It was a hot summer day in Healdsburg when my wife Marilyn and I walked over to Affronti for brunch. This semi-hidden restaurant is located down a long corridor beside La Crema winery’s tasting room, just south of the Plaza. Today the Christian Foley Jazz Duo was scheduled to perform and I’ve wanted to hear them play for some time.
When we arrived, the band was setting up in the corner and Marilyn went over to say hello to her friend Roz, whose husband Todd Smith plays bass in the duo. Together, the three of us sat down at a table and ordered some food. While sipping iced tea to keep cool, I pulled out my sketch pad and drew the musicians as they launched into an exclusive Pat Metheny set starting with the song, “Spring Ain’t Here.”
Christian Foley played acoustic and electric guitars, and used pedals to change the guitar’s sound to mimic a steel drum and other instruments. During a break between sets, I asked Todd about his unusual looking bass. He described it as an electric, fretless, six string bass. It’s tuned like a four-string bass with an additional low “B” string and a high “C” string. The guitar was custom made by well known local guitar maker Michael Dolan.
Once Todd and I finished talking, the food arrived. Mine was a sandwich of thinly sliced tri-tip on panini bread with roasted red bell peppers, gorgonzola, and caramelized onion. On the side were some pickled vegetables and a variety of green olives ranging from large to almost pea sized. It was delicious.
For the rest of the afternoon, I relaxed into the music. The sound reminded me of a watercolor painting with washes of shimmering hues accented by bold, improvisational strokes of color. Even though there are only two members of this group, I enjoyed the spareness of the duo’s music and appreciated their reinterpretation of the layered sound found on Metheny’s studio albums.