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Menlo Park Renaissance: Tribal Blues Band

Power blues band brings Hanukkah cheer to the British Bankers Club.

Drinks, dancing, smiles, laughs and love songs were all part of the holiday season celebration that took place at the b in Menlo Park last night as the Tribal Blues Band performed their spirited brand of live music.

The eight piece band consists of a drummer, keys player, guitarist, bassist, a three piece horn section, and lead singer Raya Zion, who is the female face to the Tribal Blues Band. 

Zion said the Peninsula-based band plays what she calls "funkafied blues," which would be an apt description of the way they put their own twist on songs like Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious," or "Hold On, I'm Coming," by Sam & Dave. 

Last night the band showed its respect to the Jewish heritage of some of its members as they took the time to celebrate the second night of Hanukkah.

"We wanted to make it a holiday show," said Zion, of last night's performance. "It gave us a chance to give back to the community."

Cantor Doron Shapira, who sat in with the band last night to play percussion, lit a second candle on a menorah during the show's intermission.

"This is a great time," said Shapira. "I love getting to play with the band, as well as getting to celebrate Hanukkah."

Zion and the band furthered the holiday celebration by performing their own version of The Knack's "My Sharona," as they transformed it into "My Menorah."

The nearly 50 patrons at showed their enjoyment of the spirited performance as they danced, laughed, hooted, hollered, cheered and chanted for an encore toward the end of the show.

"It's good to be here," said Daniel Bilsky, who came from San Jose to enjoy the performance and share some dances with his partner. "It's a strong performance. I'm glad they're celebrating Hanukkah."

The band's strength lies in it's horn section, which produces a powerful sound. Their interpretations of songs feature extended solos to give an opportunity for the brass ensemble to show off its strength.

Zion's golden pipes play a perfect compliment to the band, as her soulful voice soars delicately over the uptempo instrumentation.

She said the band is frequently compared to Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, or the Bay Area-based band Lydia Pense and Cold Blood, due in large part to the similarities of a woman fronting a large funky group.

Zion doesn't necessarily oppose those comparisons, in part because of who her childhood idol was.

"I wanted to be Tina Turner when I was growing up," she said. "But I just haven't got there yet."

But Zion said her inspiration to perform is not driven by goals of achieving fame and fortune, but rather a more soulful and holistic approach, one that fit well with last night's holiday theme.

"To me, music is healing and elevating," she said. "And that occurs when everyone comes out here and becomes one."

And though it was a Jewish holiday the band celebrated last night, Zion said the they strive to please all.

"We do it for the people, we're all one tribe," she said.

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