Pete L’Angelle finds blue note at Lake Tahoe

Pete L’Angelle paints a picture of his search for the right note.

His search leads him on musical journey which includes far-away places where he takes lessons from a great deal of people. These are guides all along a path highlighted in blues.

At the gateway, he encountered the three Kings: B.B., Albert and Freddie.

Tahoe Onstage
When taking a musical journey, it’s best to do it in a sports car.

“I found blues to be a blank pallet because harmonically there are so many places you can go,” L’Angelle said. “There’s so much space. Early on, I listened to B.B. King, then I heard Duane Eddy. Then this changed my life: an album called ‘Color Him Funky’ by Howard Roberts. And then Kenny Burrell, the gorgeous way he plays blues with a Duke Ellington elegance about it. Tone, simplicity and gorgeous melodic phrases that he’s doing, but there’s blues in there, too. You think about ‘Midnight Blue’ with Jimmy Smith, that influenced a lot of guys. Then I heard Wes Montgomery. Talk about changing my life. If there’s a Wes Montgomery album out there that I don’t have, please let me know. Then George Benson. Then, recently, Pat Martino. And, obviously, Jon McLaughlin and the thing that he did with the fusion.”

Searching for the right note, L’Angelle travels between his home Fernley, Nev. and Los Angeles, where he said it’s impossible not to also become involved in the movie business. We’ll save that for another story. This one is about the search for the right note.

“To play one note to where it really means something, and those people feel that,” he said, “that is something you can’t practice. It is an instinctual, visceral sort of thing when you get to that place.”

He found that note last week at the Thursday jam in Reno’s Third Street Bar, along with a friend, Rich Maloon, who plays with the band Blue Haven. Maloon recommended L’Angelle to Buddy Emmer, who has a quartet that hosts Tuesday Night’s Spring Blues in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

L’Angelle knows the path well. He’s been here before, entering through William’s Backdoor.

Playing in a casino is busking, Nevada style. The music competes with televisions, cell phones, gaming tables and video poker at the bars.

L’Angelle will steer them in his direction if he finds the right note.

“When I do, the entire audience’s head perks up,” he said. “They go, ‘What just happened?’ If you take these harmonic side streets and come back to the root, you take the person somewhere.”

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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