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Ventura County Culture

Remembering a Riff Maker

November 22, 2001|SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's a big week for electric guitar lore in town, including a homage to a late local hero. Larry Nass died a little more than a year ago, and for anyone who experienced the vital intensity of his guitar playing over the past quarter-century, it's still a bit hard to process his absence. You half expect him to show up and sit in at various shows around town, hot riffs at the ready.

Nass had a special way of making his guitar speak with grit and intelligence, in fusion-flavored groups like Mr. Skin and the Eraserheads, and his bluesy wisdom was a key feature of the popular group the R&B Bombers. A special tribute show is planned at Alexander's in the Ventura Harbor this Sunday, with musicians who played in the Bombers and other Nass groups over the years.

A collection of recordings has been assembled on a CD available for sale, and all proceeds will go to Nass' family. But, beyond the financial rationale, it's a chance to collectively celebrate one of Ventura County's finest contributions to the world of guitar.

Rock On: When English blues-rocker Robin Trower began making a big noise--and playing big halls--in the '70s, it was well nigh impossible for him to shake the post-Hendrix reputation. Not that he was eager to: Trower's thick, intense psychedelic blues style plainly owed much to Hendrix's influence and still does.

It's been decades now since the release of Trower's classical album, "Bridge of Sighs," though you can catch tracks on classic rock radio. Yet it's still a pleasure to hear his musical language in action, in real time, as it will be at the Ventura Theatre on Saturday.

On another new-old rock 'n' roll front, Blues Traveler will show up there next Tuesday, heeding the jam ethic as it has since the late '80s. The New York-based group has been through many changes and shifts in public profile, but its members are survivors. They proudly boast elements of blues, rock and extended improvisation in the group recipe, falling into line with groups like the Grateful Dead, Phish and the Allman Brothers, who proved that blues and space jams are not mutually exclusively.

* Tribute to Larry Nass, Sunday, Alexander's, 1050 Schooner Drive, Ventura, 4 to 7 p.m. Free. (805) 658-2000.

* Robin Trower, Saturday, Ventura Theatre, 26 Chestnut St., 8 p.m. $27 to 37. (805) 653-0118.

* Blues Traveler, with guest Spearhead, Wednesday, $27, Ventura Theatre, 26 S. Chestnut St., 8 p.m. (805) 653-0118.

Art About Water: Water is the general theme running through the exhibition called "Metamorphosis," now at the Studio Channel Islands Art Center, but the two artists involved take distinctly separate paths. That diversity concerns not only their different approaches and media, but the consistency of the art itself. Roxie Ray-Bordelon's best paintings are provocative, but the focus grows fuzzy with the inclusion of some lesser works. For sculptor Gerri Johnson-McMillin, focus is prickly sharp, with a large number of small assemblages whose details vary only slightly.

Ray-Bordelon is onto something with her paintings of figures distorted by water, the ripples of which provide the most elemental and natural agent of abstraction available in the world we see and know. With "The Philosopher-Refraction Reflection," the waves are strong enough that the submerged figure appears to have changed shape, or perhaps even dematerialized.

Sometimes, psychological interpretations are laid over the top, as with "Unconscious," whose woozy underwater figure piques our concern mainly because of the title, or "Immersion," whose title could refer to more than just one's plunge into wetness. In "Woman Treading Water," a mundane action yields expressive results, a choreography of intersecting lines and wavering, wavy surfaces. "Splash" details the explosive moment when a dry figure is literally metamorphosed.

For Johnson-McMillin, water is a more poetic reference. She creates small, fastidious vessels presented under plexiglass, looking like exotic jellyfish or Native American basketry writ tiny. They are fashioned from fishing line, minute beads and, as structural pillars, albacore pectoral fins. That last ingredient, of course, can't be found at the neighborhood art supply store, and that's key: This is strangely appealing art that cleverly connects the dots between nature and culture.

* "Metamorphosis," art by Roxie Ray-Bordelon and Gerri Johnson-McMillin, Studio Channel Islands Art Center, CSU Channel Islands, Camarillo. Ends Nov. 30. Thursdays-Saturdays, noon-3 p.m. (805) 383-1368..

Theater for All: Family theater fare is the goal of the current production of the Oxnard-based Elite Theater Company. Local author Patricia Bird has adapted the classic book "Little Women," changing the historical backdrop. Watch it in the picturesque confines of the Petit Playhouse, in Oxnard's Heritage Square.

* "Little Women," Petit Playhouse, 730 S. B St., Heritage Square, Oxnard. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Dec. 22. $12 general, $10 senior citizens and students. (805) 483-5118.

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