By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
RE-EXISTENCE: Ultraman is back -- as in "re-formed," as in "This is a new thing," says singer Tim Jamison, "with new members. This first show is going to be all originals, but by the second show, if all goes as planned and we have fun -- and anybody cares -- we'll have new songs that we'll be mixing with the old ones."
Youngsters who haven't the foggiest idea who Ultraman is should ask their older brethren about the band, one of the few St. Louis punk bands to make an impact both nationally and, to a smaller extent, internationally. In the late '80s they carried the American punk movement on their shoulders with two records on the New Red Archives label -- founded by Nicky Garratt of the U.K. Subs -- Freezing Inside and Non-existence.
Jamison, who says that the band will be playing shows both in town and on the road, though not doing the hit-the-road monthlong tours -- "I'm too old for that shit," -- is aware of the double-edged sword of re-forming an old-school punk band. "I kind of struggled with it for three months, wondering whether to do it. But then I just decided, Wait a minute, I'm me, and this is what I was put on this earth to do -- play punk rock -- so I shouldn't let anyone stop me. I want to do it, so I'm going to."
The "re-formation" actually only includes Jamison and bassist John John from earlier incarnations -- founding guitarist Rob Wagoner isn't involved. Also in this lineup are Bob Fancher and Jason Simpson, both from For the Last Time and Ruined, along with Tim O'Saben, ex of Fragile Porcelain Mice. (RR)
RELEASE PARTY: With the audience for Latin music growing in the area, and a small but steady club scene slowly sprouting roots, perhaps we should direct our gaze toward one Javier Mendoza, a solo artist who is celebrating the release of his debut CD, Tinta y Papel, at the Firehouse on Friday, Feb. 26. Mendoza recently secured a publishing deal with one of the most prestigious companies in the industry, Warner Chapell, on the basis of his performance at the Billboard Latin Conference in Miami and is working (like every other musician in the country) to sign a major-label deal.
Mendoza's music doesn't break many rules; it's middle-of-the-road guitar pop, radio-ready and influenced, according to his press release, by U2, Sting and Led Zeppelin (though I can't hear much Led Zep). Inside is a touch of flamenco, but in essence his is a transnational music, reflecting the influence of several genres without leaning heavily toward any one over the others. That said, his sound is smooth and accessible; he seems to innately understand pop structure, and the result is music that, though not yet being played on commercial radio, wouldn't sound out of place next to any of his influences. (RR)
ALL THAT JAZZ: In addition to the much-anticipated visit of Sphere to the Backstage Bistro this week, there are some jazz happenings at Columbia College in Columbia, Mo.; the Engineers Club of St. Louis; and Webster University. This Friday, Feb. 26, Ray Drummond and his All-Star Excursion Band perform in Columbia College's Launer Auditorium as part of the 1998-99 "We Always Swing" Jazz Series. Bassist Drummond, one of today's more melodic and innovative bass players, fronts an outstanding quintet, was honored as an artist-in-residence at last year's Monterey Jazz Festival and was commissioned to compose several original works for the fest. His 8 p.m. Columbia concert will feature several of those compositions. Admission is $18 ($16 for students), and tickets may be obtained by calling 573-884-7297.
Also on Friday at the Engineers Club, 4359 Lindell, pianist Ptah Williams leads an outstanding group of local musicians -- including Willie Akins on sax, Keyon Harrold on trumpet, Dan Eubanks on bass and Gary Sykes on drums. Admission is $10 ($5 for students) for the 8 p.m. concert. Finally, on Monday, March 1, sax player Gary Foster, who has worked with the Louie Bellson and Akiyoshi-Tabackin big bands, as well as with Warne Marsh and Laurindo Almeida, will be the guest artist at a 7 p.m. concert at Webster U.'s Moore Auditorium. He'll be backed by Webster jazz-faculty members: Paul DeMarinis on sax, pianist Carolbeth True, Mike Parkinson on trumpet, the ubiquitous Dan Eubanks on bass and drummer Kevin Gianino. Admission is just $2. (TP)
Contributors: Terry Perkins, Randall Roberts