South Lake Tahoe’s Wesley Orsolic gives people another reason to call him one of the best guitarists in the Tahoe region with his new album “Front Seats.”
Like many who now call South Lake Tahoe home, Orsolic is a transplant to the area. A native of Croatia, he has touched down all over the country, from Hawaii to New York to Los Angeles, and the guitarist has tastes of funk, blues and jazz from all those places that show up in his playing. Orsolic came to the lake by way of San Francisco and has since found quite a home in the mountains, lakes and valleys of the area. “Front Seats” is the musician’s fifth release since 2002 and the latest showcase of his established playing with longtime collaborators Liz Broscoe (drums), Reuben Thompson (bass) and Lowell Wilson (keys), who are as much as part of the record as Orsolic. Together they make “Front Seats” a fun and celebratory record with plenty of life in it.
Orsolic certainly wasn’t afraid of swinging for the fences right off the bat and starts his latest album with the 10-minute jam, “Miss Sunshine.” The extended introduction gives every band member the opportunity to introduce themselves, which they do kindly and heartily. Together they lay a crunchy, rock groove down and then take the time to make a little impression of themselves. Orsolic strings some fluid, fusion lines together and then passes the salutations over to Wilson, who is charming and eager to please on the keys. Thompson is sturdy across the whole jam and at one point holds the rhythm down and allows Broscoe a sweet dejembe solo, before they all come back together to finish it out. It’s a hell of introduction.
Orsolic has a fine hand on the frets and is comfortable incorporating bits of jazz, blues, and funk into his playing. It’s a light and agile feel that is moving from one run to the next with a smile. If he is playing the blues, it’s not of the “Stormy Monday” variety. It’s more upbeat and optimistic like on the blues-country riffs for “Get Loose, which also feature some spirited playing from Wilson’s keys. Similarly, Orsolic is looking at the sunny side of things on “Change of Scene,” which slips into slick, boogaloo funk territory in the vein of Melvin Sparks or David T. Walker.
The best example of Orsolic’s little-bit-of-everything style is on the standout “Sweet Tooth.” The whole band is in on the groove and find a breezy rhythm with hints of bayou blues and funk. Wilson brings some lemon-squeezed zest to the party on a bubbly two-tone keyboard solo, but Orsolic brings the real sizzle on the track, firing off a couple spicy solos throughout. He never fell off the rhythm and did a slick job of finding his spots to vibe off of. If there is a track to indulge in, it would be this one.
“Now That You Know” is the exclamation point at the end of “Front Seats,” with Orsolic and Wilson leading an organ and guitar jam that lights up the night. It’s as confident as anything on the album and sends you off already hoping for more music soon. It’s a solid album for a Tahoe musician that has only gotten stronger through the years. Now that you know of Wesley Orsolic, you’ll be looking to try and see him from the front seats of the nearest club.