For over 25 years, Mumbo Gumbo has been one of N. California's top groups, releasing 9 original music cds and collecting numerous "Sammie" and "Best of Sacramento" awards. The 7-piece band tours the Western United States, bringing their "genre-bending Americana" music to their many fans. Their big musical stew contains elements of soul, zydeco, folk, blues, rock, cajun, Carribean, and country all mixed into their uniquely festive roots-music sound.
Fronted by two first-rate singer/songwriters, Chris Webster and Tracy Walton, the band is anchored and driven by one of the region's longest-lived rhythm sections: drummer Rick Lotter and bassist Lynn Michael Palmer. With Reggy Marks' sax, Jon Wood's guitar, and Steve Stizzo's keyboards fleshing out the band's expansive sound, Gumbo has built a reputation not just for danceability, but for creative depth.
It starts with the songs. Moving back and forth between Webster's sly, sometimes melancholy explorations of romance and individuality and Walton's ebullient, unabashed celebrations of family and commitment, Gumbo weaves a rich tapestry of sound and sensibility that transcends genre.
Coloring the space between the kinetic rhythm section and the intertwined singers are three veteran musicians: Marks, whose saxophone, flute, percussion and soulful harmonies add a third voice to the sound; Stizzo, whose exquisit work on organ, piano, and accordion add character as well as color; and Wood, whose guitar playing weaves in and out, shading the rhythms and occasionally lending a sharp, melodic solo.
The result can be positively relentless, as the band's extended jams drive dancers wild while giving non-dancers plenty to listen to.
Over the years, the band has also provided the springboard for several other careers, both by band members and by former members:
After appearing on the first 7 albums, founding keyboardist/songwriter Bill(y) Fairfield had to stop performing on big stages due to ear sensitivity, but he still books the band and continues to compose and record. Info on his annual Holiday show is at www.Billyfairfield.com
Founding member Brian Rivers, after 10 years and appearing on the first 6 albums, is now an award winning music educator and guitarist living in Cincinnati OH. He is currently completing a guitar method book sponsored by Taylor Guitars. He can be found at www.brianrivers.com
Multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven was an original member of the band and appeared on the first cd. http://joecraven.com/. Other successful alumni include guitarist Michael Gregory.
Of current band members, Lotter has played with a variety of performers, from Maria Muldaur to avant jazz composer Jessica Williams. Marks has played with a host of names, from soul stars Wilson Pickett and Sam and Dave to jazz giants George Benson to Cal Tjader. Stizzo has played with Freddy Fender and Percy Sledge, and appeared on Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour. Wood, who joined in 1999, had previously toured with Eric Lindell.
Singer Webster, who was a founding member of the band along with Palmer and Lotter. has released four albums under her own name, as well as an album of duets with her sister Cassie, recording and performing as The Websters and Scott Nygaard. She frequently performs with Nina Gerber, and with Walton in the trio "Webster,Walton, and Edwards, She has also collaborated with Matt Rollings, Jennifer Berezan and Jackie Greene. Webster and Walton also sometimes perform in the "Cups." For info on Chris's solo shows, go to: http://chriswebstermusic.com/
Mumbo Gumbo's music has been used in the hit TV show "Northern Exposure" and in director Charlie Matthau's 2005 movie "Her Minor Thing" in which the band appears on screen.
But despite their other ventures, the band is the thing, and at this point, Mumbo Gumbo is both an institution on the NorCal concert scene and an ever-evolving collective that can fill listeners with both joy and longing - and always makes sure to leave its audiences dancing their hearts out.