Louie Moon

Benedetto Guitars Ambassadors

Vallejo Times Hereld

A&E SOURCE: Louie Moon rises at Vino Godfather

 

Louie Moon and Fourum, play Fridays and Sundays at the Vino Godfather Tasting Room on Mare Island.

By Richard Freedman, Vallejo Times-Herald

Louie Moon has paid his dues as a musician. Pop. Disco. Wedding song requests.

The Pinole resident figured he’s earned the right to perform what he loves — and with quartet, “Fourum,” he’s doing just that with original contemporary jazz and r&b.

“I’m getting more selective in what I play and my heart’s with jazz,” Moon said.

Apparently, he found a venue and an audience, playing the Vino Godfather Tasting Room on Mare Island from 5 to 8 p.m. every Friday and 2 to 5 p.m. every Sunday.

“It’s a place that’s conducive to the music with a good ambiance that’s very relaxed,” Moon said. “And we play what I really want to play.”

Moon co-founded Fourum with keyboardist Jeff Wollman. To make sure gigs are covered, they rehearse two bass players — Tim Leong and Percy Terry — and two drummers, Bob Blankenship and Gerry Kennett.

“They’re all equally ready,” Moon said.

A Washington, D.C., native, Moon arrived in the Bay Area at 10, eventually graduating from Berkeley High School. Listening to the late jazz guitarist and composer Grant Green “was the big turning point” for Moon, he said. Other influences included Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Jon McLaughlin, and Frank Zappa. It was George Duke and Al Jarreau that really got to Moon, who saw the jazz legends “quite a bit” in concert.

Though into jazz since 18, “it wasn’t making any money,” Moon said. “So I moved into other bands to make money. I spent lots of years doing that. It’s only now coming back to what I really want to be doing.”

Fortunately, he never took a hated day job. Unfortunately, he’s had to play genres he didn’t care for.

“It’s always been music,” Moon said. “In order to make that work, I’d play the pop and have to play the dance music and what they wanted you to play. There was nothing really bad about it, I’d just prefer not to be in that.”

Take disco.

“I hated it,” Moon said.

Oh, and all those weddings. Nice pay for the most part.

“But I have many, many horror stories,” he said, recalling one wedding gig in a field when out of nowhere the bride comes sprinting toward the band.

“I could see her from a distance, her arms waving,” Moon said. “She came screaming right up and bawled me out.”

Apparently, the band started playing too early.

“She had a sour face through the whole thing,” Moon said. “Those things happen.”

Moon’s only non-music job was a mostly-great experience. He and his wife were always interested in wild animals, so they studied at “The Gentle Jungle” in Irvine, a wildlife preserve. After the course, Moon took a job as elephant trainer.

 “It was so interesting. I couldn’t pass it up,” he said, taking six months off from gigs.

“It was a very consuming job,” Moon said, thrilled he got to work with lions, bears and tigers. “Quite a few experiences were scary,” he said.

None, however, worse than that one time where he looked up and saw an elephant foot within a second of crushing him.

“My knees were shaking,” Moon said. “It was a near-death experience. I was alone and there was nobody to tell me, ‘Don’t turn your back on an elephant.’”

As much as he loved the wildlife animals, there was no way they could shake a career out of Moon.

So here he is in the middle of 45 years of playing, with standard gigs at Vino Godfather and three Tuesdays every month at Laila’s By the Bay in Hercules.

“It was always going to be music,” he said.

Louie Moon and Fourum play Vino Godfather, 500 Walnut Ave., Mare Island, Vallejo, Fridays 5 to 8 p.m., Sundays 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, call (707) 552-2331.