Primary Colors Struts Out a New Hue at the Sanchez Concert Hall

Jean Bartlett – Pacifica Tribune:

“Primary Colors laid down their ground rules before their Friday night set even began. It’s ten minutes or more till showtime. The musicians, Rick Vandivier – guitar, Glen Richman – Bass, George Marsh – drums and Nate Pruitt – vocals, are center stage taking a moment to tune and test their instruments for sound. Pruitt clicks his fingers, bends his body like a bough of musical notes, pitches out a melody and the rest of the band shimmies into a timbre to shake up the night. Just like that the audience stops their pre-show chatter and clomps down in the nearest seat to hear a rhythmic movement tell a story that no one wants to miss.

Now Primary Colors liked the fact that their audience liked them just fine. As Pruitt said at one point, “We need love”. But if the whole hall had cleared out, these guys would have kept on playing, they were having a time.

The music of Primary Colors swings a musical path through the very best of jazz and blues, swing and latin, soul and inspirational. Pruitt and Vandivier are the band’s two mainstay performers. Both men are musical educators, family men and very well-resumed musicians. Among other venues, Vandivier has peformed at Carnegie Hall, the Berlin Jazz Festival and the Great American Musical Hall (San Francisco). Pruitt has recorded with, among others Quincy Jones, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie and also spent a little time with his former tutor, Carmen McRae. Featured musicians performing with Primary Colors are always picked from the top of the bag of great Bay Area and San Jose musicians.

Now Vandivier on guitar is as sinewy as a cat scratch. He did an intro on “Amazing Grace” that was a bugle salute to the weary heart. And when he streamed out a series of unending swing notes on “You Are My Sunshine” you could have swept up the floor for all the dropped jaws. And what was up with that drummer/vocalist duet on the song that Pruitt’s children once called, “The Monkey Song?.” Pruitt and Marsh baited each other tap for tap, brush to cymbals, sticks to stirs, it was ad-libbed and wicked cool.

Drummer Marsh has a well-polished resumé. He’s played with the likes of John Abercrombie, David Grisman and Barbra Streisand. And don’t even for a moment think I’m forgetting Richman on bass. His strumming is deep, complicated, clear and full of heartbeat. His onstage resume includes, among others, Jon Hendricks, Bobby Hutcherson and Larry Willis.

So here are all these great musicians and leading them in time is Pruitt, whose voice caresses a note the way a parent loves a child; with encouragement, anticipation and a belief in wonderful surprises. Sometimes I don’t even think Pruitt knows where his inner melody is going or where it will end up. He can scat, croon, manipulate a vocal like a well-heeled sax, and splice it all with some sort of Alabama yodel, and every time he finds his way back to the original swing. And the band’s presentation of “Willow Weep For Me” was an uncommonly satisfying dip into the cookie jar; it was sweet.

This band is ringing out the superlatives, better yet they are playing music that shouldn’t be missed. Let’s hear from the audience.

Pacifican Stacy Leab said, “Amazing! Free-spirited. Talented. Uninhibited. Great stage presence.”

From Berkeley, John Ward said, “I think these guys are great. They are all virtuoso musicians and they have great energy.”

Pacifican Sandy Edmonson said, “Fabulous jazz and blues, really rocked my soul. Each musician is so fabulous. I just can’t find the words. A perfect blending of harmony and feeling. The guitarist just blows me away. Probably the best bass player I have ever heard. I just can’t say enough about these guys.”

Pacifican Jerry Barrish said, “Pruitt has so much fun. He really has as a rapport with the audience. He is just an old pro.”

Tired of being served another slice of yesterday’s meatloaf? See what’s shaking at the Sanchez Concert Hall brought to you by Pacifica Performances.”

Originally published: February 7, 2001