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CLUB SCENE : Blue Monday : The Bombay is expanding its horizons with Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan.

May 10, 1990|BILL LOCEY

The Bombay Bar & Grill in Ventura is where the beautiful people get to be, well, beautiful. It's where the women with those Woody Woodpecker haircuts go to roost. Neatness counts at the Bombay--it's where to meet the meat.

It's also the site of Blue Monday, this week featuring Santa Barbara locals Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan in a rare Ventura appearance. Usually the home of Top 40 cover bands, the Bombay should be credited with expanding its musical horizons; of course, it may confuse the customers.

Ball and Sultan have had the blues together for about 10 years--or five albums worth. Sultan plays an acoustic guitar; Ball occasionally plays an acoustic guitar as well but generally just sings and plays the harmonica. It's low-budget blues all the way.

"We actually met for the first time about 11 years ago at an Eddie (Cleanhead) Vinson concert at a nightclub called Baudelaire's in Santa Barbara, but I had heard of Kenny before that," Ball recalled in a recent interview.

"I was in this electric band, but I wanted to get out. I heard Kenny was playing around the corner from us and I wanted to go check him out, but I couldn't because I had to play. So I sent my girlfriend. She took a clipboard and went and took a bunch of notes and came back and told me, 'Yeah, this guy can really pick; he seems like a nice, fun-loving guy who likes beer and everything.' We still like beer; here we are."

Ball and Sultan do several originals but specialize in old blues chestnuts such as "Fishin' Blues," "One Monkey Don't Stop the Show" and "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away."

"We both collect 78s, and we always get these music mail lists full of obscure stuff," Ball said. "A lot of them I never heard of, but if it's got a weird title or is by some off-the-wall artist, sometimes it's something we can use."

"My influences include Blind Blake, John Lee Hooker and Lightnin' Hopkins," Sultan said. "Currently, I like Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Asleep at the Wheel." Ball cites many of the same artists but adds Sonny Terry, Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt.

Most of the duo's songs are real funny--these guys like to laugh--and all of them are really good. Both are virtuoso guitar players, and Ball, with his booming, gruff voice, is a gifted vocalist. And he can play the harmonica as well as anyone. When Ball gets it going, he gets this goofy, faraway look on his face, then starts tapping his feet to the beat, which pretty soon proves to be contagious to the patrons.

The duo's latest album, "Too Much Fun," was recently released on Flying Fish Records. "We sell enough albums to allow us to keep making them," said Sultan, who has a degree in black studies from UC Santa Barbara.

"This is our job and we work very hard at it. We probably do 200 shows a year. We're already booked for about a dozen festivals for the summer, and we're doing our first-ever European tour in October. We just did a Levi's 501 commercial--we're doing all right."

The Blue Monday series is sponsored by FARM, the Foundation for American Roots Music, and the proceeds go toward staging the annual Ojai Bowlful of Blues on Labor Day weekend.

The Bombay Bar & Grill is at 143 California St. Ball and Sultan are guaranteed to put a smile on your face and some spring in your step and, for five bucks, such a deal.

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