Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Sally Barr shatters expectations of an instrumentalist (classical violinist/violist, pianist, and sometimes mandolin player), jazz vocalist, producer, and educator with a list of credentials that reads like the art section of a medium-sized city’s newspaper. As a Jill of these trades, master of each, Barr has become a sought-after and diverse stage and studio performer, musical mentor, and artist humanitarian.
Ms. Barr has performed and taught in a variety of musical settings in the US & Europe, (including the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, Opera Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Symphony; at Austin, TX hotspots The Off Center, Flipnotics & The Scottish Rite Theater in Washington and Oklahoma, New York & New England, France, Austria & Germany) featured as a violinist, violist, as well as performing on the mandolin in Mozart's venerable opera Don Giovanni. She has had the distinct privilege and pleasure of serving as Concertmaster of the Donna Summer Orchestra in Santa Barbara in 2005. She has twice performed at Live Oak Festival: with Mark O’Connor in 1998 and with the Gove County String Quartet in 2008. Sally has also performed with Sarah Brightman, Brian Wilson and The Moody Blues. Just as her tastes cannot be contained to just classical, jazz, pop, etc., neither can her bow be contained to four strings. One of Barr’s many instruments is a five-string violin, commissioned from master luthier, James Wimmer. She performs with the five string in multiple commissioned works by James Connolly, in addition to fulfilling it’s rock and jazz capabilities whenever possible.
Still, this accomplished musician cannot be content to let her fingers do the singing. After 20 years as a professional instrumentalist, Sally made her jazz vocal debut in 2005 at Direct Relief International’s (DRI) benefit for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. She has received vital instruction from renowned contralto Victoria Hart, and since her premiere, has performed with her band, The Sally Cats, all over Southern California.
Back home in California, Sally continues in her favored multi-tasking vain through her production company, Vox and Fiddle, with several performances and the 2009 release of the The Sally Cats’ debut CD “Wonderful Day” The album features a brilliant big band comprised of master musicians Jim Connolly, Jon Nathan, Nate Birkey, Tom Buckner, Brad Rabuchin, special guest Gilles Apap and is complete with a luxurious string section to ice the cake. Sally also performs and records with the popular Americana circus-music band, the Gove County String Quartet and the mighty and eclectic jazz-fusion outfit, Headless Household (Household Ink Records).
UCSB Jazz Ensemble DirectorJon Nathan has been a figure in the Santa Barbara musical scene since his arrival almost 15 years ago. He holds a BM in jazz studies from the U of M, Amherst, and an MM in Percussion Performance from Cal State Northridge. During his time there, he was introduced to William Kraft, and was asked to continue studies with Mr. Kraft at UCSB, where he recently finished his Doctorate. Jon has served as principal percussionist with the SB Civic Light Opera, is principal timpanist with the Opera SB, and frequently plays extra percussion with the SB Symphony, the SB Chamber Orchestra, and other groups in the SB/Ventura area. He was the founding drummer in the Animal Liberation Orchestra and played in various jazz groups in Santa Barbara, including the Nate Birkey Quintet. Among his multiple teaching positions in the area, Jon also serves as the Percussion Instructor and Percussion Ensemble professor at UCSB, loves the challenges of performing and teaching in both the classical and jazz worlds.
James Connolly has been Lit Moon Theater’s composer-in-residence since 1995. A highly sought-after composer for theatre, dance, and film, Connolly has composed and played ten complete original musical scores for Lit Moon, including Independent Award-winners Peer Gynt, The Master and Margarita, and Hamlet Jim is the founder, director, and composer for Gove County Philharmonic, composing material for two CD’s, Yes I’ve Been to Gove and Time Stops to Visit. Heard on progressive radio stations throughout the United States, the music of Gove County fuses complex musical idioms with simple American song styles, making the group a staple of the Santa Barbara, California coffee house scene. Visit www.jimconnollymusic.com
Over the last 2 decades, the Los Angeles-bred guitarist, Brad Rabuchin has gained invaluable experience as a guitarist, whose resume includes playing with Bonnie Raitt, Al Kooper, Stevie Wonder, Buddy Miles, Jimmy Haslip, Pat Martino, Roy Hardgrove, Diane Shurr, David “Fathead” Newman, Ta Ta Vega, and even Mr. Tom Jones. He spent 5 years appearing around the world with the legendary Ray Charles. All the while, Rabuchin has also been honing his own unique musical voice and has recorded 2 CDs under his own name. Visit www.bradrabuchin.com
Nate Birkey's quiet but intense demeanor typifies an artist restlessly pursuing the evolution of his own musical personality. As composer, trumpeter and vocalist, Nate Birkey imbues warmth and broiling energy into his music. Birkey has released seven albums for the California-based Household Ink Records. With the 2008 release of Almost Home and Christmas - his first recordings made with his NYC-based quintet of saxophonist Sal Giorgianni, pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Tony Marino and drummer Marko Marcinko - Birkey takes another step upward and outward. Nate currently resides in New York City and remains busy performing, recording, and touring the US, Canada and Europe with his quintet. Nate has also performed with saxophonists Dave Liebman and Phil Woods; pianists Gerald Clayton and Roger Kelleway, guitarist Vic Juris, drummer Bill Goodwin, and many others. Visit www.natebirkey.com
Tom Buckner has toured and recorded with Grant Geissman (jazz guitar player known for his amazing solo on Chuck Mangioni’s “Feel so Good”) and Luis Munoz (Latin jazz composer and percussionist.) Tom has performed with Jazz legends Flora & Airto, Peter Erskin (Steely Dan), Michael McDonald, Peter White, Rick Braun, The Temptations, Lou Rawls, and Ralph Carmichael as well as recording for Grammy winning composer Tom Snow.
Special guest on Wonderful Day Gilles Apap is “…universally recognized as one of the leading contemporary violinists”(EBMA) His upcoming North American highlights in the 2008-2009 season include debuts with the Boston Philharmonic and Santa Rosa Symphony orchestras in the demanding Alban Berg Violin Concerto. Highlights from the 2007-2008 season included solo appearances with the Orchestre de Chambre de Geneve, Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Bremen Philharmonic Orchestra, Icelandic Chamber Orchestra, and at the American Symphony Orchestra League's 2007 National Conference with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. The summer of 2008 marked his debut at the International Music Festival in Espinho, Portugal; at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam with his ensemble “Colors of Invention”; his latest recording with them, Sans Orchestre is available now. Visit www.gillesapap.com
Sally Barr and the SB Cats @ SOhO June 30
Sally Barr and her new jazz orchestra gave a fine and highly promising performance at SOhO on Monday night. Barr, a violinist who has long been a mainstay in that capacity on the Santa Barbara classical music scene, showed once again that she has a terrific voice and unerring taste in both material and musicians. The set list read like a lesson in crucial jazz standards, the kind everyone should know. Ain't Misbehavin' was followed by April in Paris, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To, and an up-tempo version of Blue Skies. The band, a handpicked assemblage of the absolute top players in town, included Jim Connolly (bass), Jon Nathan (drums/arrangements), Brad Rabuchin (guitar), Tom Buckner (sax/flute/clarinet), and Jim Mooy (trumpet). Everyone got plenty of solo time, and the Nathan, Connolly, and Rabuchin rhythm section did an amazing job of keeping things swinging. Barr's voice cut through the big sound with vibrant color and emotion, her phrasing a model of clarity and sophistication, and every word etched precisely in sound.
Just when Mooy or Buckner broke off another hot solo, Barr started in on the chorus again, and just when it seemed that it couldn't get much better, there was a break and the band became an orchestra. For Tenderly and What is This Thing Called Love? the main group was joined on stage by a quartet string section that included violinist Lisa Weinstein and Claude Lise Lafranque, along with Kirsten Monke and cellist Claudia Kiser. For some of these numbers, which were all fully orchestrated, Nathan left his drummer's seat and stood to conduct the strings. Monke took a beautiful cello solo on Tenderly, and Connolly took one of several splendid bass solos.
Caravan brought the collective back off the break sounding like the great house bebop orchestra this town (and venue) deserves. Green Dolphin Street followed, along with too many more classics to count. Ending with a particularly ebullient You Don't Know What Love Is, Barr and company showed that there is much more fire and passion to come.
Charles Donelan - The Independent (Jul 3, 2008)