I introduced Nick Jaina as someone who folks might likely have seen playing on the street somewhere, after all that’s how he ended up playing in my basement the first time. If Bill hadn’t seen him and one of his big band groupings during Willy St Fair, he never would have suggested Jaina to me, and he never would have ended up playing the House of Righteous Music. “I don’t do that anymore,” he pooh-poohed as he took the stage, “I write ballets now,” he said aloofly with mock indignation. And that is also true, he’s done a series of ballets across the country for which he composes the music. But don’t believe him, he does still play on the street, and the trio was excited to learn that there was a farmer’s market the next day, and briefly thought about crashing it before deciding they would rather sleep in. For as long as I’ve known him Jaina has yet to play a regular club in Madison, the closest he’s come was a show at the now shuttered Project Lodge, a music and art space that could never quite figure out how to sustain itself.
This was his second time in the basement and this time he was touring behind new release Primary Perception, another intriguing and quirky release which blends his soothing, hypnotic voice with beautifully orchestrated melodies. His band on this trip was one of a series of “regional bands” that he was playing with around the country. Despite the fact that the duo of Dana (pronounced Dan-ah) on cello and Duroda on violin was his Midwest band, they both hailed from the west coast. They were friends before playing with Jaina and had a comfortable rapport. The trio had only a few days to rehearse before heading out together and so the set list was rather limited. Jaina was very willing to take requests, but he couldn’t do most of them. In fact, Bill’s request was met with “Not gonna happen.” For my part I was hoping to hear “Winding Sheet,” a heartbreakingly sincere love song that I thought was called “Cobblestones” until the first time I suggested it. “I danced with you on the cobblestones on the third longest day of the best year of my life,” the chorus confesses, “I danced with you on the cobblestones of your hometown.” They didn’t play it tonight, but they did rehearse it the next day, which meant I got to hear it many times. Even better.
I’d only seen Mount Horeb’s Corey Hart play a couple times prior to inviting him to play the basement, but each time I’d enjoyed his easy style and catchy songs. He frequently plays with Madison favorites Count This Penny and has taken the time to learn one of their songs. “In the Tall, Tall Pines” is sung by the group’s female vocalist so it was interesting to hear it sung by a guy. His originals were just as good as his choice of cover. So good in fact that he may have sold more CDs than the headliner, though that might also have something to do with his bargain pricing, each disc was only $5. Despite the fact that some people that I was having a Brewer, or even more unbelievably the guy who sang “Sunglasses at Night” (two things that must drive the poor guy nuts), play the basement, I will definitely ask Hart back again. Not only did he play a terrific set, but he’s a seriously nice guy.
Show number 96, another success.