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Luis Tavares: Reinvention not retirement
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Luis Tavares: Reinvention not retirement

  • Luis Tavares
    Jimi Giannatti/Pop NarkoticLuis Tavares
  • Luis Tavares
    Bill Moeller via Luis TavaresLuis Tavares

Retirement surely looks different to each person who's contemplating it, but for session guitarist Luis Tavares, it means reinvention.

He's enjoyed a long and successful career as a session guitarist, playing with acts such as The Band, Spin Doctors and with Marky and Dee Dee of the original Ramones in their tribute band, The Remains. Tavares also played guitar with punk icon Steve Jones and his band Chequered Past at its apex in the '80s.

Now taking an alternate route to continue fulfilling his musical ambitions, Tavares shows no signs of slowing down. He's taking a leap out of his comfort zone and performing his own music with a new band: For the Record. The band's live debut will be Wednesday night.

Like many young musicians, the Nogales native sought his fortune in New York City and waited tables while answering ads for musicians in the Village Voice. While working at a very high-end cocktail lounge that catered to older, wealthy, gay men, Tavares met ad man Richard Miller. Miller, who was responsible for recruiting session musicians for TV commercials and jingles, hired Tavares for his first paid musical gig: a commercial for Lemon Joy dishwashing liquid.

After many auditions with songwriters, various bands, and joining the musician's unions, Tavares was led into an association with a composer and professor of classical music and an actor who worked regularly in the Broadway orchestra pits.

"Studio musicians, like political writers, don't really talk about who they've recorded with and for. It's safe to say that I worked enough to be able to stop waiting tables after about three years," Tavares said. "Broadway, Off-Broadway, classical (as a percussionist), rock, Spanish folk... for whomever, wherever, whenever."

Tavares returned to Arizona, first to Tempe and then Tucson, about 15 years ago. While in Tempe, Tavares was introduced to a local band named Exit 3 by his friend and former pro ball player Jim Campanis, Jr. Exit 3 enjoyed quite a bit of local success, recorded a couple of records and embarked on tour that took them from Phoenix to Andover, Mass.

Tempe musician Paul Cardone (Dry River Yacht Club), introduced Tavares to Tucson singer-songwriter Joe Pena (Greyhound Soul) about 10 years ago in Phoenix.

"We seemed to be a great fit at that time and until recently was privileged to be one of the revolving guitarists in a couple of Joe's bands," Tavares said.

Tavares capably rounded out the music, lending his considerable guitar skills playing in two of Pena's bands: The Sundowners and Band of Angels.

For The Record

"Throughout all these years I've always written songs. Many were inspired by the death from AIDS of my first partner in 1993. Most of those will be on the next record," said Tavares.

"I've always been the guitar player in somebody else's band, Mark Gruber (MAJmin), Seth Gooby (Exit 3), Joe Pena (The Sundowners & Band of Angels), etc. Brilliant songwriters each of them and great voices, so I always have kept a lot of my songs to myself," said Tavares.

"And For The Record, which I'm recording at CIMA Mix & Mastering here in Tucson, is my opportunity to bring these songs out into the open and share because some of them are kinda cool … those I wrote or co-wrote with my partners that have never been played, recorded or performed ... and Ricky (Wascher of CIMA) has a great ear and is a great translator of my musical babble and nonsense into actual musical form —so we're really excited about finally getting these recordings done!"

Other than Tavares playing guitar and singing, the band includes Mark Enciso playing percussion and Federico Pennacchinion bass.

I was present at one of the group's recent rehearsals and found that despite the relative newness of the band, the chemistry and the talent were tightly in sync, producing intricate rhythms and alluring melodies. Tavares sang gently yet emotively, his lyrics having just the right insinuating hooks. The sound was slightly reminiscent of early Jesus and Mary Chain or the Stone Roses with the gritty influences of the Velvet Underground and the Ramones, suffused with the melodicism and harmonies of California beach music.

You, too, can hear Tavares' new music as For The Record plays Wednesday night at Pop Narkotic Palace, 1742 E. 6th St., at 8:30 p.m.

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