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Friday, October 31, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 37.0° F  Overcast
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Madison Music Project -- Michael B.B.
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Today's highlighted Madison-based musician is Michael B.B..

Pianist, keyboardist and composer Michael "B.B" Butkus-Bomier is a musical machine, performing jazz, swing, blues, classic rock, and progressive rock covers and standards on top of original compositions in more than a handful of groups. Holding a degree in composition from the UW-Madison, B.B. has studied with Jimmy Cheatham, Richard Davis, Les Thimmig, Ted Jackson, Hal Galper, Barry Harris, John Downey, Ruth Schoening and Betty Hansen, and plays regularly on the Korg BX3 organ, Roland FP3 piano, XP80 synth, MiniMoog and other synths. He is also very active as an organizer and member of multiple bands, including the Michael B.B. Jazz Quartet and PROG.

Here are B.B.'s descriptions of all four of his musical projects:

  • Michael B.B. Jazz Quartet: The Michael BB Quartet performs the music of jazz composers. We are not playing the American Popular songbook, but tunes by Joe Henderson, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Chick Corea and several others. The regular members of the group are myself, Michael B.B. on piano, John Schaffer on bass, Todd Steward on drums and Pat Odell on saxophones and flute. First-call alternates are Francis Deck on bass and Mick Heberling on drums. Original material is now the major part of our book. Ballads by Ellington are also featured.
  • PROG: PROG is a '70s British cover ensemble doing Genesis, Rush, Jethro Tull and YES. Members are myself, Scott Eagle, Steve Phipps, Mike McCormick and Gordon Ranney. We were the only rock group to play the Overture Center opening fest that did not perform original material.
  • Groovemobile: Groovemobile is an organ and drums trio with either a saxophone and/or a guitarist. Jazzed-up blues and blues-up jazz are our specialty. The organ I use is a Korg BX3 two-manual digital clone. I have owned all the others, and this one tops them all with a bullet! Look for us wherever blues are sold.
  • Solo Piano: I have had a long and varied career as a soloist. From Clifford's in Manhattan, City Lights in Brooklyn, NY, to Casa Capri in Kenosha and The Summit in Racine: from country clubs throughout Southeastern Wisconsin to hotels and private functions, I have been fortunate in finding good venues for myself. The concert I am most proud of was a solo improvised concert given at Siena Center in Racine, in 1987. It was recorded, and I hope to have CD's available in the spring. I am also working on repertoire for an album of standards.

In his work with PROG, B.B. plays the keyboards (see here and here for examples). Debuting just over four years ago on November 18, 2002 at The Speedway, PROG also performed at the opening festival for the Overture Center in September 2004. B.B. notes that they were the only rock group playing there "that did not perform original material.' Their playlist features a few tracks from Rush, numerous songs by Genesis and Jethro Tull, with a growing repertoire of YES material. Madison music blogger John Benninghouse attended a PROG show at the High Noon Saloon on Oct. 16, describing it as "fantastic." He continued:

PROG shows are, unfortunately, the only times when we fans of the much-maligned genre here in Madison can gather together and relax in the company of each other. At what other show in town will a band member say, "That was an unaccompanied bass solo by..." and have people in the audience get it. (This line is uttered by Peter Gabriel on Genesis Live.)
At the end of that show, Benninghouse wrote, "keyboardist Michael B.B. announced that they'd be returning in the spring with 8 or 9 new songs in the set," which are listed in the group's setlist.

Michael B.B. also teaches at Farley's House of Pianos on the west side of town, which offers "private piano lessons for all ages and ability levels... college preparatory instruction in piano, and... jazz improvisation, music theory, and private voice lessons." B.B. specializes in beginner and continuing piano, along with jazz improvisation and music literacy.

Six recordings of B.B.'s performances are available online at michaelbb.info. "Joy Spring" by Clifford Brown, "Israel" by John Carisi, and "Yes or No" by Wayne Shorter were all performed by the jazz quartet. "Insensatez," "Ritual Opening," and "Laurel," meanwhile, are each examples from B.B.'s broad array of musical projects not listed above, including the Michael B.B. Latin Jazz Trio, the Close to the Edge Band, and Mad City Rhythm with Mike DeRose.

B.B. has no shortage of upcoming performances around town. The Michael B.B. Jazz Quartet will be playing a free show at Restaurant Magnus on Friday, Nov. 24, a chance for all those weary workers, shoppers, and non-shoppers to take a post-holiday break. The quartet will be returning to action with a show at The Bar at the Concourse Hotel on Saturday, Dec. 9. Finally, PROG will be rounding out the year with a concert at the High Noon Saloon, set for Monday, Dec. 11.

This is the latest featured entry from the Madison Music Project, an online database of Madison-area musicians. Please register or update your current profile on the project for consideration in these highlights.

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