Greg Poree will be groovin' for a good cause

If you leave a phone message for guitarist/composer/arranger Greg Porée on a Monday or Tuesday, don't be surprised if you have to wait for a return call. Those days are taken up with providing the musical direction to a little enterprise called “Dancing with the Stars.” The hours are long and stressful, and when they're over, he needs time to himself.

Drop into Andre Vener's welcoming Redwhite+Bluezz at 70 S. Raymond Ave. in Pasadena on a Wednesday night, though, and you'll find Porée and bassist Keith Jones providing engaging guitar-and-bass duets for the diners at that fine restaurant. It's a way for Porée to unwind and connect with his primary instrument (in a private moment, he'll shrug that he plays “arranger's piano”) in meaningful exchanges with a sympathetic collaborator in a relaxed setting.

His nylon-string guitar work operates at an intimate dynamic. Coupled with the contrabass, the confluence of warm tones and the classically informed jazz lines with flamenco flourishes make for an extra dimension of hospitality.

Aside from his weekly television foray, Redwhite+Bluezz is Porée's most consistent public showcase; he's four years into this weekly residency, which he says he looks forward to.

“Most of us who play in restaurants,” Porée says from his home in Los Angeles, “know that this falls into the realm of ambience. But they let me play what I want here, and I've developed a following. There's a fine line between supplying music for the people and giving a real performance. But the atmosphere here is very easy, and I'd say about 60% of the people listen to the music with some scrutiny. We get a couple of nights here and there that are duds, but by and large, it's worth the schlep out here.”

Pasadena also figures into Porée's itinerary for another reason, as he is a frequent visitor to the home studio of trumpeter Nolan Shaheed. “He's one of my dearest and oldest friends,” Porée explains. “My wife and I started a recording label — Moontraxx. We license and get the music out, and we do all of our recording at Nolan's because it's very cost-effective.”

Unlike some acoustic guitar players, Porée doesn't have an ear-splitting rock guitarist lurking in his id. “My earliest influences,” he says, “were classical guitarists like Andres Segovia and flamenco players. Both of those respective musics were not just styles — each was a way of life. Classical music was most often commissioned by the courts of old Europe.”

His family moved to L.A. in 1950, and his first big break was taking over musical direction for Sonny & Cher in 1969.

“That was a good job,” Porée holds. “They were great to me and I got to say hello to Cher when Chazz Bono was on ‘Dancing With the Stars.'”

Porée began a lengthy tenure as musical director for many artists in the Motown stable, starting with Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1971.

He is featured at the California Jazz Federation's benefit concert Sunday, “Groovin' With the Stars.” He heads the “Dancing With the Stars” rhythm section and guest players, including violinist Paul Cartwright, guitarist Ron Escheté, pianists Tom Rainier and Rich Eames, bassists Trey Henry and Keith Jones, and drummers Kendall Kay and Joey Heredia.

The CJF was founded in 2006 by attorney Edythe Bronston to see to the needs of jazz musicians in their declining years. “I wholeheartedly support this organization,” says Porée. I've known musicians that they've helped, so this is a cause that's important to me.”

KIRK SILSBEE writes about jazz and culture for Marquee.Who: Greg Porée, performing at “Groovin' With the Stars,” a California Jazz Federation benefit concert

Where: Atwater Crossing, 3245 Casitas Ave., Atwater Village

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 7

Contact: (818) 261-9957

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