Guitarist Jim “Kimo” West and bassist Stephen Jay have known each other since their early playing days in Florida. When Jay made the move to California in the early ‘70s, West made the move himself, six months later. They’ve played in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s backing band since his genesis in 1982, and last month, their newest solo releases hit shelves on the same day.
Wherever they’ve ended up over the years, the duo has seemed to be consistently parallel in their endeavors.
So, after more than 40 years of friendship, it’s only appropriate that West and Jay are embarking on a journey of their own, and they’re opening the portal at Cambridge’s Club Passim on Sunday (March 4), with a late-night billing for an installment of their aptly-named Parallel Universe Tour. Their show in Harvard Square comes after “Weird Al’s” own pair of sold-out gigs at The Wilbur Theatre.
West, who has immersed himself into the Hawaiian island stylings of slack key guitar, and Jay, who has primarily stayed stationed in the funk groove over the course of his own solo career, have done shows like this before. But it wasn’t the premise for a fuller tour until Jay Levey, Yankovic’s longtime manager, pitched them the idea to embark on a broader trek that would coincide with the upcoming “Weird” Al tour. Naturally, it was a no-brainer for them to agree to do it, as their history playing alongside each other stretches far beyond the musical confines of their 36-year partnership in the parody mastermind’s backing band.
“We played in a few bands while in Florida, but we sort of diverged and created our own little parallel universes there,” West recently tells Vanyaland. “With me doing my slack key thing, and Steve doing his thing for a very long time, they’re both very different from each other, but still both fairly eclectic and non-mainstream.”
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“When you’re ancient musical bros like we are, magical things happen when we play together,” Jay adds. “When you play with someone that long, you develop a sort of sixth sense about it, and that’s what Jim and I have going for us.”
From Florida and California, to Hawaii and West Africa, West and Jay have fused their influences of their globe-spanning surroundings into their music for years, and with those influences and flavors present throughout their newest releases -- West’s Moku Maluhia: Peaceful Island and Jay’s So Do I Sadie -- the duo is excited to see how the latest collection of their own material will fare in front of a live audience.
“We’re going to each be playing some our own tunes during our mini sets, but we’ll also be playing some of each other’s stuff, and also doing some cool jamming stuff, and that will be the really fun part,” says West. “We’re both looking forward to getting into some hybrid stuff that combines my acoustic opening tunings with his funk bass stuff, and that will be really cool to explore.”
With an extensive tour schedule ahead of them with Yankovic over the next few months, the loyal Florida compadres are expecting a bit of a physical challenge with their own shows now in the mix -- but it does help them knowing that they have the full support of their Accordion-wielding friend.
“Al has always given his blessing to anything we do, and has always helped us in any way he can,” said Jay. “He’s always been extremely supportive in everything we’ve done, so he’s thrilled for us that we’re able to do these shows.”
THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE TOUR WITH STEPHEN JAY & JIM 'KIMO' WEST :: Sunday, March 4 at Club Passim, 47 Palmer St. in Cambridge, MA :: 10:30 p.m., $25, all ages :: Club Passim event page :: Advance tickets :: Featured image via Passim