Arts and Entertainment

Michael Powers to play Auburn Avenue Theater Jan. 31

Guitarist Michael Powers will play the Auburn Avenue Theater on Jan. 31. - Courtesy Photo
Guitarist Michael Powers will play the Auburn Avenue Theater on Jan. 31.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

On Jan. 31 the Jazz and Jokes in January show, featuring the music of guitarist Michael Powers, swings into the Auburn Avenue Theater.

Powers, a Northwest-based musician who has released 14 CDs, including his latest, "Passport", has played guitar for more than 30 years.

"I graduated from high school early, I was 15," Powers said. "And that summer I spent a lot of time skateboarding. I was really good at it down in the San Francisco area. I was coming around a corner and hit a patch of gravel. The skateboard stopped, and I kept going."

The fall shattered Powers' left wrist, forced him into a cast and subjected him to months of painful rehab, effectively ending his skateboarding career.

Luckily, however, he found something new to consume his time and energy.

"I was in the cast and I saw a film biography on Jimi Hendrix's life and thought, 'I'd love to play guitar,'" he said.

"It seemed like the guitar was an extension of (Hendrix's) body, like he had mastered it to the point where he could just think about what he wanted to do and it would happen. I liked that connection he had with it, and I wondered if I could try to achieve that."

Powers began picking up a few pointers and tips from a friend who played, then moved on to master some actual Hendrix tunes.

"Then I went from emulating Hendrix to emulating Santana," he said. "I also had a lot of rock/blues energy with some different chord changes and things. Then one night I was watching Santana on a music show called "The Midnight Special" and he played with some guy named George Benson with a huge guitar."

The smooth, jazz sounds of Benson struck a chord, and Powers soon fused Benson's style with his own.

"I'd already gotten a blues base from Hendrix and Santana, and now my jazz base from Benson," Powers said.

The defining moment of his career came at age 17, however, when he moved to Federal Way.

"I was working at the Federal Way Senior Center, helping seniors," he said. "I played guitar at the senior center when I could. When the funding for that program ran out, I found I was perfectly qualified to do a job that no longer existed."

Powers took advantage of the chance, however, to devote more time to sharpening his guitar skills.

"I realized that was my chance, and after I went on interviews, I would play eight hours a day," he said. "By the time unemployment ran out, I [had gotten] good enough to play in local bands and bars."

Although proficient enough to eke out a living, Powers continued to master his instrument. He attended Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, from which he earned a four-year music degree.

"I could play by ear, but I wanted to learn how to read and write music," he said.

To this day, Powers continues to refine his sound.

"I'd say that if you could imagine any type of music that you like, be it pop, R&B, jazz, latin, all kinds of different styles – I try to pick from all that – without a singer but with a guitar replacing the singer, that's how my music sounds," Powers said. "I try to let my guitar be the center point with the voice, but also try to have a lot of interaction with the band."

On "Passport" Powers continues his musical journey with a set of songs inspired by his geographical journeys.

"It celebrates my travels over the years," he said. "I've been playing full-time professionally since 1985. It's about my travels around the planet. It's tunes I wrote – I wrote one about being in New York City, San Diego, Chicago, London, one in Amsterdam. Some of the other songs are cover tunes that are more about the conveyance of how to get there and what to do when you get there. Like "Ease On Down The Road", which is a great travel song. Another is "Over the Rainbow" because that has a connection to Hawaii for me. The songs are either about the places or how to get there, like "In the Clouds" which is about flying."

Power said he plans to spend about one-third of his upcoming gig playing tunes from the new CD, dedicating the rest to his extensive catalog.

"It's going to be a nice theater show with music from throughout my career and comedy as that other element," he said.

Michael Powers takes the stage at the Auburn Avenue Theater as part of Auburn's BRAVO Performing Arts Series at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31. Tickets cost $17 for regular admission, $15 for students and seniors.

For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.brownpapertickets.com or call the Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation Department at 253-931-3043.

For more information on Powers, visit www.michaelpowersmusic.com

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