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Many musicians learn how to read music before playing a song. It was the opposite for guitarist Doug Pauly.
"At some point, I started writing stuff out to teach myself," he said. "I didn't grow up playing music in formal situations, so it was a means to learning. I really learned to read well musically by writing stuff out. Most people learn to read well by reading in concert band or jazz band."
Pauly said being a good sight-reader doesn't necessarily mean you play well, it just means you read well.
This Sunday at JB's Lounge inside the Red Lion Hotel, the Doug Pauly Trio and Meleva Steiert will play an album-release concert for their new release, Play Nice. The show will also celebrate seven years of Sunday Evening Jazz, an event at the hotel created by musicians Glenn Hair and Vivian Lee to bring local jazz to an intimate audience of about 150.
Pauly, who said he is over 50, grew up in Sacramento listening to all kinds of music. As a young adult, he started playing professionally, learning music theory from Oscar Robinson's Oak Park Conservatory and attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
"I woke up one day and realized that I just had been drawn into it," he said. "At some point I said, 'I just want to play,' because I realized it's a craft. If you're not doing it consistently, then you're not getting better."
Now with nearly four decades of experience and six albums released, Pauly has played nearly every style of guitar. He spent nine years in a Bulgarian dance band and has released albums as a soloist, in a duo, in a trio, and as part of a five-piece Latin band.
It's apt to say that Pauly is a master of rearranging songs to fit any particular musical group, whether it's a solo composition or a band arrangement. Play Nice features Latin, pop and jazz covers arranged for bassist Paul Klempau, drummer Rick Lotter (Mumbo Gumbo), woodwind player Mike McMullen (Capital Jazz Project) and vocalist Steiert.
On Latin tunes, Pauly plays a guitar-type instrument called the Cuban tres to create a style called són, which blends African rhythms with Spanish songwriting. Steiert sings in a no-frills manner reminiscent of Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn or Ella Fitzgerald, allowing McMullen's flute and saxophone flourishes and Pauly's chord compositions to embellish on the straightforward melody delivery.
There are even a few popular songs that a non-jazz listener could appreciate, including The Police's "Don't Stand So Close," R.E.M.'s "Electrolite," and the R&B classic "Fever," made popular by '50s and '60s artists like Peggy Lee and Elvis. The material is a collection of tunes the band has been playing over the last two years at local shows.
"It's just a general ethic: Why not 'play nice?' " Pauly said in explaining the album's title. "Even people who play really head-banging music, there's still an ethic of 'play in the way we've agreed to play.' All this music is very accessible and not in-your-face sort of music."
When he's not recording and playing shows, Pauly teaches private lessons three days a week at the Guitar Workshop in East Sacramento. He is currently working on a book of guitar exercises to hone budding guitarists' techniques.
The Red Lion Hotel is located at 1401 Arden Way. The show is all ages and costs $8. For reservations and more information, call 723-5517 or e-mail Vivian Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sunday Evening Jazz takes place every Sunday from 5 to 8 p.m.
1. Pauly (credit Jonathan Mendick)
2. Pauly and Steiert (courtesy Doug Pauly)