Beth Peerless, Where it’s at: A musical exploration with Nico Georis

Nico Georis, 40, is a fearless musical explorer. A bit of a stylistic chameleon. And a quintessential California renaissance man.  I’ve enjoyed watching as he’s grown into his ideas, solo and with a group of friends who also embrace the path less followed. His ideas tend to be based on a bohemian, endlessly creative curve, a trait he acquired in no small measure from his parents Gaston and Sheila Georis.

From Carmel/Big Sur to Paris to New York and San Francisco, he’s taken the learning process seriously at each stop and reached a point where he finally feels at home in his art. His restless gypsy nature has taken him south to Ojai and Los Angeles for now, where he feels he can connect to a like-minded musical community.

Before making that move he spent the past 10 years in Big Sur and local environs where his parents had a house. He’s glad for that time being present during the last period of his father’s life.

Thursday he returns to Big Sur at the Henry Miller Memorial Library to perform the music he’s composed atop the bones of minimalist composer Terry Riley’s famous 1969 instrumental piece “A Rainbow in Curved Air.” He’ll also perform his “Music For Slot Machines.” It’s going to be quite the production, as often is the case when Georis puts together a program. It’s as much a “happening” as it is a concert, with multi-media aspects of film and liquid light shows, and several other experimental musicians performing before his headlining set that also features his musical compadre T.P. Dutchkiss and visual artist Erren Franklin’s live 8mm film projections. Supporting artists Jake Padorr, Yialmelic Frequencies and MatthewDavid round out the program that will culminate with DJ sets by his production company Milky Way Radio and friends.

“I always thought it was an un-coverable piece of music,” Georis said in a phone interview from Ojai. “I never would have dreamed of doing a cover of it. Britt Govea’s Folk Yeah! did a 50th anniversary of the record event in San Francisco. Terry Riley came and played it live with his son.

“I went to that show at The Chapel. In that simplified setting I was able to hear the riff that was at the very center of this piece of music. Everything was driven off that one riff. I was able to understand the departure point he had. Saw the bones. Went home and felt like I’d caught Rainbow disease. This riff wouldn’t stop in my head and it was really fun to play and I got obsessed with playing it. The more I played it I made discoveries of my own, but I actually stumbled into things that sounded like what he was doing. And this went on for, now it’s been a couple of years. I’ve just gone further and further and further into this really incredible piece of music, and then I went into the studio and recorded it.”

The Big Sur concert is the first in a series of 10-12 shows he’ll be touring as sort of a preview to the July 29 worldwide release date of the music online. He’ll be selling CDs and Vinyl of the recording at his shows that will take him to Shasta, Portland, Seattle, Marin, San Francisco, Grass Valley area, Ojai and two shows in Los Angeles. He might swing back around to Monterey. The Henry Miller Library event is the only one to have the whole lineup of musicians and visual artists documented here, so it’s a real special deal, as he explains.

“It’s a different way of listening to music,” Georis said. “Not some ego-centric front man engaging the crowd with ‘How ya feeling tonight? Everyone clap along’ kind of go out and see live music thing. It’s more like this emporium of sounds that has an effect on your nervous system and brain. A very cool space, especially at Henry Miller with the redwood trees. It’s gentle on your spirit and yet not dull or boring. The music that we’re doing, it’s a performance I’ll probably never do again. It’s been two years in the making based on this extremely rare piece of super special music by a California composer that’s internationally acclaimed. To see it performed live is rare and with the visuals, it will be very beautiful. Honestly, it’s the most unique one-off piece of music I’ve ever performed. I’m going to be doing it for this tour and that’s it, so don’t miss it. I’m going to be doing something else afterward.”

Some of the previous projects he’s worked on include his high school days playing with his buddy cellist Rushad Eggleston. I booked The This and That Quartet (acoustic jazz) at the Big Sur Jazz Festival and that’s when I first met him, maybe 20 or more years ago. In Paris he made impressionist piano music, in New York he and his friends formed Palo Colorado, an electrified This and That Quartet, same guys. As well he played in up to eight different bands, playing everything from hip hop, to Afro Beat and folk music to rock and roll.

His move back to California and the Bay Area was about writing songs and playing rock in Sky Country. He described the music as California rock, with surf music and desert vibes. He produced a backcountry Big Sur music festival Nacarubi for four years and then he turned to doing his Milky Way Radio thing. And then he did the experimental Plant Music that he still incorporates into his compositions and now he’s back to doing his solo work with this current project. Here’s how it’s described on his promotional Soundcloud streaming page.

“Doing away with the production tricks used on Riley’s original recording (just intonation, mirror image delay, half-speed tracking of all lead parts) Nico Georis confronts the central seven-time theme with a new transparency that gradually builds into complex, astonishing Persian carpet display of patterned musical awareness. … It is similar to the original but the pace is way less manic, way more listenable.”

Sounds pretty cool, huh? The event runs from 6-10 p.m., and there is a suggested donation of $10-$20. Doors open at 5 p.m. and it’s OK to park at the venue. Liquid light show by Lumiere Alchemical. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at www.henrymiller.org. You can find all of Georis’ stuff at his Instagram page @milkywayradio and at www.milkywayradio.com.

Around town

On Friday in downtown Monterey at the Savvy Speakeasy Bar, 420 Tyler St, Savvy & New Canon Theatre Present “A Cauldron Party,” 7 p.m. – midnight. New Canon Theatre is a new non-profit theater company in town that has its official company launch coming up with Macbeth, July 27 – Aug. 6 at Carmel High Performing Arts Center. The party is a fundraiser for the nonprofit performing arts organization that does not have a theater space to call its own but will be performing in found and temporary spaces. As said on its website at www.newcanontheatre.org, “Canon is dedicated to fostering new works through their Theatre Lab, as well as mounting ensemble-driven and intrepid re-imaginings of the established classical and contemporary canons.”

Friday’s event will be a meet-and-greet with supporters and friends of New Canon’s principals Managing Director/Founder Justine Stock and Artistic Director/Founder Justin Gordon. They are presenting this red carpet event with a dress code to match.  Ladies, bring out your best dress or tuxedo that’s been languishing in your closet for the past couple years, and guys, put at least a sports jacket on, a shirt with a collar and slacks. The $20 cover is a donation to New Canon. Savvy Bar goes the full speakeasy style with prohibition-style cocktails and a password is needed to enter. Details at www.savvybarinc.com.

Friday evening at the SandBox Sand City venue Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist Tammy L. Hall Trio will perform, spotlighting the music of Mary Lou Williams, Nina Simone and Shirley Horn. The 7 p.m. concert at 440 Ortiz Ave., Sand City has a $35 ticket, available at the website www.sandboxsandcity.com. Please visit the website for details as well as the artist’s website at www.tammyhall.com.

Sunday at Folktale Winery & Vineyards in collaboration with KRML Radio, Amy Helm appears in the Wine Garden with Elizabeth & The Catapult opening. Singer, instrumentalist and songwriter Helm is a lifelong musician in her 40s. With a father like the legendary drummer for The Band Levon Helm guiding her tastes, how couldn’t she be? She was a founding member of the alt-country collective Ollabelle and a backing musician in her father’s Midnight Ramble Band. As a solo artist, she’s released several albums, the most recent is 2021’s “What the Flood Leaves Behind.” Tickets are $55 for priority seating, $40 for general seating and $30 for standing room. Doors at 5 p.m., show at 6 p.m. Tickets at www.folktalewinery.com/upcoming-events/.

Contributed by local news sources

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