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Houston Press 1997 Music Awards Preview

A guide to who's who in the Press Music Awards ballot. Plus, the where and when of the Press Music Awards Showcase!

Artist: TKoh!
Nomination: Best Horn/Horn Section; Best Jazz; Best Funk/R&B
Sound of choice: Funk and soul with a jazzy sophistication
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: With its overpowering sense of fun and its breathtaking displays of tightness and execution, TKoh! is both a lightweight party band and a heavyweight talent pool rolled into one. Its founding inspired by the great Maceo Parker work Life on Planet Groove, this bulky brass-led ensemble of local all-stars boasts an ever-shifting lineup and often enough members to clutter two nightclub stages. With the level of talent that this outfit employs, a high-quality performance is as much a given at a TKoh! show as a crowded dance floor.

TKoh! performs at 7 p.m. at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Toy Subs
Nomination: Best Cover Band
Sound of choice: The sounds of others, expertly duplicated
Time logged: Seven years

Etc.: Without question, Toy Subs is among Houston's most accomplished live bands. The group's harmonies, showmanship and instrumentation are all topnotch, and frequent gigs around town make them a hard act to ignore. Still, they are a cover band. Maybe not for long, though: Steady radio play on the Buzz indicates that the band's original material may hold more promise than once believed. Seven years on, Toy Subs could be staring at a future above and beyond the human jukebox circuit.

Artist: Little Joe Washington
Nomination: Best Blues
Sound of choice: Smokin' blues guitar
Time logged: Fifty years

Etc.: Thursday nights at the Blue Iguana, one of Houston's most peculiar treasures takes the stage. Though no one can be sure about Little Joe's precise origins (including Joe himself), Texas legends from Joe "Guitar" Hughes to Johnny Copeland will vouch for his presence on the Houston scene for decades. Famous for soloing ad infinitum with his tongue, Washington's playing is as unrefined and engaging as he is.

Artist: Wazobia
Nomination: Best Reggae/World Music
Sound of choice: See above
Time logged: Twelve years

Etc.: Wazobia boasts a truly multicultural membership that hails from Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and the U.S., which means its exotic implications are well-founded. The quintet makes its presence known annually in the Reggae/World Music category, and has snatched the top honor three times in the last five years. World beat doesn't get any more global than this.

Wazobia performs at 7 p.m. at Metroplex.

Artist: Bert Wills
Nomination: Best Blues
Sound of choice: Texas blues
Time logged: More than 35 years

Etc.: Bert Wills's last support gig was in the early '90s as lead guitarist for Miss Molly's Whips. Since then, his solo career has proven him as capable a bandleader as anyone he ever backed. His bluesy originals blend familiar themes such as lost love with simple, bold proclamations of honor and integrity. The rough-hewn, jailbird image that precedes Wills wherever he goes belies guitar playing that is thoughtful, intricate, subtle and rousingly tuneful.

Artist: Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys
Nomination: Best Rock/Pop; Best Blues; Local Musician of the Year (Carolyn Wonderland); Best Female Vocalist (Carolyn Wonderland); Best Guitarist (Eric Dane); Best Bassist (Chris King); Best Drummer (Leesa Harrington Squyres); Album of the Year (Bursting with Flavor)

Sound of choice: Roadhouse rock
Time logged: Five years
Etc.: Racking up her annual slew of nominations, Carolyn Wonderland has

already proven her gritty journeywoman mettle in her home state. Now, it seems, the only thing left for her is the oft-dreaded national push. How Wonderland found time in a busy touring schedule to grace us with Bursting with Flavor, her debut release on Justice Records and the first hint on disc that she is coming into her own as a songwriter, is anyone's guess. And with all that time on the road, the Imperial Monkeys have matured from a capable backing unit into a, well, more-than-capable backing unit -- although their chemistry may be altered somewhat with the recent departure of cement-solid drummer Leesa Harrington Squyres.

Artist: Wyndnwyre
Nomination: Best Traditional Ethnic
Sound of choice: Renaissance/Celtic folk
Time logged: Fifteen years

Etc.: In addition to more typical folk-style instruments such as guitar and mandolin, folk ensemble Wyndnwyre incorporates the hammered dulcimer, Irish flute, low whistle, bodhran, tin whistle and dumbek for a unique sound firmly rooted in the history books. The group's repertoire focuses on the instrumental music of the Middle Ages and Renaissance eras, as well as vocal-based tunes in the Celtic tradition. A medieval time warp in the best sense.

Artist: Tony Xpress
Nomination: Best Reggae/World Music
Sound of choice: As above, emphasis "world"
Time logged: Four years

Etc.: Forever on the road, Tony Xpress nevertheless has the local clout to snag a regular Reggae/World Music nomination. This native Nigerian and his well-polished backup quartet whip up an exotic stew that's more than just the sum of its soul, reggae, calypso and Afro-beat parts. Xpress's multi-genre crash-course is well-traveled and tighter than a steel drum.

Artist: Rozz Zamorano (Fondue Monks)
Nomination: Best Bassist
Sound of choice: Rock, jazz
Time logged: Ten years

Etc.: Bassist Rozz Zamorano's style is somewhat akin to that of Jack Bruce, best known for his time with Cream. It's free-flowing and mildly funky, with a sharp focus on technique. In addition to holding down the bass chair in the Fondue Monks, Zamorano heads up a jazz fusion trio that plays Mondays at Rudyard's. He also indulges in the occasional Spanish rock gig with Templo de Sueno. Busy guy.

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