Mike Kramer – Guitar

Like a lot of guys coming of age in the late sixties and early seventies, I was drawn to the idea of playing lead guitar in a rock band.

In the pursuit of learning my instrument I studied classical guitar and soon found myself playing with our local community college jazz band in Prescott, AZ, but my fondest memories are of jamming for hours in the basement with my brother playing bass – sometimes just the two of us and often with the many musicians that would form our early bands.

The goal of supporting myself with music drove a variety of projects – after-hours R&B gigs in Watts, dance bands in Van Nuys, jazz sessions in Phoenix and a traveling top-40 act which took me to Japan. Eventually I found myself  in Phoenix playing blues with Big Pete Pearson. Often playing 20 plus nights consecutively, our shows included opening for John Lee Hooker New Year’s Eve ’86 and two extensive tours throughout Mexico as part of the Arizona Arts Commission.

What I learned through all this is that what I really missed was jamming in the basement with my brother. I stopped playing and I sold my equipment. I eventually packed up and moved to Boulder with a cheap Telecaster my dad gave me.

In essence I started over – just me by myself jamming on my electric guitar without an amplifier. I explored notes and chords making choices based solely on the idea of whether they sounded good to me or not. Of course, my influences in rock, jazz and blues were coming through.

A snowstorm in the mountains led to a serendipitous encounter with a drummer and an invitation to a series of absolutely fantastic jam sessions in Boulder. From those sessions, various projects emerged – all based on the idea of expression. This is where I met Spencer King and eventually Scott Allen – and we formed the Bilbao Jazz Trio.

The Bilbao Jazz Trio really is a jam band. When I play with Scott and Spencer, I think in terms of shapes, colors and textures – and I’m reminded of those basement sessions with my brother.

Spencer King – Bass

I started playing bass guitar during my senior year of high school, and then was fortunate enough to break my leg at the beginning of the following summer, giving me lots of opportunity to practice along with my LP collection before heading to college.  At college, there was no shortage of guitar players wanting a bass guitarist to accompany them, giving me as much experience as I could desire.

The bands that I have played in played mainly rock, pop, jam, reggae, blues, or some mixture of those.  (Names of bands I have played in include The Geeks, Tralfaz, Conundrum, Film at Eleven, The Dogs, and currently I’m also with a jam/rock outfit – Dwarf Planets).  Hooking up with Scott and Mike to create Bilbao has given me the opportunity to explore the increased complexity, musically and emotionally, of jazz, and for that I am forever grateful.

The word jazz has as many meanings as it does listeners, but for me, playing jazz with Bilbao means the opportunity of doing something different every time we play, and taking our listeners along for the journey.  It means being brave enough to go out on a limb, knowing our fellow musicians are there to support each other if we lose our balance, and shine a spotlight on each other when we create something worthwhile.

Even though I make my living, financially, as a physician, I can envision one day the possibility of retiring from the practice of medicine.  But they’ll have to pry my bass guitar from my cold, dead hands.

Scott Allen – Drums and Percussion

I make my living as a blue collar intellectual, teaching human geography to 155 suburban teens, 187 days a year in a public high school. In our student hand drum club we turn the grind of education into groove. But my life of shadows is with jazz and the percussive soundscape of the city. Travels to urban centers such as Tokyo, London & Seattle are a focus for my young family. I remember visiting Bilbao, Spain on the 700th anniversary of the city and loosing myself in the aromas and textures of the Casco Viejo.

My first drum lesson was with noted ethnomusicologist John Galm during Indian Guides, a more native alternative to Boy Scouts. I got my start in music with orchestra, playing percussion, triangle, snare and timpani at University Hill Elementary in Boulder in 1974. But by 1982 I sold my drum kit to travel to Alaska. The drums returned. Not a full kit, but congas and Latin percussion. I learned hand drumming from “Doc” Rugenstein and later joined the percussion ensemble Kroku with his wife Laurie, Dan Hankin and Bob Wiz. Other local musicians I’ve performed with include, T Valladares, Sam Fuqua, Chip and the Chowderheads and Topaz Jazz trio.

Walks in my hood lets me hear the rehearsing of jazz trumpeter Brad Goode. A few blocks over resides Bob Story of Martian Acres whom I have recorded with. Down the street is the accomplished flautist Ray Stewart with whom I performed as Ancestral Voices.

Some of the most inspiring live performances that I carry with me are Jack Dejonette, Roy Haynes, in the jazz vein and Poncho Sanchez, Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente on the Latin side.

I hope to meet you on a jazz odyssey in the city.

Youth in Action Colorado is a project of One Society International a Denver based non-profit 501c3 providing cultural exchange trips to and from Japan. Join us Friday, August 3rd 5-9pm as we support this year’s class in fundraising with great food at Biju’s and our groove-based music!

Flyers for Kids is a nonprofit organization focused on helping to bring underprivileged children from a Denver Public School, Valverde Elementary, to Denver Zoo Lights annually. They are responsible for fundraising, gift purchases, recruiting volunteer participation, and providing needed supplies for the school. Last year Flyers for Kids raised over $5,000 in just three months, and took over 40 children, 70 volunteers and 15 staff members to the event.

We are honored to play at their upcoming fundraising event Friday, March 2nd 6-9pm at Biju’s Little Curry Shop on Tennyson – and we hope you can make it!

YIA is committed to building the character, strength, and knowledge of our youth. The program includes: Japanese
language and culture study, community service, volunteer work and fundraising, culminating in a month-long cultural exchange trip to Japan. Youth in Action is a program of One Society International a Denver based non-profit 501(c) (3) and 170(b) (1) organization for youth ages 13-19.