Like a fine wine, Jeff Kloetzel just gets better with age. After playing with musicians in Hawaii for more than 20 years, he's got just the right mix of covers and original tunes to satisfy Southern Oregon listeners.
A fan of wine himself, it wasn't a stretch for Kloetzel to work on getting gigs while out visiting his favorite local wineries. His low-key, folksy sound is perfect for the boutique wineries peppered all over the Rogue Valley.
"I'm kind of an (Herb) Quady fan, so I pop out to Quady's when they do the food and wine pairings for free on some Fridays," said Kloetzel. "I met Matthew Domingo from Farm to Fork there, so I offered to play music for his event."
Playing in a 200-acre pasture while about 150 dinner guests listened during his recent performance for a Farm to Fork dinner was a highlight of the summer, Kloetzel says. But since he's relatively new to the area, he's hungry for similar opportunities to play.
Tonight Kloetzel will play from 5 to 7 p.m. at the South Stage Cellars tasting room, 125 S. Third St., Jacksonville, as part of its Wine and Dine dinner series.
"To me, adding atmosphere to a wine-tasting room is important, and it really helps the wine-tasting experience," says Kloetzel. "If you're having a great experience with the people, the energy, the space and the soundtrack, then the wine is going to taste even better."
Kloetzel arrived in Ashland two years ago after a road trip that took him all over the United States. Originally from Hawaii, Kloetzel has had a long career as a musician, alternating between playing solo, fronting his own band and playing as a sideman for many successful acts. He played with ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, as well as John Cruz, Johnny Helm and Bruce Shimabukuro, touring all over the U.S. and even Japan.
"It's a great musical education because you have to just roll with the punches," says Kloetzel. "You kind of learn how to fit in with people better, rather than just trying to be the whole show yourself, and that's a good skill — I've gotten a lot of calls to work with other people because of that."
Inspired by musicians such as Kenny Loggins and James Taylor, Kloetzel's sound is definitely folk with a hint of that laid-back island vibe he brings from Hawaii. For the Tidings Café, Kloetzel played an original called "Clear Morning Light" next to Ashland Creek in Lithia Park.
Kloetzel went through his most prolific songwriting period from 1993 to 2003, producing an album of his work in 1998. Now he draws from that body of work in addition to covers and some of his favorite tunes from friends.
Shortly after moving to Ashland, he arranged to play at Enoteca and Tease, and has been hooked into the Ashland music scene ever since.
"I like being in a smaller market like this after coming from Honolulu. I love being near orchards, and vineyards and mountains," Kloetzel says. "I like being closer to something more wild."
Mandy Valencia is a reporter with the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4486 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.