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Danceable and down to earth

Medford's Frankie Hernandez Band is a local live favorite, and for anyone whose heard even a few seconds of the group's sound, it's not hard to understand why. The band serves up a unique musical dish that includes key ingredients from Latin, reggae, funk and rock. With a new record in the works and a summer filled with show plans, The Frankie Hernandez Band is quickly making a name for itself as one of the best bands in the Rogue Valley.

The Frankie Hernandez Band will perform at 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 9-10, at Habañeros, 142 N. Front St., Medford.

Hernandez' band, which also features Chad Sweely on bass, Matthew Wells on drums and its newest addition Andy Casad on guitar, evolved out of a weekly jam session led by Hernandez.

"I had a gig every Wednesday at the Osprey that was supposed to be a sort of open jam. The band was borne out of those Wednesdays. By the time the gig had run its course, we had our band," he says.

Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Hernandez realized his passion for music in the second grade, when he heard Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" performed on a class field trip.

"I couldn't believe that something could be so beautiful. That's when I fell in love with music," he recalls.

By the time he graduated high school, Hernandez' talent as a trumpet player had earned him acceptance into some of the country's most prestigious music schools, including Oberlin, Eastman and Juliard. However, a prospect more exciting to Hernandez lay in his own backyard.

"I really wanted to study with Raymond Crisara (Italian immigrant trumpet player famous for his work on the Godfather soundtracks). He was at the University of Texas, so I stayed in Austin."

Before finishing his degree, Hernandez left school to focus on performance and songwriting.

"I wanted to write songs. My band was the house band at the White Rabbit in Austin. I also worked in a commercial house for a while in Los Angeles, laying tracks and writing songs. Eventually I came to Southern Oregon because my daughter was up here. It was the best spiritual and artistic move of my life," he says.

The transition from big city hotspots to the small-town atmosphere of the Rogue Valley was not as difficult for Hernandez as one might assume. He says that although the scene differs greatly in size and environment, the caliber of musicianship in Medford has yet to disappoint him.

"For a community that's so small, there's so much talent here," he says. "It never fails to amaze me. Having toured most of my life, I have a lot of friends on the West Coast circuit. We've had the chance to play with some of them, and they can't believe how good the musicians from the valley are."

Hernandez breaks the mold of the stereotypical front man. A self-proclaimed victim of "musical attention deficit disorder," Hernandez moves frequently and comfortably from one instrument to another.

"I have a drum mounted right next to me, my horn is always ready to go right at my hands, and I spend most of the show singing and playing rhythm guitar," he says.

The FHB describes its sound as "Southern Oregon roots music," a term for the amalgamation of the various influences and musical inspirations of its members. According to Hernandez, the band's new record will reflect the wide scope of its musical capabilities.

"Our last record focused mainly on our reggae influence. This one will involve more of our world influences, and have more of a rock edge to it. It will be fun, danceable, and down to earth "¦ all the things that this band is about."

Cover for the show at Habañeros is free. Call 779-9770.

The Frankie Hernandez Band formed out of a weekly open jam at a local bar. - Photo by Josh Morrell