Material: David Garfield is a seasoned performer known for his work with the group Karizma. Together with The Cats, he puts on an entertaining show with an extensive repertoire, including originals like “Fragile” and fun covers with a jazz spin, like Bob Marley’s “Jammin’.” Also in the set are scads of spot-on album-accurate takes on Steely Dan in honor of Walter Becker as well as a somber and stark snippet of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.” Leslie Smith delivers luscious lead vocals, not afraid to hit the high notes with a passionate delivery, especially when nailing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”
Musicianship: Garfield clearly communicates with his band to pull off tight finales and instrumental rounds. Each song reflects a perfect balance of dynamic tension building up from a variety of instrument combinations to a full band. The mix in this room is fantastic, and everyone in the band throttles down on their levels to spotlight Smith on verses. Each member of The Cats brings that perfect combination of spontaneity, soulfulness and selectiveness, best exemplified by a uniquely fantastic jam instrumental finale on their cover of Toto’s “Georgy Porgy.”
Performance: Throughout the night Garfield gave members of the audience shout-outs, including a fun moment when the group broke into a spontaneous rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song that evolved into something you might hear by Earth, Wind & Fire. Garfield encouraged audience participation, so it was not surprising when the crowd demanded an encore. The shining moment of the performance was with his original, “Fragile,” featuring a seriously epic piano instrumental loaded with plenty of glissandos that drove the audience wild.
Summary: With a troupe of seasoned musicians like this, you get a top-notch performance from start to finish. While the Tom Petty tribute was very moving it honestly left the audience wanting to hear the full song. The only point where the energy seemed to wane was on “Country Preacher” due to a rather slow intro that was exacerbated by some sparseness in the composition, which could easily be tightened up. While jazz is arguably not for everyone, Garfield and company have figured out a way to please any listener.
Venue: Bogie’s in Westlake Village, CA
The Players: Leslie Smith, vocalist; Brandon Fields, saxophone; Neil Stubenhaus, bass; James Harrah, guitar; Steve Ferrone, drums; David Garfield; keyboard.