If there’s a musical job in the North Bay, Kalei Yamanoha is the man to do it.
The Sonoma County native is one of the busiest multi-instrumentalists in the region, working as a freelance musician and performing full-time in San Francisco western swing band the Vivants, Santa Rosa chain-rattling folk-punks the Crux and his own instrumental world-folk outfit Oddjob Ensemble.
Earlier this year,Bohemian readers bestowed Oddjob Ensemble with the NorBay Music Award for best folk band. Now, Oddjob Ensemble officially unveil their new album, The Silver Sea, with a show on Dec. 22 at HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol.
Though Yamanoha began his musical journey by playing the guitar as a kid, his primary instrument these days is the accordion. He also sits in on banjo and trombone from time to time.
“I grew up in Cotati, right across the street from the accordion festival,” says Yamanoha.
That early exposure combined with an interest in Eastern European folk music guided him to the squeezebox a decade ago.
Yamanoha’s love for the accordion has translated into a part-time job at the Petaluma-based Accordion Apocalypse Repair Shop, though his main source of income is playing music as a hired hand both in studio and on the road. Two years ago, he formed Oddjob Ensemble to showcase his own creative work. “It’s my baby project,” says Yamanoha.
Writing melodies on the accordion, Yamanoha draws from his diverse musical experiences and the places he’s traveled, while crafting instrumental music around imaginative themes, such as The Silver Sea‘s maritime concept.
“There’s an underlying storyline with a lot of sea creatures and being on river boats that are taken over by ghosts,” says Yamanoha.
While the album is largely instrumental, Yamanoha’s accordion, joined by Ben Weiner’s percussion and Violette Morier’s bass, sounds like it was transported straight from a cabaret in early 20th century France or taken from a sea chantey sung on some ancient galleon. The album’s few tracks with lyrics tell very Lovecraftian-tales of mystery and wonder, and the record’s overall effect is that of a soundtrack to an epic adventure.
Like life imitating art, Oddjob Ensemble have just returned from their own adventure, a two-month tour of the United States that included highlights ranging from busking in the New Orleans’ French Quarter to getting robbed of six bucks in Harlem.
In spite of the recent fires, the band is happy to be home.