by Dwight Hobbes
Guitar man and singer/songwriter Javier Trejo does vintage, dyed-in-the-wool San Francisco rock and is pretty damned good at it, ranging from sensual acoustic music to state-of-the-art ballsy fare, all of it enriched by a sinewy, Latin aesthetic.
For an easygoing, intimate vibe, get ahold of Trejo’s newly released self-titled record. Laid back and freeform, it hints at the old, lamentably short-lived group It’s A Beautiful Day, engaging with exotic nuance, compelling with understated power and generally affording this captivating talent a lush showcase.
New Day,” coming out of a Jose Feliciano-type bag, is one of those breezy
tunes that insinuates its way into your listening pleasure. Here’s a scenario:
You’re over at a friend’s crib, just hanging out, shooting the sugar
honey iced tea, maybe enjoying a crooked cigarette with a nice taste on the
side. Your host drops something on the stereo. It’s catchy at first, then,
starts to really slip up on you. Soon, you pay less and less attention to whatever
it was you both were talking about. Next thing, you’re asking, “Hey,
who is that? Can I see the album cover?” Been there, done that? Good,
‘cause it’s one of three highlights on Javier Trejo that will arrest
you faster than a cop. The other two are the insistent samba “Magic Tree”
and the hypnotic “Skip To My Luke” (dedicated to his son).
The rest of the CD isn’t slouch material, either. Just like everybody
else, reviewers have their favorites. “Dance of the Mountain Stream”
is tailor-made for Deadhead freaks who firmly believe the best songs in life
are those that occasionally revisit the hook (so you remember what song you’re
listening to) and otherwise spiral out into a tasty, free-wheeling jam complete
with changing time signatures. The contemplative “Not So Far Away”
departs to Pink Floyd country, strange but accessible. In short, the album is
no run-of-the-mill offering. Thanks in no small part to accompaniment by Chris
Gray on traps and Rich Casey on bass with assists by Zach Lozier (trumpet) and
John Wolfe, Jr. (piano) along with guests Jimmy Rodgers (bass), Stanley Kipper
(drums) and Amanda Harmon and Javier’s little girl Sierra Arroyo Trejo
Not so easygoing is Javier Trejo’s late-’90s work as frontman for
and driving force behind St. Paul-based phenomenon The Beads (you can get their
CD at his gigs). You’ve got Trejo on hellified electric, Matthew Stevens
pumping fluid bass, Nick Dodd tight on drums and Mason Hozza finessing sweet
keyboards with help from percussionist Chris Yoerks and Nate Stevens (rhythm
guitar, harmonica). Choice selections: the bluesy, strutting “Let Your
Mind” and “Song for Carlos,” an eerie, anthemic tribute to
Carlos Santana. There’s also Live DUBsack, a power trio CD of Trejo, James
Buckley (bass) and J.T. Bates (drums) playing instrumental Reggae-Dance Hall.
And, for good measure, Javier Trejo is guitarist-second vocalist for powerhouse
Afro-Cuban rockers The New Primitives (with whom he executes an ingenious take
on The Temptations’ classic “The Way You Do The Things You Do”).
Don’t seem there’s much this guy isn’t good at.
Northeast Minneapolis, on a March night, yet another of his outlets, Trio (recently
renamed Javier Trejo & the Terminal Two), is doing its weekly Tuesday at
the Terminal Bar. The lineup is Trejo, Chris Gray and Rich Casey with Zach Lozier
sitting in on trumpet. The audience is doing what publicist Nikki Nefstead calls
“the trickle-in effect. They start out coming in two or three at a time
and by the end of the night, the whole place is crowded.” It’s easy
to see why Trejo doesn’t lose the early arrivals. You come in, get a load
of this guy and understandably are inclined to hang around for more. “Skip
to My Luke” as well as “Just to See Her” and “And in
My Bourbon Down” off Javier Trejo, don’t lose a thing live. Added
to which, he delivers a fine rendition of David Crosby’s “Traction
in the Rain,” throwing down on inspired guitar in soulful voice (Trejo
acknowledges The Guess Who’s Burton Cummings as an influence).
At the break, digging on some damned good hillbilly music blaring through the
house speakers, I make my way to the end of the bar and catch a word with Trejo
and Bill Mountain, the bouncer, a stocky, Native American fella of few words,
a warm smile and gentle, wizened eyes that don’t miss a thing around him.
Jess, the bartender, smiles like sunshine as she sets up a round. An expansive
Trejo, remarkably unpretentious for a fella of his talent and reputation, gives
me the 411 in amiable, rapid-fire fashion. Born in, it turns out, Monclova Coahuila,
Mexico, he’s a self-described “first generation immigrant.”
Discussing his music, he keys in on the Brazilian flavor of “Magic Tree”
to expound, “I was way into, like, Antonio Carlos Jobim, the guy who wrote
‘Girl From Ipanema.’ When I heard that Stan Getz record [with Astrud
Gilberto] where they were doing a bunch of [Jobim’s] songs, it blew my
mind. I was like, ‘It’s beautiful.’ At the time, I was playing
a lot of solo guitar.” Off into it, Trejo waxes animated, gesturing, detailing.
“With bossa nova guitar, the bass is done with your thumb, the chords
are done with your three middle fingers and your pinky does sort of the melody.
So, it’s a great style, if you’re a solo artist.” He’s
on a roll, pausing only to sip on some bottled water. “The reason why
bossa nova even got started was because in Rio de Janeiro, there would be huge
salsa bands. But, if you were a poor kid who could only afford an apartment
… you couldn’t bring, like, 12 people over to practice. So, it was
developed, this [minimal] style.”
That’s Javier Trejo. Skilled, knowledgeable, down to earth. Chris Gray
says of working with Trejo, “It’s great. Demanding. A lot of things.
Jav is really on top of his playing. He just has a command. The musicianship
is apparent.” You can say that again. ||
plays every Tuesday at the Terminal Bar. 409 E. Hennepin Ave., Mpls. 612-623-4545.
He also joins the New Primitives every Thursday at the Cabooze. 917 Cedar Ave.,