes, drums, and Cain. The Fantasy date - when the long, fascinating, laid-back version of "Caravan" was recorded - features Norbert Stachel on bass clarinet (great idea), Mike Clark, drums, and Obiedo. It's a fine, long jazz track with lots of inventive solos and solid drumming. Regarding this disc, Mathews is quoted by annotator Lee Hildebrand as saying, "It's a little loose but there's some magic there," and any listener would agree. Cain's initial guitar lick on "The Thrill" is like a wake-up call, plowing right into wailing, soaring guitar lines with the organ surging along underneath. "All About My Girl," one of R&B organ master Jimmy McGriff's numbers, gives Lockett lots of room to solo, and he fills it with dazzling stuff. On "Falling in Love With Love," Broussard and Stein (both all-purpos veteran jazz-blues-R&B and what-have-you saxists) play wonderful choruses.

Recording this sort of rousing music live in clubs has advantages anddisadvantages. A musician gives up the smooth, cleaned-up, easily editedsounds of a recording studio product for the often distractingbackground noises and inherently difficult recording situation in a small club. But for this kind of informal, extemporaneous music, give me the live club setting anytime. I like a crowd's sounds on a recording better than I do the frequently dull and overly processed product of a studio session. This good-time disc is available at some stores or wherever Mathews is playing. Among other upcoming gigs, Mathews' quartet will play for Jazz in Flight at Yoshi's on Dec. 13.

 Phil Elwood - SF Examiner

13 Nov 1999