Out with a new CD, ‘Tropical Reflections,’ Non Stop’s music transports the soul

"Tropical Reflections" is the latest album from Walla Walla's Non Stop Band.

"Tropical Reflections" is the latest album from Walla Walla's Non Stop Band.

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The album is titled “Tropical Reflections,” but the melodic jazz slinking out of your speakers can take you anywhere you imagine you’d like to be or have been before.

An obvious place is on a beach in Rio or Hawaii, where the first three tracks transport you.

Think close friends, mai tais with a dark rum floater and the kind of atmosphere that airs out overtaxed brains from all those thoughts of work and responsibility.

Or perhaps on a magical, music-driven sailboat crossing warm seas, with the keyboards, flute and guitar filling the sails while the percussion and cymbal splashes become the sounds of the bow cutting through a light chop.

The journeys are all courtesy of the newest recording from Walla Walla’s Non Stop Band. Play it as background at a social gathering, and soon some musically-minded guest is going to ask, “Who are those guys?”

“We’ve been non-stopping since the mid-’80s,” said John L. Holmes, guitarist, synth player, who composes with keyboardist Mike Friedman. With them from the start, and again on drums and percussion in “Tropical Reflections,” is Glenn Ayers, a longtime professional whose played with a number of salsa and rhythm and blues artists.

Also on the album are Seattle bassist Steve Kim; Ken Wilson, a former Washington State Penitentiary music director who plays saxophone and flute; retired Whitman College professor and renown trombonist Dave Glenn; and former Backstage Bistro owner Bob Parrish on the shekere beaded gourd.

With other artists coming in and out of the band through the years, the core of Holmes, Friedman and Ayes sticks to a brand of jazz that blends Latin and American styles. The results carry influences of Caribbean Jazz Project, Carlos Santana, Chick Corea and Al Di Meola.

But Non Stop intentionally resists labeling. “Jazz is an ongoing improvisation,” said Holmes, a 1976 graduate of the San Francisco Art Institute and member of a Prescott-area wheat farming family.

“We don’t want to sound like other people … not be-bop or strictly Latin players,” he added.

Friedman, a retired Valley Transit bus driver, takes his keyboard and composing influences from a large library of 1930s jazz records his parents amassed as he grew up.

He started playing piano in earnest at age 21 and said he “started writing maniacally at 41.”

Non Stop’s first recording in 1989 received airplay on NPR’s Northwest Jazz Program and the group has performed now and then at local wineries and have four local gigs planned over the next four weeks.

But mostly they put their energy in working together in the studio to produce their music for recordings, which have been finding success on Jango, a global Internet radio service.

“Tropical Reflections” as well as “In Flight,” which the group released last year, are available through iTunes, Amazon and in Walla Walla at Hot Poop, 210 E. Main St. Holmes said the group is also exploring using their music on soundtracks in cinematic productions.

No matter where you travel to next – or even if you stay home this summer – a Non Stop album is something to think about packing in your portable player.

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