When I saw him, he'd brought along Eric Schabo on sax, Rudy Varner on upright bass, and Loney Charles on drums, and the combo was tight. While Nardella was the veteran, they were all musicians at the top of their game, capable of bringing the house down with a slapping bass line or smokin' sax solo. And when the song reached its peak with everyone playing at once, hollering was in order.
Most arrangements were fast-paced and irresistible to dancers, with just enough soulful blues thrown in to catch your breath. But Nardella does have a tendency to filter songs, from "Kansas City" to "Sea of Love," through the same R&B interpretation. While the numbers are familiar from different genres, they become rather mashed into one similar--albeit engaging and high-energy--style.
Nardella tells me he is always adding more songs to his repertoire, and his original songwriting is "just throwing together old blues phrases...the blues is basically my thing now. It seems more real to me." In performance, the pure blues numbers seem to come more from his heart than his encyclopedic memory.
Nardella still plays a few times a month, sometimes at clubs, sometimes at private parties. Occasionally an opportunity to tour comes up. "I need to play music," he says. "It's the only thing I know how to do, all I've ever done, all I've ever wanted to do." Steve Nardella is back at Guy Hollerin's on Saturday, February 6.