Bob Andrews is not a contrived hipster with a direction dialed into a particular period of nostalgia, and he isn’t seriously invested in playing meticulous and academic renderings of pop tunes of bygone eras. He decides how far and how deep to reach into his extensive repertoire. It all depends on who is listening.
He’s playing regularly at Sabroso Restaurant and Bar in Arroyo Seco most Saturday evenings beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Andrews has been part of a long list of famous and culturally important recordings. He has a table on his website with so many credits it goes on and on. Scrolling through the famous names is impressive – from pop references like Al Stewart to cult icons like Marianne Faithful and Graham Parker and The Rumour.
He grew up smack in the middle of the 1960s and ‘70s British music scene. He started playing in 1966, spending 13 years on the road honing his Hammond organ and piano skills with various bands.
Andrews worked through the ‘80s in London and produced and played on many successful recordings before moving to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he became in demand as a live performer.
After years of session work, Andrews released his first solo piano CD, “In New Orleans,” just six months after Hurricane Katrina.
“When I first came to New Orleans in 1974, I rounded Lee Circle hoping to find a statue to one of my favorite singers, Lee Dorsey,” Andrews said. “After getting over that disappointment, I eventually found him welding Cadillacs.” The CD contains one of Dorsey’s lesser-known songs, along with other New Orleans standards from Chris Kenner and Ernie K-Doe. He includes a nod to the king of New Orleans jazz, Satchmo (Louis Armstrong). He also adds piano blues songs from Roosevelt Sykes and Jimmy Witherspoon.
Andrews has called Taos his home since October 2012.
“I can’t play every Saturday because of other things going on sometimes, so we don’t say I’ll be there all the time,” he explained.
He is fluid, funny and filled with respect for all the genres he might touch on in any given evening.
“I play kind of New Orleans-style jazz and blues and also all those tunes that I was associated with in the 1960s and 1970s,” Andrews said. “I also did production for a while, so I might play a song or two that I produced. And I also play songs I like. I’ve always been a song person, but I don’t play the usual ‘piano man’ stuff.”
Andrews said, “There are things that I like about a song, so then I’ll do it. I also have such a variety of songs I could play two or three shows and not play the same song twice.”
More often than not, he said, the songs he chooses to play on any given evening depend on the room and the people who are listening.
“I might start with one song and I can tell the people really liked it, which will lead to another song and the next and the next,” he explained. “Sometimes I’ll get no reaction at all, which will cause me to find a new direction to go in. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Andrews said, “It’s a beautiful room at Sabroso. The piano is lovely and the layout of the room is nice. People can sit and eat or sit and listen. Then, of course, when the weather gets nicer, I’ll bring a keyboard and will play outside on the patio.”
“I didn’t play solo piano for many years. I steer away from the cocktail piano man sort of thing. I’m not going to do those songs you might expect. I’ve stayed away from it. I’ve been very lucky in that I get to play what I want to play rather than what I need to play. I feel very lucky to be there,” Andrews said.
“When you travel ‘round to the major cities and go to a piano bar, there are some songs you are going to hear in each one. I’ve tried not to do that,” he said. “When people do request things, I try to find something that answers what I think it is that caused the request. I can dig deeply into my music and find something for them.”
If you’re interested in spending the evening with the musical and loquacious Andrews, you’re liable to hear songs spanning decades of time and oceans of feelings, all distilled by a piano man who delivers the unexpected.