No special alarms were sounded on Saturday night in Portland, even though a man well known for trying “to set the night on fire” was in town.
Robby Krieger, guitarist with the legendary rock band The Doors and composer of their huge hit “Light My Fire,” brought his Jazz Kitchen quintet to the stage of the Port City Music Hall.
Enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of that famous L.A. band, Krieger was always interested in a broad range of musical sounds. He contributed to many of the extended improvisations, rooted in jazz and world music, that helped solidify The Doors’ reputation. After singer Jim Morrison’s death essentially brought the band to an end, Krieger continued working on his idea of a “fusion” of styles.
Krieger’s Jazz Kitchen is full of musical journeymen who obviously love to play and have fun while they’re doing it. They did all that before a small but enthusiastic crowd on Saturday night.
A Frank Zappa connection was immediately evident as three members of the band had played with the late band leader at one time or another. Perhaps in recognition of that connection, the band led off with Zappa’s tune called “Chunga’s Revenge,” an exotic piece that builds to some rather heavy crescendos as the musical beast rumbles on.
The band, featuring Arthur Barrow on bass and vocals, Tommy Mars on keyboards and vocals, Larry Klimas on sax and flute, Chad Wackerman on drums, and the leader on his trusty Gibson SG guitar, then undertook a quick collective improvisation that loosened up the ears of all before they moved into a number of original tunes sharing a tendency toward funk rhythms.
Krieger employed some electronics to flavor such tunes as “What Was That” and “Let It Slide.” His guitar work was fast and strong throughout.
A Tony Williams tune called “Snake Oil” got audience heads bobbing to the beat while Mars complicated things nicely with some effective smears of sound on the order. Mars later worked some scat and whistling around his vocal on “Screen Junkies,” a warning to electronic device fanatics to “pay attention” when they drive. Barrow added an appropriately funny vocal to a bluesy “Cosmik Debris,” another Zappa tune.
A tribute to Miles Davis called “Russian Caravan” joined flowing excursions with a hard-walking bass line in the middle, all in the service of a soaring theme.
Though the 66-year-old Krieger did reminisce briefly about living in Laurel Canyon in the 1960s with rock stars all around, it was clear that he’s carrying forward the joy of playing he discovered in those long ago days.
Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.