Sonoma Music - Mike Hyland

Discovering ‘Jazz in the Back’

The Sonoma Valley Jazz Society has commandeered The Plaza Bistro on Friday and Saturday nights, presenting a great variety of jazz musicians and singers in the Bistro’s Backroom.  The ‘Jazz in the Back” series continues this weekend with Rolando Morales holding forth tomorrow night, Friday, January 20, and pianist Mike Greensil in on Saturday night, Jan. 21. The shows run from 7 to 10 p.m. each night.  The following weekend brings Jason Bodlovich to Jazz in the Backroom on Friday the 27th and pianist Stephanie Ozer with Mary Fettig on Saturday the 28th.  The Sonoma Valley Jazz Society is a non-profit organization supported by donations, sponsorships and memberships.

Rolando Morales has a natural sense of rhythm, most of which he learned by performing in diverse bands as well as playing with Flamenco pros in Spain.  He has performed throughout Spain, England, Italy, Ireland, Mexico and Hawaii.  He moved to Oakland concentrating on developing his band and repertoire.  He now plays with world-class musicians who have backed up artists like Airto, Flora Purim, Steve Winwood, Carlos Santana, Ruben Blades, Tower of Power and many others.

Mike Greensil graduated from England’s Leeds College of Music in 1972 and began touring throughout England as well as the Far East, even living in Hong Kong for four years before finally settling in his adopted home of San Francisco, in 1977.  Well known for his role as musical director to acclaimed vocalist Wesla Whitfield with whom he has recorded 20 albums, Greensil is also the resident piano player on Sedge Thomson’s weekly Public Radio show “West Coast Live.”  He can also be found playing jazz with his trio in many Bay Area jazz clubs.  Additionally, Greensil has written for big bands and symphony orchestras including the Boston Pops and the San Francisco Symphony.

For almost 40 years the Sweetwater and/or the Sweetwater Saloon in Mill Valley has played host to talent such as Carlos Santana, Elvis Costello, Huey Lewis, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Maria Muldaur, Sammy Hagar, Richie Havens, Clarence Clemons and many other musical luminaries.  Now, the newly revitalized Sweetwater Music Hall is set to open later this month, bringing back a landmark roots venue to the Bay Area that was created by original owner Jeanie Patterson.

The Sweetwater Music Hall is a state-of-the-art nightclub and café that will not only present nationally recognized top-quality entertainment but will also provide a comfortable home venue for local and emerging talent to perform and experiment.

“For years, the Sweetwater was the place many of us local and visiting musicians headed to when we were looking to play for fun,” said Grateful Dead and Further guitarist Bob Weir, one of the club’s investors.  “Well, our clubhouse is back – and it belongs to all of us.  Mill Valley finally has its playpen back!”

Located in the Masonic Hall at 19 Corte Madera Avenue in Mill Valley, the Sweetwater Music Hall will offer food, drinks and live music for all ages, including national and local headline musical acts, open mic nights, as well as other types of performances and private events.  The inaugural show in the new Sweetwater Music Hall will feature The Outlaws on Friday, Jan. 27.  The band, established in Tampa, Florida in the 1970’s scored hits with “Green Grass and High Tides” and “There Goes Another Love Song.”  The band includes original members’ singer/songwriter/guitarist Henry Paul and drummer Monty Yoho along with Chris Anderson, Billy Crain, Randy Threet and Dave Robbins.  For several years in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Henry Paul and Dave Robbins were members of the Nashville-based band Blackhawk along with the late Rafe Van Hoy.

Other upcoming shows include Steve Kimock and special guests on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 28 and 29; Wednesday Night Live with Mark Karan and special guests on Feb. 8, and Open Mic nights on Monday, Jan. 30 and Monday, Feb. 6.  Tickets for all shows and events at the venue may be obtained online at

Even though the rainy season is about to start, don’t let that stop you from getting out and hearing some great music in the area.  Friday, Jan. 27, guitarist Ronnie Montrose brings his band Montrose to the Uptown Theatre in Napa.  That venue also plays host to Queensryche on Feb. 2.

Yoshi’s in San Francisco welcomes Jill Sobule next Tuesday, Jan. 24; the Stanley Clarke Band for three nights, Jan. 26-28; and the Alan Parsons Live Project on Sunday, Jan. 29.  Yoshi’s in Oakland presents guitar great Robben Ford for three nights, Jan. 20-22.

Keller Williams plays the Great American Music Hall in the city on Saturday, Jan. 21, with Elvin Bishop coming to the venue on Friday, Jan. 27 with John Nemeth opening.  Tuesday, Jan. 24, the Steve Morse Band plays Slims.  Morse was the writer and guitarist for the Dixie Dregs, an incredible instrumental band in the 1970s and early ‘80s.  In addition to his own band, Morse also plays guitar for Deep Purple.  This guy is amazing.

And a little closer to home, Murphy’s plays host to a great weekend of music including the David Thom Band on Friday, Jan. 20; David Aguilar & Peter McCauley on Saturday; and Jaydub and Dino on Sunday evening.

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