Back Stage – Saul Rayo presents class act |

Back Stage – Saul Rayo presents class act

I wasn’t a Paul Simon fan until last weekend when I was lucky enough to see two of the three sold-out “Paul Simon – A Tribute” extravaganzas organized by Saul Rayo at the Center for the Arts.

To clarify, I’m still not a huge fan of the legendary Simon but I am now sold on the multitalented Rayo.

The Nevada City singer-songwriter has always sounded great in the R&B and world beat genres, but after last weekend’s outstanding performances, it’s safe to say no genre is off-limits for Rayo’s pipes. He even masterfully covered “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” presenting the classic in the original E-flat arrangement, refusing to make it easier by going to a less difficult key.

And while Rayo has been a dedicated band leader in Nevada County ever since his days with the former Tribe and various Rayo Band lineups, his ease in orchestrating efforts of 33 other performers was rather impressive to witness last weekend. At all times, Rayo was the consummate performer – always smiling, cracking jokes with the audience – and at the same time, he was just as warm and caring with the musicians and dancers – grinning, winking, hugging and prancing with them as trickier parts of the show were successfully maneuvered.

That Rayo didn’t do this show for any monetary gain makes his efforts even more admirable. He spent every day for the past several months working out all the details – from picking out the 30 songs to choosing the soloists to tweaking the arrangements – both as a way to thank the community at large for supporting live music and as a benefit for the center. (Although final figures aren’t in yet, at least a few thousand dollars were raised.)

The community’s response was greater than anyone connected with the show ever imagined. Center staff decided Saturday morning to add a Sunday show because ticket-buyers were turned away Friday due to an already full house.

Now that the extravaganza is over, Rayo can go back to working on new originals for his Cocina Del Mundo (Kitchen of the World) band’s upcoming CD – which means area fans are in for more treats and surprises from this gifted musician.

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