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Finding a beat Dave Constantino gets new lease on life with debut solo effort

A couple years ago, Dave Constantino -- known by rock fans in Buffalo and around the world as a guitarist with Talas and later the Tweeds, Shy Boy and Willie and the Reinhardts -- was "in a bit of a funk, wondering what to do next."

"There was a real period of limbo there, where I was working, but not quite enough," said Constantino. "There was still a lot of music left to make, but the avenue seemed a little bit unclear."

He credits longtime friend and musical collaborator Ted Reinhardt -- drummer extraordinaire with Gamalon and Willie and the Reinhardts -- as the inspiration behind the forming of what the guitarist now calls "the greatest musical situation I've ever been in."

Constantino queried Reinhardt concerning his midlife plight. The drummer responded with a question that turned out to be the impetus for a new stage in Constantino's career: "Why don't you make your own album with your own group?"

Thus, the Dave Constantino Band was born, with drummer Ted Reinhardt and bassist Tom Reinhardt enlisted as the rhythm section. Suddenly, the guitarist was spitting out new songs left and right, and the album that would eventually be called "Bump in the Road" began to take shape.

On Saturday evening, Constantino will celebrate the release of "Bump in the Road," and a new chapter in his musical life, with a release party at Club Infinity, 8166 Main St.

Though Constantino originally gained notice for his wall-of-guitar, hard-rock approach as one-third of Talas, his playing stood out during the late '70s and early '80s "more is more" craze as both tasteful and eminently melodic.

It's fitting that, with the Dave Constantino Band, he's returned to the blues, for that soulful approach has always informed his work, whether he was letting it rip alongside bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Paul Varga in Talas, or more subtly flanking Willie Haddath in Willie and the Reinhardts.

"The blues has always been the core of rock, for me," Constantino says. "All the players who influenced me when I started out and still influence me today -- Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Robin Trower, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ritchie Blackmore -- had healthy doses of blues phrasing in their work. So when it came time for me to do my own thing, I just naturally gravitated toward the blues."

Constantino is far from a purist, however. His blues, as given ample evidence by "Bump in the Road," is visceral and vibrant, clearly a rock-blues hybrid rather than some straight rehashing of standard 12-bar forms.

When Constantino and the Reinhardts perform the "Bump in the Road" material in concert on Saturday evening, they'll welcome a feast of friends for the ride. Johnny Angel, who, ironically, took Constantino's place in Talas and performed on the now-classic "Live Speed on Ice" album, will open the evening's festivities with his own set.

A certain internationally-renowned bassist will also be in attendance to pay respects to his old friend and former bandmate. Billy Sheehan will make the trip back home to Buffalo for Saturday's show to perform with Constantino. The guitarist promises "a few surprises," though a reprise of Talas hits is less than likely.

The whole affair has the air of a homecoming.

"Absolutely," says Constantino. "Johnny [Angel] is actually my cousin, and a fantastic musician. And Billy -- well, Billy's a brother to me, someone I have nothing but respect for. He's been incredibly supportive toward me and encouraged me to do my own thing. And obviously, his musicianship is superb."

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The Dave Constantino Band with guests Billy Sheehan and Johnny Angel will celebrate the release of "Bump in the Road" at Club Infinity, 8166 Main St. in Williamsville, on Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. For more information, visit www.daveconstantino.com or call 565-0110.

e-mail: jmiers@buffnews.com

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