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Let’s be honest: Paul Cebar is a Milwaukee treasure.
Since he first landed in area coffeehouses as a solo performer in the 1970s, through his time with The R&B Cadets in the ‘80s and with his band The Milwaukeeans and, these days, Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound, the talented and affable Cebar has moved audiences – not only their rears, but their heads, too – from the stage.
But he’s also educated us from the airwaves via his WMSE radio show about jump blues, R&B, jazz, soul, Cuban music, New Orleans traditions, African sounds, Caribbean styles and more.
Though he surely could’ve left us long ago for other shores, Cebar has remained dedicated to Milwaukee and so, when he hits the stage at Summerfest – as he did Saturday night – we show up.
(This year, the Big Gig got a double dose of of Cebar as The R&B Cadets performed last week.)
Cebar and his skillful outfit – distilled down to the elemental core of drummer Reggie Bordeaux, multi-instrumentalist Bob Jennings and bassist Mike Fredrickson – performed under the big top on the Johnson Controls World Stage, keeping the crowd moving with his encyclopedic but never dull combination of styles, all swirled together in the most enticing musical gumbo this festival has known.
Milwaukee saxophonist Jay Anderson, a past Cebar collaborator now living in New Orleans, joined the band for most of its set.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Cebar promised "rambustious, rangy music" at the show ...
... and I'm quite sure he and his crew delivered.
Alas, he wasn't able to deliver as much as planned as the performance was cut short. Though Cebar and his band were slated to take the stage at 8 p.m. the previous band didn't exit the stage until around that time and so, Cebar's performance didn't begin until 8:35.
At 9:25 when Cebar announced they'd play one final song, the powers that be nixed even that and the band instead left the stage to a chorus of disdain from the crowd.
But what little time the band did have was put to good use as it snaked through its poly-rhythmic gumbo, especially wowing with the long-time Cebar classic, "You Make Me Feel So," with its swampy groove, and conjuring New Orleans' legendary The Meters on a gritty instrumental.
Here are some photos from Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound's show on the penultimate night of the Big Gig:
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.