"What would Django do?" [with video]

Before moving from East Los Angeles to a rural Utah town at the age 14, Rick Olivarez traded a BMX bike for a guitar. “Being a kid in a new town where I didn’t know anybody, I said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a guitar,’ and I took that opportunity to start studying,” he tells Feedback as we chat before his trio’s Tuesday night gig at the C&O Restaurant. That studying has clearly paid off. Ask any local guitarist who’s seen the Olivarez Trio perform, and they’ll tell you about the man’s astonishing talent.

“When I was 14 and 15 years old, I was totally into rock,” say Olivarez. “Zeppelin, Van Halen, things like that. I was a huge Rush fan—still am.” Pretty soon, though, he was intrigued by another name: Django Reinhardt. “I noticed that all of my rock heroes always mentioned Django’s name. So I bought a cassette and I listened to it. And I didn’t really understand it, because I was coming from a loud rock kind of thing, but I thought, ‘If the guys that I like say this guy’s the best, then I’ve got to believe that’s true.’”

Rick Olivarez (pictured) Jeff Cheers and Steve Riggs bring bistro-style jazz to C&O every Tuesday night.

Pretty soon Reinhardt’s gypsy-jazz stylings became Olivarez’s favorite, and they still are today. “Pretty much every type of music I play, I think, ‘What would Django do in this situation?’” Olivarez says.

While living in the musical hotbed of New Orleans in the early ’90s, Olivarez became friends with longtime musician Tony Green and began to expand his musical horizons even further. “He was the guy who said, ‘Hey, Django’s great, but check out all of these other things.’ He turned me on to all of these other players outside of the Hot Club style, but still influenced by Django. Through that I started getting deeper into more of the Hungarian and Romanian folk music.”

A video of the Olivarez Trio.
C-VILLE Playlist
What we’re listening to

“It’s a Rainy Day, Sunshine Girl,” by Faust (from Faust So Far)—This song lays out the ideal building blocks for a pop song, stacking one on top of the next during its seven-minute climb.

“Ship of Fools,” by the Grateful Dead (from From the Mars Hotel)—This album-closing track is something a bartender might throw on while he’s wiping down the tables and you’re heading for the sidewalk alone.

“Amy Amy Amy,” by Amy Winehouse (from Frank)

“Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think),” by The Specials (from More Specials)

“Medicine Bottle,” by Red House Painters (from Down Colorful Hill)

The Olivarez Trio, which features Steve Riggs on bass and Jeff Cheers on rhythm guitar, first got started last July after Olivarez moved back to town (he played in local blues group The Blue Jays for a while in the mid-’90s). After rehearsing three or four times a week for a few months, the group attracted the ears of C&O owner David Simpson, who listened in on practice and asked them to start a weekly gig at the restaurant in September. “We sort of got our foot in the door doing this gig, and through it we’ve sort of jumped on to other things,” says Olivarez. “In the last month and a half we’ve been booking stuff ahead, and it seems like it’s starting to roll now.” The group performed a live set during WTJU’s Jazz Marathon last fall and have recently spread their tunes around town at Fellini’s #9 and Maya and out of town at joints like Bertha’s in Baltimore and Gillie’s in Blacksburg.

The Trio has also been recording an album with Jeff Romano. They plan to include both original tunes by Olivarez and some obscure Django covers. “We dug deep into the vault and pulled out some things that others don’t do,” says Olivarez.

So, if you haven’t already, make your way to C&O on a Tuesday night and check out the Trio. Olivarez says that, when it’s warm enough, they may even move the tunes to the restaurant’s outdoor patio. We can’t wait.

Watchin’ that baby burn

Feedback recently caught up with local country singer Jim Waive to see how things have been going since he and his Young Divorcees celebrated the release of their new album, Strike A Match, last month at Satellite Ballroom. (For more on this, click here.) Things are great, Waive tells us, and WYCK Country 99.7 has even played some tracks from the album. The band will hop down to the Beacon Theatre in Hopewell on April 26 to perform as part of the Smithsonian New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music traveling exhibit, and then they’ll headline another Ballroom show at the beginning of May. Waive will also be reuniting with old friends next month to perform a week-long tour as Swing Piggy, including a gig at Uncle Charlie’s in Crozet on April 19. Come summer, the Divorcees’ hope to hit the road more frequently. Sounds good to us. The more people who get to hear their sweet country tunes, the better!

Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees are catching the wave of their new album, Strike A Match. They’ll be back at the Satellite Ballroom at the beginning of May.

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