Music in the Moment
Night Train Music Club rolls into the Levitt Pavilion Friday night
By Bliss Bowen 07/03/2014
Levitt Pavilion hosts an abundance of national and international touring acts in Memorial Park throughout the summer, but this Friday it will welcome a uniquely LA collective: Night Train Music Club. Comprised of veteran rock, R&B, jazz and folk musicians whose credits read like a Rolling Stone column, Night Train Music Club celebrates the spontaneously fun, occasionally transcendent moments that arise when seasoned players connect.
According to guitarist/bandleader Steve Postell, the concept came to him about eight years ago after Sabian Cymbals asked him to organize an all-star band for the annual NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) trade show. “I called [keyboardist] Mike Finnigan from Bonnie Raitt’s band, [drummer] Steve Ferrone, [bassist] Lee Sklar, Siedah Garrett, who co-wrote ‘Man in the Mirror.’ And Jimmy Messina and [Rolling Stones backup singer] Bernard Fowler. It went so well — that’s what made me want to keep doing it. Then it got a name and became sort of a thing.”
For a time the native New Yorker staged Night Train shows at Genghis Cohen in Hollywood, then Café Cordiale in Sherman Oaks and WitZend in Venice, as well as a festival in Canada. Regardless of the venue, the Night Train vibe is loose, the music soulful, and the caliber of participants consistently impressive.
“The idea was we’d have a great band and guest singers who’d bring their songs or charts for their songs,” Postell explains. “We wouldn’t rehearse because we’re all studio players and like to think on our feet. A lot of times people met for the first time on the bandstand and heard the songs for the first time on the bandstand. That made for a very in-the-moment, visceral experience with the music. Audiences get that.”
Postell, a journeyman musician who’s worked with John Oates and Vonda Shepard, among others, often accompanies Friday’s guest artists: acclaimed singer-songwriters Dan Navarro, Tom Freund and Amilia Spicer. (Full disclosure: This writer sings in Spicer’s band.)
They’ll perform Friday with Postell, keyboardist Peter Adams, guitarist Mark Goldenberg, drummer Michael Jerome, bassist Alphonso Johnson, vocalist Suzan Postel, saxophonist Joe Sublett, percussionist Ramon Yslas and guest drummer Kenwood Dennard. Collectively, their credits include stints backing Christina Aguilera, Better Than Ezra, Jackson Browne, Ben Harper, Lili Haydn, Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, Wayne Shorter, Richard Thompson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Weather Report. Postell describes them as “musicians who have put a lot of themselves into being the best at their instruments, who don’t feel connected to the corporate, Autotune environment.”
“The ultimate thing is to play and make music with other great musicians, and that’s why we started,” he says. “We’re doing what we set out to do; that’s what feels connected. The good news is that there are still audiences that want to hear it.”
Night Train Music Club convenes at the Levitt Pavilion in Memorial Park, 85 E. Holly St., Pasadena, 8 p.m. Friday; free admission. Info: (626) 683-3230. stevepostell.com, levittpavilionpasadena.org