Providing a Solid Bass

Celebrating their first air play in the Los Angeles market, Present Tense will play live in Verdugo Park in Glendale.

By Joyce Rudolph

Jazz bassist Richard J. Frank of the band Present Tense is riding a wave of euphoria after hearing from a friend that one of the band’s songs was played this week on a Southern California radio station.

The song “Smooth Talkin,” the title track on the group’s recently released CD, was just played on KKJZ-FM (88.1) based on the campus of Cal State Long Beach. It is a major breakthrough for the group that has been trying for some time to crack the Los Angeles radio market, said Frank, a Burbank resident.

The band, which plays a blend of smooth jazz and R&B, will be playing that cut and others when it appears Wednesday night at Glendale’s Summer Concert Series in Verdugo Park.

“Having ‘Smooth Talkin’ spinning on KKJZ brings Present Tense’s presence to Southern California,” Frank said. “The radio is one of the best ways to expose people to our new sound. The other best way is performances at public concerts like the city of Glendale and city of Los Angeles. Club dates are where fans show up because they dig the music.”

Another song on the new CD, “Smiles,” is No. 31 on the national jazz single charts, he said. It is being played on 60 stations including satellite radio and the Internet.

But having the band’s music played in the local market is a dream come true, Frank said. “It is the reward to the hours/days/years of living in virtual obscurity,” he said. “It’s the realization of a musical dream coming to fruition.”

For a band not signed with a major label, getting air time is difficult because the competition is fierce, said Steve Selak, of Selak Entertainment Inc. in Burbank, who hires bands for corporate and private parties, including Present Tense. “The fact that Richard even gets any attention is a testament to the quality of his original music,” he said. “This station plays Peter White and Mindi Abair, who are managed by a friend of mind, they are the top. And Richard is getting air play on stations that play those types of people. As an independent, this is a big deal.”

Frank met his drummer and producing partner, Ronnie Kaufman, when they were attending USC from 1982 to 1986, Frank said. In 2001, they started a trio with keyboardist Chad Edwards and made their first CD. For the second CD, “Smooth Talkin’ ” they added featured guests saxophonist Eric Marienthal and percussionist Alex Acuna, Frank said. Marienthal and Acuna will not be joining them on stage at Verdugo Park, but there will be a hefty group of eight playing for the crowd, he said.

“It’s going to be a very powerful pop, Latin jazz and R&B extravaganza,” he said. “It will be quite fun. We have the vocal tunes as well as instrumental tunes, covers and originals.”

Being acknowledged for writing music that is acceptable and that people like to hear is the coolest thing, Frank said.

That’s why they’ve developed the Private Tense, which performs at private events like weddings and corporate events where they play cover material and Original Tense, at which they play their original music at small clubs like La Va Lee in Studio City, he said. They will play Private Tense during the city of Glendale gig, Frank said.

“It’s a larger audience,” he said. “We want to make sure the tunes are more known. It helps with the audience.” Some of the songs they will play at the Verdugo Park will be “Stormy Monday,” “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Summertime.”

The decision to hire Present Tense was immediate after the committee saw the DVD and heard the CD, said Norma Valles, community services coordinator, who handles the talent and sound companies for the Verdugo Park concerts. “They had a very tight stage presence,” she said. “Their musicianship was displayed by how well the music was performed. We took minutes to decide on the group. It was quick. They stood out quite on their own compared to the other bands we had for the jazz genre.”

The band will play two shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 29 at La Va Lee.

In the nightclub scene, Frank said the band can play more of the Original Tense. “They are coming to hear the group and its uniqueness,” he said. “It’s interesting to play a large venue and then play a small gig two weeks later.” “Because you are dealing with two different audiences and our music is jazz and we still improvise but in different manners,” he said.