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I discovered the depth of composer and multi-instrumentalist Vince Meghrouni when I heard him last year with the Rubber Snake Charmers, a side project involving him and Mario Lalli (Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson).

But it wasn’t until I heard him performing with Fatso Jetson that I realized what an absolutely incredible musician he is. His sexy sax lines and ultra-vibey harmonica solos brought new depth and layers of dimension to music I had experienced many times before.

Meghrouni’s name recently came up was when I was prodding drummer-percussionist Rob Peterson (Sort of Quartet, The Pedestrians) about his next musical project. I have been a huge fan of Rob since his early days with Groovalopocus, and I would follow The Pedestrians to the ends of the Earth! Rob filled me in that he had just signed on with The Atomic Sherpas … a Vince Meghrouni-led project.

I immediately looked into the matter—and learned that Vince is a complete and utter musical badass.

His strength as a songwriter benefits from his experience in many projects over the years (including Axis, The Firemen, El Grupo Sexo and Bazooka; current projects include Fatso Jetson, jazz-band the DownBeats, prog-punk band HellBat!, and free-improv group Brainchildren of Xenog). His sax work is purposeful; he has a uniquely relevant approach to the harmonica and flute; and his earthy, raspy vocals are unforgettable … as are his lyrics and song ideas.

Listening to The Atomic Sherpas is like taking a sonic ride in a first rate amusement park! There’s a horn-player clad in white; a keyboard-player in a Melvins-style wig; beautiful suits; and impeccable musicianship that entices debauchery to break out within the first song. “Funky freak-out deep-fried blue bebop rock” is the band’s self acclaimed genre. Call it what you want, but Vince and the boys take audiences far beyond the perimeters of jazz, rock, funk or fusion to a place where everything is crazy and beautiful. They take jazz, put it to a groove, and rock your freakin’ socks off!

This sextet has a stellar lineup of acclaimed and accomplished musicians: Carlos Alvidrez on trombone and percussion; Michael Alvidrez on bass; Anthony Cossa on guitar; Marc Doten on keyboards; Meghrouni on sax, flute, harp and vocals; and the desert’s own Rob Peterson on drums, the newest member.

“Rob’s virtuosity does not take a backseat to groove, inventiveness, balls-out rocking, deep-in-the-pocket funkiness or grease,” Meghrouni said about his new drummer. “I have loved every single member of this band, (and have) loved every incarnation. … But Rob has gelled this thing into the greatest gestalt yet, and I think Anthony (bassist) had a lot to do with that, too. The playing is stellar, but you can’t undervalue the enthusiasm and spirit, either.”

The band has two full-length records under its belt (Blowin’ It at Ya and Lit Up), with a new one in the can. My favorite Atomic Sherpas record to date is the newest recording—awaiting final mixing and pressing. I was fortunate to befriend Vince and was entrusted with a copy I will never, ever part with. It’s burn-a-bowl, pour-yourself-a-glass-of-wine, dance-around-in-your-underwear fun! The banter in between songs employs skit-style commentary; the music moves and grooves in a dozen different directions. One song explores the notion of guitarist John Scofield discovering that his recent love participates in a coven; the only lyric is: “Sco’s chick’s a Wiccan.” Then there is a “horny” War Pigs cover that is just over-the-top fun.

The Atomic Sherpaswill be playing in the high desert at assemblage artist Bobby Furst’s private venue, the Furst Wurld Theatre, on Sunday, Aug. 31, along with the Inner Planetary Monks, featuring guitar alchemist Bobby Nichols (full disclosure: he’s my honey), jazz/rock drum-wizard Nathaniel Scott, and the legendary jam-band bassist Bob Gross. This is a must-see event, and I hope all my desert friends will join me in welcoming this Los Angeles-based band with open arms. Seeing any show at Furst Wurld is like taking a page out of a rock ’n’ roll fairy tale; this show may be like taking an entire chapter!

There is a suggested donation of at least $10. Get more information at the Facebook events page.

Learn more about The Atomic Sherpas at www.reverbnation.com/theatomicsherpas. To read an expanded version of this article, visit Desert Rock Chronicles at rminjtree.blogspot.com. Below: The Atomic Sherpas’ Vince Meghrouni. Photo by Andy Garza.

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