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The band isn’t one that can rehearse once a week: tenor saxophonist Will Scruggs lives in Atlanta, while the rhythm section (organist and co-leader Nate Shaw, guitarist Tony Romano, and drummer Matt Kane) are based in Brooklyn; in addition, the weekend’s second saxophonist Charles Phaneuf lives here in D.C. Once all five were onstage, however, there was no indication that they didn’t play together every night for years. Playing classics by Booker T. and the MGs and Ray Charles, the saxes fused with the rhythm players – Phaneuf, in particular, united with Romano’s Stax/Volt guitar licks. The highlight of the evening was a duel between Phaneuf and Scruggs, each of them copping each other’s licks while prodding the other to dream up bolder ones on the spot.
That said, there was no denying the chemistry and intimacy between Romano, Kane, and Shaw. The organist took the responsibility for the vacant bass chair, although Romano couldn’t resist playing off of him and submitting some tasty (and imaginative) bottom riffs of his own, simultaneously playing snakey responses to the Shaw’s slap-handed calls – they were an irresistible combo, one that commanded spectators to shake heads and shoulders. Kane, meanwhile, found ways of making even his pet licks – he’s a sucker for toms on the two-beat – sound fresh and exciting.
The crowd seems to have agreed. Every solo, every tune, and occasionally even a few lonely riffs generated screams and mighty ovations. Twins has a reputation for filling seats with the avant-garde, but even the edgiest listeners need some good old funky fun now and then. CC Booker only plays DC about once a year, but they never fail to generate that fun.