When Paul Cebar first started making music more than three decades ago, he took his cues from dance bands in New Orleans and Memphis.
“I learned to play the R&B music that was rooted in those cities and even from places like Detroit and Chicago,” Cebar said from his home in Wisconsin. “I studied all of that and ‘found myself’ in that traditional music. Then I decided to try writing for myself. We play a pretty varied repertoire of things we’ve written. It has a Latin influence and a Louisiana influence.”
Now Cebar and his band Tomorrow Sound are bringing those influences to Fort Wayne. They’ll play as part of the Botanical Roots Concert Series at the Botanical Conservatory on Friday, August 17. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and will take place rain or shine. Tickets are $6 for ages 13 and older. Kids 12 and under get in free.
“We’ve enjoyed playing there before,” recalled Cebar. “I love the feeling of being outside in the lovely garden spot and seeing the neon in the distance. I liked the neighborhood around there. Being from Milwaukee, there’s a similar sense of reinvigoration of different parts of town. It’s nice to see people investing in it in a different way than they used to. It’s nice to be a part of that.”
Cebar is joined by keyboard player Bob Jennings, drummer Reggie Bordeaux, percussionist Mac Perkins, and bassist Mike Frederickson. Their most recent album, Fine Rude Thing, was released in 2014 following Cebar’s solo acoustic album, One Little Light On, in 2009.
Prior to forming Tomorrow Sound, Cebar first emerged on the coffeehouse folk scene in the mid-’70s and was part of the groups R&B Cadets and The Milwaukeeans in the ’80s and ’90s.
“I really love playing music and love writing it and love working with people who want to do it with me,” Cebar said. “I’m of the mind that the best thing I could be doing is be out there.”
He’s out there as much as possible, traveling all around the country to perform in front of a wide variety of audiences. He and Tomorrow Sound played in Florida in February, recently returned from Iowa and Minnesota, and will head to Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in September.
“We’re not quite as busy as five to ten years back,” Cebar said. “I don’t get tired of it. I guess I haven’t been on the road for consistent periods for long enough. I’m not spending months in a tour bus. We do short forays and then come back home. I don’t plan on slowing down. At least I’m hoping not to.”
Most of their music is original, but they’ll occasionally throw in a cover of something that has meaning to them. Most recently it was a tribute to Chris Smither and his song about a vegetable farmer called “No Love Today.”
“I also get inspiration from other older musicians like Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal,” Cebar explained. “I’ve become friendly with a few of them and they’re a great source of joy. And they’re kind of a template for how I want to continue. I want to keep myself vital and keep growing in different directions.”
His show at the Botanical Conservatory will feature what he describes an “unassuming cornucopia of sounds.”
“It’s a bit hard to describe,” he continued. “We take our inspiration from bands like NRBQ. We’ve opened for Bonnie Raitt many times and have gotten to know her. I guess our music could be considered Americana, but we’re rooted in R&B with a Latin tinge. People who come see our show will enjoy some wordplay and amusing language.”
Cebar does have a way with words. When asked to sum up his much-anticipated performance in Fort Wayne, he colorfully described it as a “kinetic and invitingly melodic evening.”
He hopes his music encourages the audience to get up and move.
“It has a very lively danceable beat. At the best of our shows, the people get up and dance. Those are our favorite gigs. Music that inspires them to get up and go.”
On the other hand, “Or they can just sit and listen. The whole idea is to invite people to, more than anything else, be happy. We want our music to release endorphins and cheer them up. And if they come already cheerful, we can help buoy their mood even more.”