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L.A. Music Today: Evan Stone

One view of THSB performing live
One view of THSB performing live
Brett Brezniak

Upon hearing the phrase “translucent ham sandwich” used in a story about Yankee Stadium fare from the Ken Burns’ baseball documentary, Evan Stone instantly gained inspiration for the name Translucent Ham Sandwich Band, the musical project in which he acts as bandleader, drummer, vocalist, and producer.

Jugglers, magicians, visual artists and dancers are among the cast of characters in the group which at its core features guitars, keyboards, bass, percussion, a horn section and spoken word artists. Everybody is in various costumes and video images are projected on screens as Evan is sat front and center with drum kit, conducting the “controlled chaos”. The music created is improvised on the spot, and not only do the musicians rise up to the challenge of blending their parts together, they succeed in creating a multiplicity of interesting sounds for the listener. Out of the improvisations come compositions, though the group remains in the moment and no two performances of a single piece are ever the same. Evan’s ultimate goal is to keep everyone in the moment while promoting freedom of expression and individual choice. The skills he’s developed over the years have enabled him to do this effectively.

Some of Evan’s earliest musical memories include going into to the basement of his childhood home in New York and hearing his father play electric guitar. In addition to having music playing constantly throughout his home as a child, he also spent time alone in the basement exploring the records of Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, ELO and Chicago among many others.

“A burning desire to stand next to an attractive girl playing snare drum was a large part of my motivation to get involved in the Elementary school band.”, Evan recalled.

“Unfortunately, there weren’t any openings for drummers, so I took up the trombone for a couple days to satisfy my curious amusement playing the circus slide routine, and then quickly switched over to trumpet after realizing how much lighter an instrument it was to carry home!”

A few years later some neighborhood boys acquired guitars and Evan was coerced into becoming their drummer. Unable to afford a proper kit, he put together a makeshift kit out of cardboard boxes using wooden dowels in place of drumsticks. By the age of 13, his drum teacher convinced him that if he was going to be serious about playing, he would need to play on a real drum kit. He was quite content with the cardboard boxes, but eventually was convinced that in order to “get the girls”, he would need to play on a real drum kit as well. So, he chose a black Tama Swing Star because it was the type of drums played by one of his then heroes, Stewart Copeland of The Police.

At the tender age of 16, when Evan and his parents moved from New York to sunny Southern California, Evan had “a healthy dose of experience under his belt from playing in clubs with his band on Long Island”. Evan had a little trouble at first adapting to the different life style of the West Coast, but eventually would find his way to network with other musicians and begin writing music of his own while practicing with bandmates every day after school. One of the first concerts he attended was guitar great Al Di Meola, where he witnessed a “ridiculously good band”, and met drummer Tom Brechtlein, who became one of his mentors.

At 17, Evan was playing in his own jazz-fusion band called Minimum Three when he had the bold idea of bringing recordings of his band to try and sell to people standing in line waiting to get in to see a show at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. When the owner approached him to halt his entrepreneurial progress, Evan gave the owner a recording of the band (for free) which led to them landing an opening spot for a national act. They became the house band opening up for many of the national and international jazz groups over the next several years.

As he approached the drinking age, Evan was starting to take side gigs and network with other musicians who would find him playing with bands that ranged in style from Country music and Reggae, to Folk and Top 40. This led to his first professional road gig with legendary jazz trumpeter, Maynard Ferguson at the age of 21. During this time, Evan had met and performed with numerous musicians of all shapes and sizes, one of them being bassist David J. Carpenter, (who he is currently in a co-production venture with) and they were invited to Ramona, CA to record “one of the most challenging and fun records” with an “odd-time, crazy music” progressive rock band called Bug Guts.

When the road gig eventually “led him back to his own driveway”, Carpenter invited him to join a psychedelic funk band called SPEAK , who recorded and performed throughout the Los Angeles area. This led to more projects including joining Gregory Page and the Troubled Sleepers and eventually an offshoot of the progressive rock band Bug Guts, revamped and renamed Salty The Pocketknife.

As these groups ran their course, Evan claims: “ I had a brilliant life changing idea and was going to focus on being a straight-ahead jazz drummer”. The Evan Stone Quartet then recorded an album entitled, “Sticks and Stones Vol. I”. Local jazz radio station KKJZ 88.1 FM played every track on the album over the next year, and the band developed a good reputation locally winning the Orange County Music Award

six straight years in a row. The band still exists and continues to play occasionally throughout southern California, although Evan’s interests have expanded into something more unique as the majority of his creative energy goes into the Translucent Ham Sandwich Band. (THSB)

THSB came together out of Evan’s personal desire to travel into more Avant-Garde areas of improvised music. Though the THSB album (Music From The Future) strays a bit from the live show experience, all the basic tracks come from purely improvised performances. Six hours of grooves from the rhythm section were consolidated down to the thirteen tracks, which are linked together by segue way pieces ranging from the sounds of radio static, electronic noises and a prank phone call, to other entertaining bits which keep the listener in the moment, provoke thought, and in the process warrant a few laughs.

Between the first track “Change” and the follow-up “Occupy”, you hear an announcement stating “Special coverage of ‘Planet Revolution’ brought to you by Bank of the World; because when you need cash, we have it all!”

These upbeat, funky tunes about personal and social responsibility are followed by the laid-back groove of “Band on the Moon”. The floating groove featuring electric

piano is highlighted by bits of dialogue which appear to be coming from a television. This establishes a theme which continues throughout the album: groovy music alternating between background and foreground, as the world in all of its madness is a constant throughout it all. Though Evan and the other musicians playing on the album are top-notch players with plenty of chops, they steer clear of technically dazzling pyrotechnics in favor of varying inventive grooves where each instrument remains integral, yet is only a piece of the larger picture. The song, Music From The Future” features a soulful melodic line which was originally an idea sung into Evan’s answering machine and kept for several years waiting to be developed into a song. This piece is a dream-like groove with poetry and singing by Marcus Omari.

The second part of the album opens with “The Whistler” which leads into “Lime in the Coconut”. Here, Marcus goes through a list of activities, stream-of-consciousness, and abstract poetic phrases over different, contrasting grooves. “Black Moses Mistress” is a nervous-energy jam over more of Marcus’ abstract imagery. “Censor Me” is the busiest track of the album, with the drums filling in a lot of space, and bringing the album to a noise peak. . “Status of Significance” mellows the mood a bit, but still, like all the tracks, has plenty of things going on which keep it interesting. Under a “straight-ahead bebop jazz jam” we hear “Coffee Urge” which is a satirical list of different types of coffee and it’s various effects. The band picks up the funk again with “Chocolate on the Pillow”. This sounds like an excerpt of an exciting jam. Like all the tracks, it’s a mere sample of the whole picture, which is explored in the live performances. Overall, the album contains quite a bit of detail to grab your attention and keep it and you engaged upon repeated listening.

Evan has made a natural progression from being a seasoned professional musician and home-recording experimentalist to full-fledged producer. Other than his own personal projects, he has recently produced albums by artists such as:

Nancy Sanchez (Ruby In L.A.), and Danny Freyer (Must Be Love) who’s album made it to the #21 spot on the CMJ radio charts this year. Evan is currently a voting member of the Grammys and also a member of the Producers and Engineers Wing of the Grammys as well. His plan is to continue performing, recording and producing more music and albums for other fellow friends and musicians, along with live performances by the Translucent Ham Sandwich Band.

The vinyl album release party for "Music From the Future" is 7:00pm Thursday, February 26th at Diego's in Santa Ana. A free copy of the album will be given out for paid admission.

Evan Stone & the Transluscent Ham Sandwich Facebook page

Evan Stone Fandalism Page

Evan Stone YouTube Channel

Examiner article on Danny Freyer

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