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MUSIC | ROCKTALK

Slim and Then Some

Mark Gaillard's band covers some of his musician dad's tunes, but that's not all.

March 27, 1997|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mark Gaillard is the lead singer of the National Blues Band, which is playing at Smokin' Johnnie's this weekend. But Gaillard is not your typical rock musician who started to play in bands just to annoy his parents. No, it's more serious than that--being a musician is in his blood.

His father was famed singer-composer Slim Gaillard, who recorded with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonius Monk and was a regular on the Los Angeles club scene in the 1940s.

Born in Cuba, the senior Gaillard wrote a number of novelty tunes including "Cement Mixer Putti Putti" and "Flat Foot Floogie." In fact, Gaillard's 1930s recording of "Flat Foot Floogie" can be heard in the film "The English Patient."

The elder Gaillard created his own scat language, which he called "Vout." It involved the frequent addition of "o-rooney" and "vouty" to the ends of existing words, such as jukebox-o-rooney. He even wrote a English-Vout dictionary.

Slim Gaillard retired in the late 1950s but returned to performing in the '80s. He spent his last years in London, where he enjoyed renewed popularity working in nightclubs. He died in London in 1991.

Not surprisingly, Mark Gaillard says his father had a big influence on him.

"He influenced me most in terms of the feel, the presence, being able to work an audience," Gaillard says. "He showed me how to do it."

Which is not to say the National Blues Band's act is a Slim Gaillard retread.

"My father played swing and my stuff is mostly blues and rock," Gaillard says. The son was also influenced by his days growing up in San Francisco, going to the Fillmore Auditorium to hear such people as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Junior Wells, the Butterfield Blues Band, Otis Redding and others.

"They sort of rubbed off on me," Gaillard says.

The National Blues Band, despite its name, plays an eclectic mix of styles. Their debut album, which is being released by Big Head Records, is a mix of originals and covers. Yes, there is a version of "Flat Foot Floogie," but there are also covers of classics "Smokestack Lightnin'," "Leave Your Hat On" and "Hoochie Coochie Man."

Besides Gaillard, the band consists of drummer Don Tucker, bassist Michael James, guitarist Neil Faison, guitarist Frank Christopher and saxophonist Victor Sisneros.

* Mark Gaillard and the National Blues Band have a CD release party at 9 at Smokin' Johnnie's, 11720 Ventura Blvd., Studio City. No cover. (818) 760-6631.

*

Ten Jinn is not your ordinary rock band. First of all, the group, which is playing Friday at Mancini's in Canoga Park, is named after a 2nd century Chinese philosopher. Not many bands can say that.

Lead singer-keyboardist-composer John Paul Strauss is not your typical rock 'n' roll high school dropout. Instead, he's a Villanova University psych grad who specialized in antisocial personality disorders. Maybe not so surprisingly, he also wanted to rock. He gave up academia for a walk on the wild side, pursuing his musical dreams. Well, sometimes you can take the man out of the university, but you can't take the university out of the man, or something like that.

The title track of Ten Jinn's new album, "Wildman," is a musical retelling of the ancient wild man myth recently resurrected by Robert Bly in his best-selling book "Iron John."

"I was into the legend before Bly's book," Strauss says. "I was very interested in European history. For me, it's a way of seeking my own roots."

Another song, "Forever Young," is inspired by the character Lestat from Anne Rice's "Vampire" books. While Ten Jinn's lyrics are laced with literary references, musically the band draws from the progressive rock bands of the 1970s such as Jethro Tull, Gentle Giant and Genesis, among others.

"It's art for art's sake," Strauss says. "Those bands' shows were big theatrical productions," Strauss says. "They created their own world and invited you to come in."

He compares Ten Jinn's progressive rock to Wagnerian opera, describing both as abstract, symbolic and archetypal.

"Again, it goes back to the ancient European heritage," Strauss says. "There's no specific message like 'Save the Whales' or something."

* Ten Jinn performs Fri., 8:30 p.m., at Mancini's, 20923 Roscoe Blvd., Canoga Park, (818) 341-8503. $8 cover. Tenjinn@PacBell.Net

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