Expect guitarist Montrose to accent his hard-rock side
By Jon Matsumoto
Special to the Mercury News
Young guitarist Ronnie Montrose moved from Denver to San Francisco and, in the early ’70s, got his first break when Van Morrison used him on the albums “Tupelo Honey” and “St. Dominic’s Preview.” Montrose then did brief stints in bands headed by Boz Scaggs and Edgar Winter before forming his own group, Montrose, in 1973. The group immediately scored a hit with a self-titled album and continued working until 1977.
Since then, the ax ace has released jazz-rock albums, performed acoustically and done a soundtrack for a video game. He led a band called Gamma, which used keyboards and synthesizers.
So fans may be wondering which Ronnie Montrose they will hear Saturday, when he performs at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz.
“It’s going to be 100 percent pure high-energy Montrose music,” says the guitarist, 58, from his home in Sacramento. “It’s the heavy, beautiful, wonderful, loud-rock Montrose show.”
The guitarist is excited about the band, which features drummer Jimmy DeGrasso and bassist Dave Ellefson, both former members of the thrash metal act Megadeth, as well as vocalist Keith St. John. The show is being recorded for possible release later. The lineup seems tailor-made for the type of free-form jamming Montrose prefers on stage.
“When I played in Montrose in the ’70s, we didn’t play an arrangement,” he says. “We did the classic hippie jams. That’s what we do now. That’s what people respond to. We’ll start the song, and then when we begin the solo section, it will go on. I’ll look at the band, and it’s like, `I’ll meet you on the other side.’ We’re not just going through the motions. We have the right combination of players that enables me to do that.”
Time hasn’t dimmed Montrose’s passion for music. He says he enjoys working now more than he did when he was making hit records for Warner Bros. in the ’70s. The Internet, improved and inexpensive home recording technology and the rise of numerous independent record labels allow him creative freedom without the deadlines and expectations imposed by others.
However, Montrose says he expects his current album project, “Ronnie Montrose and Friends: 10×10,” to attract a lot of interest. He has recruited some favorite vocalists for different tracks on the album, and he already has created the instrumentals with a rhythm section. The vocalists will do their own melodies and lyrics.
Sammy Hagar, Edgar Winter and Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott are among the guest singers. Hagar sang on the first two Montrose albums before embarking on a solo career and a long stint with Van Halen. Montrose and Hagar also got together when the original Montrose band reunited in recent years for some performances.
“The beautiful thing about the original Montrose lineup is that, when we got back together, it was like we never went away,” Montrose says. “We didn’t even rehearse for those shows. We knew the songs so well. We went through the songs in the sound check, and that’s all we needed to do. It was like no time had gone by. Years later we’re the same kids playing that music.”
Ronnie MontroseWhere The Catalyst, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz
When 8 p.m. Saturday
Tickets $25, $22 advance
Call (831) 423-1338
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