By Lorraine Kay
NORTH HOLLYWOOD, CA – As if he doesn’t already have a full plate, Spock’s Beard keyboardist Ryo Okumoto has added to his list of things to do – “build a new band and call it Code Red”. Re-focusing on his solo career seems like a good thing – a good thing for him and a good thing for fans.
Considered one of the prog-rock kings, Okumoto has not only graced the stage with Spock’s Beard but tours regularly with Teena Marie and Asia spin-off band “GPS” fronted by Asia bassist John Payne. Somehow in his spare time he has managed to pull together another excellent band to support his solo career.
The band appeared June 20 at B.B. King’s Club in Los Angeles at the Universal City CityWalk for their debut performance. Featuring Scot Steven on vocals, bassist Kerry Kompost, drummer Jerry Beller and guitarist Andrew Szucs, Code Red did their leader, Okumoto, proud on their debut outing.
For this debut performance the band focused on material from Okumoto’s last solo CD “Coming Through”. The show opened with a powerful installment of “Highway Roller with Steven right out front on vocals. “The Father He Goes, The Farther He Falls” was next on the set list. It has a nice groove that makes you want to get up and dance. Not too fast but kind of down and nasty.
All of the songs simply rocked. “Slipping Down” came up next on the set with a bit of a Steely Dan feel to it but with an extra added edge. Another powerful kind of in-your-face rock and roller “Close Enough” added another dimension to the set, showing just another facet of the versatility of this band. Next in line for the evening was an instrumental from the Coming Through CD called “Free Fall”. This one gave everyone except Steven some time to show off. To round out the set, Code Red performed a tune from Okumoto’s other band, Spock’s Beard entitled “Go The Way You Go”. As their set came to a close, some late arrivers shouted and begged the band to do a reprise of The Father He Goes, The Farther He Falls. Not wanting to leave the fans hanging they gave in and did a shorter version that seemed to do the job.
Anyone that has ever seen Okumoto play live or for that matter heard a recording knows that this guy can shred on the keyboards, and he did not disappoint anyone in the audience this night either. He pulled out the best of the best for selections and gave the audience a real show. Every song demonstrated the excellence of Okumoto and each member of his band.
Assembling this band from musicians who answered ads in local publications to form a band initially to feature his son Sage on drums, this band surprisingly clicked, so when Sage tired of the project Okumoto decided to keep the group together for perhaps bigger and better things. And it looks like he made a good decision.
Szucs, who has written, recorded, and produced a prog-metal album called “Believe In Angels,” under the band name of “Seven Seraphim”, the multi-talented twenty-something was out front on the guitar with some finger-blistering solos. Kompost, who is also a talented guitarist, also plays with the Los Angeles based pop/funk band “The Abe Lincoln Story”. On stage Kompost kept the band honest with a powerful and driving bass throughout the night. Pounding out the band’s formidable sound and fortifying the band’s rhythm section, Beller, who is a founding member of the ELP tribute band “Knife Edge”, showed the band the way home time after time with his precise rhythm and chops. But it was Steven, whose experience ranges from classical piano to the San Diego Opera Chorus to the lead role in “Jesus Christ Superstar”, who brought it all home for the audience.
Watching these guys, it was easy to see that they do enjoy what they are doing and working together. When asked what is the upside of working in this band Kompost said “The upside is Ryo’s musical standards make us all strive to be better musicians, plus everyone else pretty much rocks, so we all help each other to be better in our own way.” For Szucs Code Red is “defintely a unique group of guys and I hope to do more work with them in the future”
All the new members of Okumoto’s band feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the keyboardist icon, “As a corollary, Ryo’s name has helped to attract great quality to Code Red,” said Steven. “There are many excellent musicians who would have liked to join this band, and Ryo had the luxury of being able to select the very best local applicants. Even without Ryo, I would have been excited just to be in a band with Andrew, Jerry, and Kerry!!”
Ultimately it is Okumoto’s opinion that counts, “I had all these people at the right time and they became my friends and now this is my band. Some people we added from a recycler ad I ran. One by one we got together and they are really good. They are all so nice and I like it. They’re like my children now.”
Hoping to be the next big name in progressive rock and roll Beller enjoys working with this band as well. A big prog-rock fan himself, he would tell the fans “to support the progressive rock movement … it is the most expressive music you can listen to…”
Well, if the rest of their performances are anything like the debut outing fans have some great concerts to look forward to, hopefully in the very near future. Okumoto is currently in the studio recording another CD with Spock’s Beard and will be touring with SB and GPS in the fall, but as time allows he promises to be on stage with Code Red as much as possible and as the dust settles on his busy schedule expectations build for a new CD for Code Red featuring all new material.
For an update on future projects and concert schedules visit http://www.ryookumoto.com/.