The Jazzcat

Miguel Atwood Ferguson’s Residency at the Blue Whale and Robby Marshall’s RootSystem!

by on Nov.06, 2011, under News

The pulse of the planet is always where the music is. The Blue Whale is not only the epicenter of creativity in Los Angeles when it comes to jazz music but, it has been put on the map as the place to be, the hang, and the focus is on originality! The one thing that the Whale has which makes it unique is that it is constantly packed with a young conscious audience thirsting for the music! The support and love among this world of on point youthful humans is astounding.

Tonight, one of the most beloved and respected players in town has put together an array of supersonics that include his string quartet, tablas, horns and piano, bass and drums on the highest!

Many of these musicians, in fact all of them are leaders in their own right and here, they come together humbly for the greater good of classical, new, challenging chance taking music. Miguel is at the helm and is a warm, positive source of brilliance that shines and thrives with idealistic grandeurs of grace and beauty!

I can only write about these experiences while immersed in the richness of the sound. To my left is painter David Lair, who will be using the same frequencies to paint his imagery while under the influence of sound. It will be great to see where live music takes live art!

Not one note has been played and the entire place is packed. As soon as a bow goes anywhere near a string, one clap of appreciation turns in to a thunderous applause followed by an immediate whisper of silence so that all can hear and feel each vibration.

Miguel begins the evening with Quarteto Fantastico, a string quartet that he collaborates with and together they perform a piece written by a gentleman sitting to my right, Mr. Steven Ferguson, a man responsible for composition in the truest sense of the word!

Austin Peralta joins in on piano, as many others will soon follow suit as the evening crescendos into a foray of interesting combinations; piano and strings, gorgeous! They go from a lovely intro into a Robert Schumann composition. All sounds and colors represented and the classical vibrations put the audience on point; separating them from the foes and the outer forces of the world and allowing their bodies to calm down to hear the precision of tonality.

Peter Jacobson, the cellist has his brand new baby in the house and Kuma shrieks with joy from the back of the room as the fifth and unbeknownst secret member of the band makes his musical statement.

With jazz, I am so used to listening for the incredible cognitive sounds of improvisation but I find this evening that it is quite pleasant to actually listen to a re-interpretation of what the composer actually intended. A different yet satisfying experience to be in the moment and feel the joy of the musicians focused on the happiness of precision!

To the stage come Zach Harmon on drums and Gabe Noel on bass: as the pastels of the sky streak into their infinite canvas of natural glowing beauty, so does the music paint it’s imagery of life.

Joy and beauty indeed but, happiness persists to be a major element in the music as the pianoless quartet weave the strings like a Laker fast break on “Celia”, Bud Powell’s piece transcribed for strings. Always seeking the best in music, Miguel also arranged a killin’ arrangement of the Bill Evan’s solo on the standard “Isreal” for violinists Paul Cartwright and Chris Wood; strings singing so beautifully on a super soulful bed of bass and drums. Robby Marshal joins the stage with an A-Clarinet, purchased specifically for this piece of music. What is that if not love and dedication to sound?

This is Miguel’s third week in a month’s residency here at the Blue Whale and there is different music written each week for the performances. All honor and love go out to owner Joon Lee who has created an environment for originality to flourish.


Do you know the feeling of being in a small lounge packed with people listening, eyes closed and not knowing anyone else is there but you? Its called sonic transportation and without and individual who has true understanding of the music and the art form, the struggle for free speech with a safe platform in music would continue. Here in the musical kingdom of Lee, everyone takes the throne and is knighted royalty!

Robby Marshall and his “Roots” band is next to grace the space after the break. Besides Robby and Miguel, there is a whole new cast of characters that bring their love to the stage and the instrumentation is plentiful. Larger ensembles have to be full of love because there is usually not an overflow of compensation but certainly the cup runneth over with love, commitment and dedication to unity in sound. The are joined on a few occasions by Quartteto Fantistico to make for some gorgeous music!

Root System with Quartetto

Rhythm and soul usually are the key words denoting popular music but make no mistake here, they are the fertile garden in which beauty blossoms. Big phat phrases of original homegrown music is upon us, “Lila Rasa”, “Barranco” and “Song of the Sabia”, written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, all filled with rich Brazilian and South American percussion and deeply “Rooted” in the Afro Peruvian tradition.

The gentle Brazilian breezes really start to blow when Marcel Camargo joins in and turns warmth to romance. Matt Politano’s highlights on piano support the strings, as Robby becomes the wind.  These are all pieces from Robby’s new album called, “RootSystem”, music layered with passion and laced with love.


A Politano blues swings into a tenacious trio on steroids, a symphony of horns and strings ascend and float down notes like snowflakes dissolving on tongues, and all kinds of configurations fill the spectrum from solo to the stratosphere. As Mingus would say, “Better get Hit in Your Soul”! Get the music, visit the venue, and be ordained forever hip, as you will be on the path of enlightenment toward true sound and a new true you!

LeRoy Downs – The Jazzcat

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