Bobby Lee Rodgers and The Codetalkers
February 29, 2008
The glass and stone-studded stage of Greenville, South Carolina’s Gottrocks vibrated with the sounds of a different time on February 29 as Bobby Lee Rodgers and his new Codetalkers took their fans on a jazz-ical journey.
Clad in coordinated dark gray suits, Rodgers and his trio – he’s joined by bassist Andrew Altman and drummer Mark Raudabaugh – took an easy glide into the first tune, “Beggin” for the modest but anxious crowd. Rodgers laid down the feel of the tune several bars out before the drums and upright bass joined for the head with Rodgers belting out an unrefined characteristic melody and bassist Andrew Altman picking up the secondary vocals.
Altman swung up and down the neck of the upright with familiarity and ease, delivering a steady, solid line of support for Rodgers as he launched into his first solo. Rodgers artfully worked his ’66 Gibson ES-335, dropping patterns across the changes that communicated a “sheets of sound” style utilized by Coltrane, all the more fascinating to see it picked out on a fret board.
The Codetalkers say they are not a fusion band, but some would disagree – this is a different kind of fusion, not as a staid style mixed groove, but an ear-twisting fusion of eras. They mesh sounds from the old 50’s and 60’s jazz clubs with current and futuristic grooves created without synth. Their raw skill and talent combine with the baggage of traditional jazz form and fun to create new standards that stand out in a crowd of contrived fusion funk sounds.
Later into the first set, a catchy original tune, “Revolutionize” featured a pleasant walking bass line with a story telling vocal by Rodgers that drew in the listeners with a lighthearted and happy, if sarcastic head.
The best part of Rodger’s guitar improv is his ability to consistently draw a bell-curve line of excitement and drive through his note and rhythm choices. The crowd was ready to be excited as well, proving themselves to be a responsive, communicating audience.
A highlight of any show is when you can look up at the performers, and catch them exchanging looks and breaking into huge smiles. When they are having fun like that, you can’t help but be drawn in. You just want to be a part of what they are doing. The crowd listens closer, and the band works harder, elevating the overall performance by several degrees over the band that simply gets through the gig.
A show highlight came about eight songs into the first set in the form of Charlie Hedgepath, a smashing guitar player who was sporting a Gibson ES-175. Charlie took a solo that featured an unassuming, yet rocking close-handed technique that betrayed sick chops, requiring only a sense of showmanship.
Hedgepath’s visual humility and flying technique were refreshing and fun to watch and enjoy. He stayed around for the majority of the show, and made a welcome addition to the trio.
The only disappointment of the night was that either sound issues, or what was happening on the stage covered some of Hedgepath’s work. Rodgers and Hedgepath treated fans in Greenville to an acoustic show the following night, at the same venue.