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SAVVY DE AZEVEDO SHOWS WHY HE'S AT FOREFRONT OF `TECHNO-POP'

LEX de AZEVEDO, in concert at Studio 1, Sept. 25-26.

"There's an arms race in music today," Lex de Azevedo told a sell-out crowd at his comfy, Studio 1 concert hall. And with that, the composer punched in a couple of "patches" on his $30,000 Yamaha grand piano and readied a nearby Macintosh computer for an upcoming selection.In the age of technology, the key to success is approach. Some musicians chose to showcase all the gadgets and gizmos - turning the toys into the stars. De Azevedo, however, opts to use the things to enhance and embellish the music - a savvy move that will likely keep his work in the forefront of "techno-pop"for some time.

Opening with the instrumental "Park City" - a tune fast becoming de Azevedo's signature piece - the composer and his five-man band quickly ticked off several selections from the recent compact disc "Mountains." Fans heard "Meadow," "Jackson Hole" and "Bahia" - with Ray Smith doing some soulful solos on a variety of woodwinds. Sorry, the de Azevedo sound does not feature brass or strings. What it does feature is a pair of percussionists who turn drums and other rhythm tools into lyrical instruments, while the pianist - De Azevedo - turns the piano into a percussion instrument by grabbing handfuls of suspended chords. (You can spot a de Azevedo composition from bar one; it sounds like choppy waves on the deep, blue sea.)

The Saturday show not only served as part of a debut for the Studio 1 facility, but it worked as a literal "tune-up" for the group before they head to Santa Catalina and a major jazz festival. Hence the smoky rendition of "Funny Valentine" and the local premier of a couple of new "cool jazz" numbers.

After a couple of moody nostalgia numbers, de Azevedo brought the show home with some vocal work on driving R & B versions of "Amazing Grace" and (get this), "Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?"

Telling the audience he was horrified to learn his wife has been seduced by country music, the pianist offered her a peace treaty - a funky little composition called "Moab" - a piece that actually had more Indian than cowboy to it. (Sorry, "Tex de Azevedo" the man ain't).

After a rousing ovation the group returned to encore "Black Diamond" from "Mountains."

In the end, the intimacy of the hall, the easy and often sentimental asides from the stage and a sound system that could make deaf beagles hear their master's voice, all combined for a pleasant evening of pleasant music amid a lot of pleasant folks. De Azevedo knows his music, and he knows his audience. And that alone is beginning to make "Studio 1" look like a move of marketing genius.