The Medicine Ball Band at the Sausalito Seahorse 3/24/2011

The Medicine Ball Band must be one of the best-kept secrets in the Bay Area music scene. Their excellent music far exceeds the notoriety they have been accorded.

Led by guitarist David Sturdevant, who moved here from upstate New York 38 years ago, MBB delivers a versatile repertoire with everything from swing standards to R&B with a distinct New Orleans flavor. If you ask, they will even play Dixieland.

The Medicine Ball Band L-R John Stafford, Ylonda Nickell, Joe Kennedy, John Hunt, Bob Scott and David Sturdevent

Founded in 1971 by Sturdevant, the group started by playing in the street for tips at Union Square in San Francisco. Along with Sturdevant was a pair of banjos played by Dave Marty and Abe Van Der Meulen. The late Amanda Hughes started singing with them later as they moved on to clubs. Their first bass player was Randy Jackson, the world famous producer and arranger who is now a judge on American Idol. Herb Caen used to sit in with them on drums.

John Hunt delivers "Blue Skies"

Tonight the band is a very tight ensemble with Joe Kennedy on keyboards, Bob Scott on drums, John Hunt on trombone, Ylonda Nickell on alto saxophone and John Stafford doubling on clarinet and tenor saxophone. David Sturdevant covers guitar, vocals and doubles on chromatic and blues harmonica. Three of these members are pals from the early days of MBB; David Sturdevent, John Hunt and John Stafford.

Starting with John Hunt’s rendition of Blue Skies, David Sturdevent then sings Nobody Loves You. John Stafford sings Jump Jive and wails on clarinet. Then there was other stuff like Bye Bye Blackbird and Stomping at The Savoy. Ann Hunt also assists on vocals.Her rendition of Orange Colored Sky was especially nice. She also sang a beautiful duet with her husband John on Baby It’s Cold Outside. Bob Scott also did some vocals including Gershwin’s Lady Be Good and Jesse Fuller’s San Francisco Bay Blues.

Ann Hunt assisting on vocals

The drummer, Bob Scott, played for many years on the road with Ray Charles as well as Willie Nelson. More recently he has appeared with Dan Hicks. Bob Scott is substituting for the regular drummer, Larry Vann, who, for some reason, couldn’t make it tonight.

Joining in the fun

The second set started with Careless Love followed by Sturdevant singing It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) with a brilliant solo by John Stafford. Nickell played an instrumental version of Misty in true lounge lizard style. Hunt adds a trombone solo at the bridge and Sturdevant does a chorus on the chromatic harmonica. Very good listening, indeed. Nickell leaves the stage and wanders through the audience playing her sax for a little extra amusement.

There were many more fine vintage songs and the night ended on Duke Ellington’s Don’t Get Around Much Anymore. This was sung by John Hunt but it was an instrumental tour de force, with all the horns wailing New Orleans style. What’s not to like?

There is also very fine food at the Seahorse featuring all the favorite Italian dishes. There’s a full bar and a large dance floor.

The Medicine Ball Band regularly appears at the Sausalito Cruising Club, Taste Of Rome, Cafe Trieste, No Name Bar and many other popular Bay Area venues.

Seahorse info

Medicine Ball Band info


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