Say Goodbye to Will Blades at The Freight

The East Bay organist is moving to LA but not before celebrating a birthday that doubles as a farewell bash.


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Wil Blades throws a party to celebrate turning 40 and bids the Bay Area goodbye.

Photo by Jason Charme

Being a music fan in the Bay Area means getting accustomed to saying goodbye. Between the daunting cost of living and the constant search for greener pastures, players who have helped define the scene depart with depressing regularity, and the latest emigrant is Berkeley Hammond B-3 organist Wil Blades, who is moving his family down to Los Angeles this summer.

Since arriving here from his native Chicago in 1998, Blades has become an essential musical link connecting the Bay Area and New Orleans scenes. His 40th birthday celebration at Freight & Salvage on Sunday, Aug. 25, which doubles as a farewell performance, highlights that connection via alto saxophone great Donald Harrison Jr., scion of a legendary Mardi Gras Indian family and graduate of Art Blakey’s rigorous academy of swing known as the Jazz Messengers.

The expansive program also features Los Angeles guitarist Jeff Parker, one of jazz’s most original voices on the instrument, and veteran New York drummer Mike Clark, who came out of the East Bay scene in the 1970s and earned renown with Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters.

Blades’ Bay Area stalwarts include drummer Scott Amendola, his partner in the versatile duo Amendola Vs. Blades, guitarist Jack “Tone” Riordan, drummer Brandon Etzler, and well-traveled trumpeter/percussionist Oscar Myers (who performs often with Blades at the Boom Boom Room). The presence of four drummers on the program reflects Blades insistently grooving sound, a deep-in-the-pocket feel that shapes his approach to just about everything he plays, ballad, blues, or bop. The only bright spot in his decamping for LA is that Blades may well help build bridges between the Bay Area and Southland scenes, which should be far better integrated.

7 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, Freight & Salvage, $20-$24, 510-644-2020, TheFreight.org.

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