Dorado : Golden.
Dorado is a groove-based rock band from Portland, Oregon comprised of Sky Cooper (guitar, vocals), Johnny G (bass), Steve Ellingson (keys), and Terry Cason (drums).
According to founder Sky Cooper, the creation of the band was a slow evolution. “I’ve had the project going for 5 years.,” he said. “It’s only since this lineup has solidified that the real nature of the beast has manifested itself as a kind of an Hip-Hop flavored rhythm section with a rock frosting.”
From its early days with New York session drummer Joe Trump and Minneapolis bass player Keith Watson, Dorado has been taking its lifeblood from the rhythm section.
“I admire good pop songs, and hooks and all that, but if I can’t move to it, it’s not totally grabbing me,” said Cooper. “The reverse can be said about the jam band circuit; there are a lot of killer musicians out there that I admire, taking solos for 20 minutes on solid grooves, but there isn’t any compelling lyric or structure to bring it together.”
Cooper is an Australian ex-patriot who studied with music legend Yusef Lateef at Elliott Smith’s alma mater, Hampshire College. He then spent three years traveling between continents, couch surfing at friend’s places. This long stint of homelessness sated some of Sky’s wanderlust, but starting a working band remained elusive.
Just before 9/11 he was in northern Queensland [Australia] playing bluegrass covers at an outback pub with an 80-year-old bass player and getting heckled by the crowd for his American accent. “Things weren’t going exactly to plan, Actually the truth was I hadn’t conceived a particularly good plan anyway. I had just fallen off the map all together,” he said.
So Cooper returned to San Francisco in 2002 and recorded an acoustic EP follow-up to his 2000 solo effort “Wednesday,” called “Coffeehouse.” Then a short skip to Portland, Oregon spun the wheels that grew into Dorado.
After four years of lineup changes, the group solidified. Steve Ellingson was the first current member to join Dorado. A talented keyboard player who moonlighted with numerous groups, he was brought in for a gig in 2005. With no chance to rehearse beforehand, it was a “seat of the pants” night.
“I got a CD in the mail from Sky and showed up to the gig with an arsenal of keyboards to play in front of four people,” said Ellingson. His sound quickly jelled and his Moog lines soon became a fixture of Dorado’s sound.
Johnny G was a bass player in search of a band. Raised in Miami Florida, and playing in groups his whole life, he had moved to Oregon in 2004. After a few auditions, he had decided maybe Portland’s alternative rock-laden scene didn’t have the funky group he was after. Then in 2006 a friend suggested he check out a local funk group called Dorado.
“I had just let our last bass player go, and was feeling pretty burnt out on the whole band thing. Out of nowhere I got a myspace message from a bass player that had tried out 6 months previous saying if we still needed someone his friend from Florida was the perfect guy. He was right,” said Cooper.
The first few shows went well, but original drummer Joe Trump was taking on tours in Japan and Europe with a fusion band and couldn’t spare the extra time for Dorado rehearsals. Sky remembers, “a guy contacted Joe through the Dorado website and offered him well paid overseas gigs. How can you refuse that? We just had to find someone with his chops, which amazingly, we did.”
Next in line was the young drum phenomenon Chris Foster. Son of virtuoso B3 organist Ronnie Foster (Stevie Wonder, George Benson), Chris grew up in a music-rich environment and had his first tour at age 14. Foster’s touring track record was solid and he was making good money as a sideman, but was finding himself frustrated with the lack of creative input. Chris left his steady gig in Vegas and took a leap of faith, returning to Portland in search of something he could add his own voice to.
“Dorado finally gave me a forum to speak my mind, and not have to play just for a pay check,” says Foster.
After a year of touring and recording rhythm tracks for Dorado’s 2nd album “Say What You Mean” Chris parted ways with the group to work on other projects.
Filling the drummer’s seat on the road has come to Terry Cason, one of Portland’s premier, in-demand session drummers.
“Working with Chris was a fantastic experience, and I think it lead to a really great album. We all hope to cross paths with him in the future.” Sky says. “Our big challenge was to find a drummer with Chris’ chops and who could also sing his harmonies.”
“Terry is one of those rare individuals that is all at once a musicians musician because of his pocket and chops, and a humble guy with a great work ethic- and he sings! We couldn’t believe it! We are all really excited to have him in the group.”
With plenty of shows booked Dorado is finally starting to find its stride in the live arena with tight, dynamic shows. According to Johnny G, “What I love about this band is the chemistry live. We can read off each other and anticipate changes. ” Ellingson adds, “For us, playing live is why we do it in the first place.”
Fall 2009 will see the second full length release on Portland co-op label Backline Records.
Sky says; “When Backline wanted to sign us a year ago we were a bit skeptical because there are so many indie labels around. After interacting with them for about 5 months and seeing what they were all about I saw that they were the perfect place for us to grow.”
The head of Backline Records Patrick Brewer says of Dorado, “those guys were out there working all the time, which is what we’re all about. And we thought the material was strikingly original”.
Portland engineer/musician and owner of 8 Ball studios Rob Stroup worked on Dorado’s 2007 debut and on their new release “Say What You Mean”. He says of the band, “Dorado combines musical sophistication with funky badass grooves and raw talent. I hear everything from Steely Dan to Beck to funk bands from the 70's like Tower of Power. Then take a smooth breathy vocal delivery and clever melodic choices to add over the top. It is really groovy stuff and the level of musicianship frankly puts your average shoe-gazer-four-chord band to shame."
That musical breath of fresh air helped “Dorado Sound” get played on 74 college stations throughout the nation. In September 2007, Budweiser selected them to be their “Premier Band.”
According to Cooper, the experience helped them realize what their priorities are. “The corporate acknowledgement was great but really didn’t do much. They buried us on their website somewhere. It’s really easy to get this Cinderella complex musicians develop with the internet- like some fairy godmother corporation or record label is going to come along and take care of all the foot work involved in being a working band. Ultimately it’s more important for us to play a strong show and leave some smiling faces. Music has to be more than a catchy jingle. It has to live in the real world and bring good energy. I hope that this new record will do just that”