Downtown Music

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March 29, 2004 // UPDATED 10:24 am - April 25, 2007
By: Holly Day
Holly Day

Just smile and nod

How can anyone feel sad around Bobby McFerrin? Even I, in my melodramatic, self-indulgent adolescence, couldn't refrain from smiling the first time I heard his "Don't Worry, Be Happy" -- and then a couple of times after that. OK, sure, by the hundredth time it was on the radio I was sick of it, but I could probably listen to it now and feel pretty close to the way I did that very first time.

More than the-man-behind-that-happy-song, the amazing McFerrin is possibly the most original-sounding vocalist of the past couple decades, capable of leaping octaves within the space of a couple of measures in his songs, sliding from jazz to pop to classical music with jaw-dropping ease.

With the release of his 1984 solo debut, "The Voice," he made jazz history by releasing the first-ever vocals-only album to be released on a major label.

"Spontaneous Inventions" followed a year later, and featured contributions from Herbie Hancock, Manhattan Transfer and comedian Robin Williams. Chart-topping pop smash "Don't Worry, Be Happy," off his album "Simple Pleasures," introduced the world to McFerrin in 1988.

Since "Simple Pleasures," McFerrin's leapt from classical to jazz territory so many times, record stores have given up trying to categorize him. Since 1990, he's recorded with cellist Yo Yo Ma, pianist Chick Corea, The Yellowjackets and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, which he joined as Creative Chair in 1994. In 2002, Blue Note released his "Beyond Words" album, featuring a backup band made up of Chick Corea, Richard Bona, Omar Hakim, Cyro Baptista and Gil Goldstein.

Friday, April 2, 8 p.m. Historic Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave. S. $36.50-$41.50.

(651) 989-5151.

THE geetar man

Funny, I always thought "TSOL" stood for True Sounds of Liberty -- a punk band who opened for the likes of the Dead Kennedys in their early days and then had groups like Bad Religion and Social Distortion open for them years later. But according to guitar legend Monte Montgomery "TSOL" stands for "The Story of Love." At least that's what he's claiming on his newest release, "TSOL."

That's OK, when you're as gifted a guitar player as ol' Monte, you get to do all sorts of things people might raise their brows at. He is, after all, the most mind-boggling guitarist in the state of Texas, possibly in all of America.

His hands move across the strings of his instruments so deftly and swiftly they might as well be thick, hairy spiders, stretching to impossible positions across an alarming six frets. He can play rhythm, melody and bass lines seemingly all at once -- all the while casually tossing in faster-than-the-naked-eye harmonics, two-handed tapping, bass-style string slapping, percussive string stops and guitar-body percussion.

In short, he is a marvel to see perform.

Monte is the first guitar player ever to be named by "Guitar One" magazine as "One of the Top 10 Best Undiscovered Guitarists in America." This past March, for the seventh year in a row, Monte was named "Best Acoustic Guitar Player" at the Austin Music Awards during the South by Southwest Music Conference and named by "Guitar Player" magazine as one of America's Top 50 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Wednesday, March 31, 7 p.m., Lee's Liquor Lounge, 101 Glenwood Ave., $12. 338-9491.

Fashionably everything

Japanese art student Kazu Makino and Italian twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace formed Blonde Redhead in 1993. Since then, their noisy, discordant guitars, and quiet, unpretentious lyrics have graced four LPs and several EPs.

With Makino and Amedeo on guitars and vocals and Simone on drums, the band's gloriously chaotic, artistic rock has inspired hordes of similar-sounding groups that can't come close to touching the real thing.

Thursday, April 1, 8 p.m., The Fine Line Music Cafe, 318 1st Ave. N. $13.50-$33.50. 335-8181.

Holly Day can be reached at