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San Diego Spotlight: POP MUSIC / THOMAS K. ARNOLD

Stars in His Eyes Really Did Become Dollar Signs

August 03, 1988|THOMAS K. ARNOLD

When guitarist Stevie Salas left local bar band This Kid's, he was but one of many starry-eyed San Diego rock musicians who over the years have migrated north to the supposedly greener ($$$) pastures of Los Angeles. Most of them eventually return home, having discovered only disappointment.

But not Salas. When he returns to San Diego on Sunday, it will be to play a concert at Southwestern College's DeVore Stadium with Rod Stewart. Salas, 24, has been on the road with the English superstar since Stewart's current U.S. tour began in May. And, as the latest in a distinguished line of guitarists to back Stewart--whose previous ax-wielding sidemen include Jeff Beck and Ron Wood--Salas is raking in more green than he ever imagined.

"I'm making so much money it's hilarious," Salas said. "The first thing I'm going to do when I get off the road is buy a house. But at the same time, I totally have to play. . . . I have to be wild and crazy like Jeff Beck, and then turn around and play acoustic like Ron Wood."

Touring with Stewart is the most recent knot in the string of triumphs Salas has tied since leaving San Diego for Los Angeles in early 1985. He said that, after a year of "living in a closet and starving to death, trying to find session work," he got his big break when he was asked to play on a solo album by George Clinton, the creative whiz behind soul groups Parliament and Funkadelic.

"After that, people started hearing my name and calling me up," Salas said. "And, all of a sudden, I was the hot new session guy in town."

Indeed. Over the past two years, Salas has played on albums by Eddie Money and Bootsy Collins. He's produced sessions for the Tubes, the Pandoras and Was Not Was, and toured with Andy Taylor, formerly of Duran Duran.

"A couple of months ago, I was asked to join Rod Stewart's band, and seven days later we left on tour," Salas said. "I had one week to learn 2 1/2 hours' worth of songs, and then my first three gigs were at the Miami Dolphins' new stadium, before 50,000 people."

When his tour with Stewart ends this fall, Salas said, he will begin work on his first solo album.

"The way my contract is being structured, I'll be able to do my solo records as well as sign acts to the label and produce them," he said. "So, in a sense, I'm just getting started."

As one of the most commercially successful figures in pop-jazz, tenor saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. has sold a lot of records over the past 15 years. Yet, critics and purists continue to snub his breezy instrumental music with such nasty epithets as "Jacuzzi jazz" and "elevator music for Yuppies."

So, in an attempt to gain some music credibility, Washington has come out with a new album, "Then and Now," on which he covers such real jazz classics as Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments."

Tomorrow night at Sea World's Nautilus Amphitheater, Washington will team up with the immortal Dizzy Gillespie for a concert he hopes will further attest to his seriousness as a musician.

"I feel I owe it to the public that's been supporting me for all these years to not only give them what they expect to hear, but to surprise them, to educate them," Washington said. "I want to show them the roots of contemporary jazz, just so they know artists like myself still pay our respects to people like Dizzy, Cannonball Adderly and Art Blakely. And, at the same time, I want to show them that I'm more than a one-dimensional musician."

In the mid-1970s, Washington added, he and other pop-jazz pioneers such as George Benson "found there was a big audience out there that didn't want to be played down to, but that couldn't quite get into the more sophisticated stuff."

"Now that we've captured that middle ground, it's our responsibility to solidify pop-jazz as a legitimate art form by becoming more complete, more competent musicians."

GET UP AND BOOGIE: The crowd at the Bacchanal contracted a pretty severe case of dance fever the night Buster Poindexter brought his sizzling tropical dance music to the Kearny Mesa nightclub. So severe, in fact, that, toward the end of the show, Poindexter and his horn section led more than 50 dancing desperadoes on a manic conga march out the rear door, around the parking lot, down Clairemont Mesa Boulevard and back in through the front.

BABY, WHAT A BIG SURPRISE: When guitarist Pat Metheny showed up for his concert last week at Humphrey's on Shelter Island, he brought along a guest sideman: bassist Charlie Haden. And ,instead of the pop-jazz pablum the audience expected from Metheny, they were treated to a spirited mix of venerable standards and improvisational masterpieces Haden had recorded in the late 1950s and early '60s with his former band leader, celebrated "free jazz" pioneer Ornette Coleman.

BITS AND PIECES: Jamming up north at the Palomino last week with San Diego rockabilly revivalists the Paladins were Caesar Rojas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and Dave Alvin, formerly of the Blasters and X. . . . Just added to this year's Concerts by the Bay series at Humphrey's: singer-songwriters John Prine and Nanci Griffith, Sept. 8; African vocal choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sept. 27; pop-jazz upstarts the Rippingtons, Sept. 30; comedian Gallagher, Oct. 6-7; and new-age guitar duo Acoustic Alchemy, Oct. 9.

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