When you meet smooth jazz / blues guitarist Patrick Yandall offstage, he is quiet, gracious and congenial, but when he straps on his guitar he adopts a different persona, that of a master of blistering guitar licks whose fingers dance nimbly over the frets on the neck of his guitar. Yandall is also capable of taking a more laid-back approach to his music, as he did while performing his song "Fade To Black," at Humphrey’s Backstage Lounge in San Diego on October 7th. The song sandwiches a swinging bridge between two blues shuffles.
Teaming up with his regular bass guitarist Nathan Brown, and joined on this evening by keyboard funkster Max Zape, as well as drummer Robbie Zinnen, Yandall opened his first of three sets with "Always There," a song that possesses an upbeat melody, built upon a strong foundation laid down by Brown. Zape’s electric keys cut a deep groove.
Yandall followed up his opening tune with an admirable cover of George Benson’s "Affirmation," before turning to one of his own compositions; the Latin tinged "Samoa Soul," from his 2006 CD of the same name. The song performed in 4/4 featured an outstanding solo by the guitarist that lasted approximately 2:30. He created tons of space for his fellow musicians as "Samoa Soul," also featured solos by Zape and Brown.
If audience reaction is a measurement of an artist’s performance then Yandall and his backup band get high fives all around, for the club was still full late into Sunday evening, people were still dancing and spontaneous applauses were still occurring after each solo performance.
Another highlight from the artist’s first set included a soulful cover of Curtis Mayfield’s "People Get Ready," during which the guitarist bent a few notes. "People Get Ready," appears on Yandall’s current CD New York Blues (2007).
The combination of humility and confidence that Yandall possesses is manifested in a gregarious onstage presence. He is not showy, or particularly demonstrative, although his musicianship is outstanding. His playing speaks for itself. He often quietly acknowledges the contributions of the other artists sharing the stage with him.
As the evening wore on Yandall’s playing seemed to get stronger, rather than him tiring or fading. He seemed to draw both strength and inspiration from Zape and Brown’s performances.
The management of Humphrey’s Backstage Lounge and Humphrey’s By The Bay has to be ecstatic that such an accomplished musician performs a song titled, "Club Humphrey’s." The music evokes images of a bright sunny day, sharing a jovial, but not raucous time with friends, while looking out over the San Diego Harbor. If you close your eyes, you can almost feel the gentle breeze waft in off the ocean.
The quartet also served up a nice rendition of Carlos Santana’s "Europa," which Yandall recorded on his Eyes Of Mars album (2005). The song begins with an elegant Latin rhythm before transcending into more of a pop/jazz groove.
Other highlights on this evening included a cover of Tom Brown’s "Jamaica Funk," "Artful Expression," (A Lasting Embrace-1986), and the classic Spinners’ tune, "I’ll Be There."