Ronnie Laws/ Earl Klugh 9-17-2005
Ronnie Laws Rips It Up at Cerritos
By Glen Creason
The smooth jazz paint, once slathered over any number of indefinable pop sounds seems to be the proverbial red hanky waved in front of a charging bull lately in Cerritos. Ronnie Laws and even show-opening Earl Klugh cranked the volume and carved some funky edges up onto their show at the Performing Arts Center. Smooth Jazz, no. Very much amplified Funk-Jazz yes, in the case of Laws who wielded two sizzling saxophones and a really great R&B band spiced by his sister back up singers Debra and Eloise. Ronnie Laws is a fine technician and a polished performer but on this night he showed joy and passion that made his set quite satisfying.
The Sisters Law opened with a percolating “Listen to the Moonlight” and were joined by big bro as they eased into a sort of voyage of textured sound. From the get-go Ronnie Laws fashioned a layered jazzy funk that gave a dreamy feel to the “moonlight” in words alone. Wandering the stage with his soprano sax, Laws acted as a centerpiece for a sextet thundering a sweet R&B foundation. Utilizing three guitars, a keyboard and double percussion the sound filled the hall and broke only to leave a crevice of room for the soaring sax provided soulfully by Laws. “Good Feelings” was all of that, “Never Be the Same” was sentimental and “Every Generation” rounded out a brisk beginning. Things heated even more with the old Eddie Harris tune “Listen Here” which allowed Laws to bust out the big horn and strut some soprano ax along with generous time for each band member to shine. The rather shy looking Jaman Laws joined his pop on “Always There” and shook off any bashfulness when he put his lips to his horn. The ensuing father-son interplay and exuberant solo was astoundingly electric and provided the high point of the evening.
The mild-mannered and mega-talented Earl Klugh who plays a small guitar in size only opened the show. Self-effacing patter aside Mr. Klugh is one of the finest technicians in music and despite his anchor in smooth jazz the volume was pumped way up and the energy surged in some tunes in part due to his fine band. “Heart String” his trademark brought rapt applause and the infectiously percolating “Wind and Sea” was almost dance music. However, the best of the set was a rapturously beautiful acoustic reading of “Balladina” from his new “Naked Guitar” CD that most certainly was part of the reason for the large crowd at the music table in the intermission lobby. There was a nice break when superb keyboardist Greg Phillinganes serenaded his Mom on her birthday with one of the most unique, improvizational versions ever heard from a stage. Earl Klugh smiled beneficently and kept playing his sweet guitar through “Living Inside Your Love,” “Last Song” and “Dr. Macumba.” “One Night Alone” also struck a chord in the large and enthusiastic audience who asked for more, even after “Twinkle” had spread its last light.