Joe Baiza- Guitar
Ralph Gorodetsky – Bass
Wayne Griffin – Drums
Weba Garrestson – Vocal
Our Story so far:
In September of 1993, a day before I was supposed to rehearse for the first time with Danny Frankel and Ralph Gorodetsky for a gig at the Independent Music Seminar in San Diego, Steve Stewart called and told me he was moving to Santa Barbara and needed to take a break from music for an indefinite period of time. I was devastated and broadsided since he had waited until the last minute to tell me his plans. Dramatically, I proclaimed that my music career was over. My songwriting partner for the last 12 years had just quit. Mark Wheaton, my husband, insisted that I do the rehearsal anyway.
Danny was already playing with Ralph and Joe Baiza in the Mecolodiacs and since they were playing in same Festival in San Diego, Ralph and Danny were going to back up Steve and I. When I walked into rehearsal, I explained that we had no guitar player and instead of giving up, the three of us came up with our own versions of Steve’s songs. I was amazed that it worked. We were a power trio – drums, bass, and voice. In retrospect, it’s no surprise at all that the combination was successful. Both Danny and Ralph are fantastic musicians.
Naturally, I started sitting in with the Mecolodiacs. I would go to the Mint where they played every Monday and do one of my spoken word/song pieces like “Ventilator Blues” which was a big hit with the Baiza crowd. We used the Rolling Stones classic as a musical frame for the bizarre story of my encounter with a Korean Church lady who ranted against me “You’re a lesbian, you take it up the butt” in a fit of road rage. My wild narrative was a great launching point for a free jazz improvisation that would be resolved in the blues chorus. We recorded “Ventilator”, “Highway to Hell” and “Goldfinger” in “Welcome to Weba World” with Richie West, Joe Baiza, Diane Barkauskus and Scott Looney.
Then Ralph and I began writing songs. We jettisoned the spoken word thing in order to focus on hooks and choruses. We went for concise, groove oriented tunes that would juxtapose my smooth vocal sound with Joe’s angular guitar. In 1996, we recorded the songs at Catasonic with Wayne Griffin who had become the new drummer for the Mecolodiacs. We tracked everything at once with Joe, Ralph and Wayne set up in one room and I in the vocal booth.
After we finished recording things began to unravel. Seduced by all the toys in the studio, Ralph and I wanted to overdub other instruments and craft a Pop record. Joe wanted to maintain the sparseness and spontaneity of the basic tracks. Then Joe and Ralph went to Germany for several months to record and tour as the Mecolodiacs and Joe was attacked in Berlin by street hoodlums who broke his left hand with a baseball bat. At the same time, I was commissioned to put together a musical act for the Brecht Centennial and ended up creating the Eastside Sinfonietta which kept me busy for another five years.
Puttanesca remained on the shelf until a year ago, when Mark started working on the mixes in his spare time. Nine years of non-stop recording at Catasonic had sharpened his ears and he now had a better idea of what to do with the Puttanesca tracks. I had also let go of the idea of overdubs and wanted to just hear and just feel the instruments as they sounded in the room when we were tracking.
In February of this year, we sent the Puttanesca mixes to Joe, Wayne and Ralph and they were all very enthusiastic. Maybe we needed 10 years to realize how much we really enjoyed the music. When we started rehearsing it took us a while, because the harmonies in these songs are at times angular and dissonant but always in a definite way. I think that’s why we ended up calling the band Puttanesca because the music is assertive in it’s earthiness. Certainly not your Chardonnay or “hot tub” jazz. And Steve Stewart has come back in to my life as a musical collaborator. But that is another story…