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Weekend with Gerald Clayton

I spent an amazing weekend with jazz pianist Gerald Clayton preparing for and performing in the Groovetrail Kickoff Concert at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center.  Groovetrail is the brainchild of noted musician Erica von Kleist, a nonprofit organization dedicated to putting music in the hands of the people that need it: students who can’t afford lessons, shelters and assisted living facilities, schools that need instruments.  Its focus is connecting the talented musicians of the Flathead Valley with opportunities to serve their community.

I was lucky enough to help produce the concert as well as being on the bill with Donny & Kleist.  The next day was filled with the sounds of Gerald and Erica recording some astounding pieces of music including my personal favorite “Deke” by Darcy James Argue.  Aside from being a stellar musician, Gerald is also an all-around good guy, and was very inspiring both to me and the kids in attendance at the show.

For more information on Groovetrail, visit the website at or follow them on Facebook at

Gerald Clayton


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Brannigan’s Pub

We had a fantastic time performing at Brannigan’s Pub last night!  Their outdoor tent setup made it easy for fans to dance their hearts out while avoiding the freezing temperatures.  I enjoyed drumming with Mr. Radical himself, Marco “The Force” Forcone, in our rockin’ rendition of “Burning Down the House”.  It’s a pretty fun setup.  Here’s a photo of us playing it last year:

Man, do we miss that wig.

My “Calendar” page is now being updated via ReverbNation, so if you have an account there, make sure to become a fan.  You can also check out my Facebook page for the latest information on shows.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


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Rocking with the New Wave Time Trippers

I had a blast playing with the New Wave Time Trippers at Crush this past Saturday!  What started out as a private party soon swelled to riot proportions after the doors opened to the public, and everyone was rocking their gear and shaking it to the sweetest tunes we had to offer.  Here’s a photo of me dazzling the crowd while singing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Give It Away”.

Looking for some slammin’ 80s hits for your party?  Let us know by heading over to the band website:

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I can die a happy bass player!

Last night was one of those life changing moments for me–I saw Victor Wooten give a clinic/concert at Shapeshifter Lab in New York. When I got there, I thought I was having a bad day.  I saw Mr. Wooten dealing with technical issues himself and rise above like a true professional.  He gave advice like a philosopher–my attitude changed instantly, and my heart filled with love! Just to let you know how cool the clinic was, professional bassists Christian Fabian and Joe Sanchez were in the audience! Thanks, Victor Wooten, for being everything I thought you were and more!

IMG_8539Victor Wooten just came out with a new book, The Music Lesson, which is high on my list of books to read!

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Legends in a horse field

The Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival and Workshop has been one of the most evolving projects I have been a part of for the last 3 years.  This year was the largest most attended of the entire history of the festival

photophoto-2Producing shows with such amazing artists as Pat Metheny, Bill Stewart, Larry Grenadier, Lee Ritenour, Sonny Emory, Abraham Laboriel, Jonathan Beasley, photo-1Robin Ford, Mac McAnnaly, Livingston Taylor, Scott Tennant and the LA Guitar Quartet would seems like it would be enough but that’s just on the main stage at 1239503_10151915804962415_1801809247_n1174986_10151515829936184_1569377394_nnight.



1173725_10151515830356184_1364484885_n One of my favorite people in the world Danielle Di Giovanni! (who has worked with everybody in the business).  Such a vibrant spirit and professional demeanor.  The whole week at the Flathead Lake Lodge is filled with amazing rhythm section members Clipper Anderson, Brad Boal, Pete Sweeny, Mark Coronette, and many local rhythm sections from Montana such as Valley Lopez, Trebor Riddel, Rosie Brunnetto, Micheal McDaniel and Andrew Repsold.


photoWe haven’t even touched on the heart of the festival witch is the faculty!  Matt Smith, Jody Fisher, Mark Dziuba, Bret Boyer, Jeff McErlain, Suzan Maazar, Doug Smith, Andrew Leonard, Tobias Hurwitz, Dennis McCumber, James Hogan Jr., are some of the finest players and teachers from all over the map! These teachers literally wrote the book on guitar playing and added so much life and energy to our valley for the short week they all were here.  Thank you to everyone who was a part of this wonderful festival!

photography courtesy of Steven Pickel and Brenda Ahearn!

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Montana Blues Festival Season!

If there is one thing Montana natives are no stranger to it is the Blues.  To get away from it all and also to shake their thangs there are many festivals to choose from.  This year I had the pleasure of attending three of my very favorite festivals this year!

Big Sky Blues Festival – Noxon, Mt

Big Sky BluesThe Noxon Blues festival has the reputation has the reputation for being one of the most laid back and relaxing festivals while still having the best musical and sound quality.  This year was no different with bands from Rafeal Tranquilino to Randy Oxford gracing the stage run by Groove Merchant the sound company out of Seattle.  This is a yearly staple if my schedule.



The Riverfront Blues Festival – Libby, Mt.

Riverfront BluesThis wonderfully glamourous located right next to the river provides a perfect location for blues fans from all around to enjoy their favorite bands.  This year the Red Hot Blue Chips (Montana Zydeco Band) was happy to play a set to start out the show.  Keep us coming back Libby we love you!


Flathead Lake Blues Festival – Polson, Mt

Just when I thought I was full of beautiful scenery and blues music the Flathead Lake Blues Festival blew me away this year.  I played with Andre Floyd with Mood Iguana as well as the Red Hot Blue Chips as the headliner for one of the nights.  Then there was an all-star jam hosted by yours truly that turned out to be the highlight of the evening with members of all of the previous bands joining in for some sweet musical times!

flathead lake

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Guitar virtuoso comes to Whitefish!

June 2013

Diego Figueiredo is one of the best young guitarists world. He is winner of several important competitions  like Montreux Jazz Competition, VISA Prize and some others. With  a lot of recorded albums and books, Diego is debuting a new concert series, “From Classical to Jazz”. It is a fusion between Jazz , Bossa-nova and Classical music. Diego has an unique interpretation with a lot of technique and emotion. his show has been a great success  in many countries for many audiences.

DandK with DiegoDonny & Kleist had a great opportunity to play in a house concert with Diego and it turned out to be one of the duos most favorite musical moments to date.  Playing traditional choro tunes like “Tico Tico No Fubar” as well as jazz standards like Black Orpheus the trio soared into the hearts of the intimate crowd of listeners who saw that night.

Diego returns in February and hopefully many more trio sessions will be in store!

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Whitefish cover band transported from ‘1985’ Missoulian article

1985 crush photo

May 18, 2013 6:00 am  •  By Tristan Scott

WHITEFISH – Armed with a quiver of synthesizers, effects pedals, crème-colored vintage blazers, and a repertoire of timeless hits, local ’80s tribute band “1985” is reviving the decade of decadence in Whitefish, and doing so in earnest.

With a flair for theatrics and a quasi-sincere belief in time travel and quantum tunneling, the four-piece ensemble opens each show with a short video documenting its displacement – via a freak, inter-dimensional space-time continuum accident – from 1985 to its modern existence in Whitefish where retro is decidedly still relevant (recent shows have featured throngs of dedicated fans whose garish, neon-clad wardrobes of leg warmers, sweat bands, fish nets and collarless fitness tees hail from a not-so-distant generation).

Convinced they are a rock-and-roll set from the past, the band members rarely break character, and distance themselves from the usual ilk of synth-pop cover hits and Billy Idol re-quickening acts by ensorcelling crowds with a stock of dance songs that are at once obscure and recognizable – a la Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom,” Midnight Oil’s “Beds are Burning,” David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” and Gary Numan’s “Cars” – and which are played to near perfection.

Populated with classically-trained musicians and bristling with pedals and synthesizers that helped mold the foundation for new wave artists such as The Cure and Roxy Music, the band’s stock of songs is the stuff that was common place in those Yamaha-riddled days of decades yore. And the schtick works.

The band’s stunts include incendiary on-stage arguments that have, during recent shows, convinced onlookers that they are on the verge of a permanent schism, while the video skits revisit their time-bandit adventures with convincing authenticity.

“In the summer of 1985, a mildly talented unknown cover band was playing a show at Poochie’s Pet Wash and Espresso Bar in San Bernardino, California,” goes the onscreen introduction, which exhibits a VH1-style behind-the-scenes themed narration by band leader Nick Spear. “Bass player Charlie Bird had just purchased what he thought was ‘a really bitchin’ chorus pedal’ at a local pawn shop. But that night at the gig, when he stomped on the pedal for the first time … the entire band disappeared, never to be seen again.”

They reappear in Whitefish, so the story goes, and the rest, they hope, is history – though a history with relevance in the now.

“We’re searching for the right combination of pedals to teleport back to 1985, but so far we just keep teleporting to other venues in Whitefish,” says Spear, a fixture in the local music and theater community.

In addition to guitarist and vocalist Spear, aka “Slice,” the band consists of keyboardist Don Caverly, aka “Tommy Perfect,” drummer Marco Forcone, aka “The Force,” and bassist Matthew Bussard, aka “Charlie Bird,” whose bass pedal mishap was ostensibly responsible for tearing a wormhole through time that, fortuitously, landed them in Whitefish.

Spear, who played in a previous band that opened up for ’80s-era stalwarts Missing Persons and Flock of Seagulls in the mid-’90s, and who has a Master in Fine Arts in Theater, also writes original music, but wants the momentum of 1985 and its unique stage act to transcend the trend of ’80s cover bands by featuring “a seamless multimedia experience.”

To accomplish that, the members of 1985 accompany their show with a synchronized stream of video and audio bytes featuring recognizable pop culture elements from the decade, be they excerpts from memorable John Hughes’ films like “The Breakfast Club” to accompany the band’s cover of Simple Minds, or “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off,” which tracks along with Yello’s “Oh Yeah,” to which Spear sings through an identical effects pedal. Other familiar dashes from the era might include the Wendy’s “Where’s the Beef” slogan or Max Headroom’s “Catch the Wave” Coca Cola commercials.

“We want to bring the party every time,” Spear said. “When we play, there’s no pretense. There’s no fear of appearing to be stupid. It’s a cover band. How seriously can you take yourselves?”

Caverly, a full-time musician who also teaches music in the Flathead Valley, said his involvement in the band, beyond the time-travel element, was born of his love for ’80s-era synthesizers and the genre itself.

“It’s better than ever,” he said of the new wave genre. “It’s no less sophisticated than pop music is today. All these ’80s songs are full of choir patches and synth strings, and the Yamaha DX7 was at the forefront of synthesizer technology during that time. It has all those classic sounds built into it. You couldn’t be in a ’80s band without having a DX7. That was the classic synth. And I’ve got everything from a DX 5 to

a DX10.”

Forcone, originally of Anaheim, Calif., also a full-time musician who played with numerous bands in the ’90s, said the pleasure of playing with a band whose primary aim is to entertain is liberating.

“For us, when we play, there are no worries,” Forcone said. “We get to play hit after hit after hit, which makes it extremely fun.”

Bussard, the bassist, has been working to compile hours’ worth of video that will synchronize with the stage show and present an analog to the decade-spanning ’80s set, and the synth-pop immersion has been rewarding to bandmates and spectators alike.

“The end goal is to have three big chunks of medley, where we can build three hours of both video and sound” to accompany the set, he said. “It just won’t stop.”

The band “1985” plays at Casey’s Bar in Whitefish on May 31.


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A Different Side of the Maestro

Glacier Symphony and Chorale music director John Zoltek to play jazz show
John Zoltek | Contributed Photo
with Paul Faessel
with Paul Faessel
By Molly Priddy, 03-28-13
Anyone familiar with the Glacier Symphony and Chorale likely knows John Zoltek. At least, they know him by the back of his head and the wave of his conducting baton.This week, Glacier Symphony and Chorale patrons will get to see a different side of the music director, as he heads up an evening of jazz, dancing and fun at the Alpine Ballroom in Kalispell for the Symphony Soloist Spotlight show, “Jazz Night with the Maestro.”

The soloist spotlight shows are a way for the GSC audience to have a better chance of connecting with an artist, GSC executive director Alan Satterlee said in an interview last week.

“It’s really a great chance to have an up-close-and-personal experience with some amazing guest artists,” Satterlee said.

Satterlee said the guest artists who perform in these spotlight events are asked to arrive in the Flathead on the Thursday before their weekend show. Then, they play a small, intimate concert at the Alpine Ballroom on Main Street in Kalispell.

It allows the musician to get a sense of the community he or she is playing for, Satterlee said. The casual setting adds to the relaxed atmosphere, and a cash bar is available.

The March 28 event will feature Zoltek on the jazz guitar, which he pursued during his time at Berkeley Music School before feeling the pull of conducting and classical music, Satterlee said.

Accompanying Zoltek on stage will be Erica von Kleist on saxophone and flute, Don Caverly on percussion, Paul Faessel on bass, Grant Sorlie on vibraphone and Amy Zoltek on vocals.

Satterlee noted that Zoltek’s inclusion in the spotlight series – this month’s the fourth out of five planned events – allows the conductor to interact with the community in a new way, and gives better access to the personalities behind the GSC.

“A lot of people haven’t seen him play his guitar,” Satterlee said. “It’s a fun way to see a different side of John.”

The first spotlight event held in October was lightly attended, Satterlee said, but the shows have gained a following since then and are typically sold out. The second show in November featured four of the singers who performed in the Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the third show in February featured classical guitarist Ana Vidovic.

On April 25, the spotlight event will feature Vassily Primakov, a world-class pianist hailing from Russia, before he closes out the GSC’s season with the “Rollin’ with Beethoven” finale on April 27 and April 28.

In honor of the jazzy feel to the March 28 show, Satterlee said the ballroom will be transformed into a cozy nightclub, with tables and a cash bar offering beer, wine and several specialty drinks.

The evening’s musical selections will include a variety of standard, modern and contemporary jazz music, such as those written by Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, and Carlos Jobim. Songs will include some popular jazz songs, such as “When I Fall In Love,” “My Romance,” “This Masquerade,” “What’ll I Do,” “Killer Joe” and plenty more.

Doors open at 7 p.m. on the evening of the show, and tickets are $15. Seating is limited, and the GSC suggests buying tickets early to ensure a spot inside.

For more information on the March 28 “Jazz Night with the Maestro” or for ticketing information, visit the GSC website or call 257-3241. The Alpine Ballroom is located at 333 S. Main St. in Kalispell.