As a Deadhead with an appreciation for the vast musical influences that the members of the Grateful Dead have drawn from over their storied careers, I would like to think I am as musically open minded as it gets. Yet time and time again I find myself reaching for an old show, or my beat-up vinyl copy of American Beauty, over another artist’s album. They say awareness is the first step to combatting a problem, and I am oh so aware of my inclination to stick to what I know – which makes the ever-expanding Grateful Dead family of artists, in the years since Jerry Garcia passed, such a helpful phenomenon. Over the years, I’ve become versed in the exceptional stylings of Jackie Greene as he’s traversed Deadosphere – and through his work with Phil Lesh, and others in the jam band world, Anders Osborne‘s impeccable reputation precedes himself. Yet while walking into The Space At Westbury this past Friday, my knowledge of these two talent’s original work was still limited.
So when heading through the doors of the recently and immaculately restored Tudor style auditorium, minimal expectations were had other than the hope for good tunes and a desire for a Grateful Dead cover or two. Those paltry expectations were immediately met, and immeasurably exceeded as soon as Anders & Jackie strapped in for what would be a euphonious ninety-minute acoustic escapade. Timing is everything, and while I missed the opening stanza by Cris Jacobs, it seemed as if they were waiting for my party’s arrival, as in only a moment after scurrying to our fifth-row seats, the houselights dimmed and the main event began. And in a fateful turn, Cris Jacobs joined Anders and Jackie on a few tunes, showcasing his commensurate skills on the acoustic guitar and conveying the very reason he was chosen as an opening act for this tour.
From the first notes strummed, it was readily apparent that the show’s billing as “sitting around, singing songs – an acoustic evening” did not mean it would be a mellow evening as these two musical troubadours emerged on stage with an air of vigor and vibrancy – and they hardly sat around, aside from a few turns Jackie took behind the keys. While Anders and Jackie shared the stage for a number of unplugged shows earlier this year, the chemistry exhibited between these two poetic players was palpable on an otherworldly level. An attendee remarked at show’s end that he has “heard both artists solo – nothing compares to the chemistry that they put forward together.” Kindred spirits bound through musical mastery, the camaraderie displayed onstage is seldom present even in players that have toured together for years, yet these two embodied that quality with ease.
Through their set, Anders and Jackie took turns taking lead on their own original tunes. From Anders’ laying his soul to bare on the contemplative “Burning Up Slowly,” or the heart tugging ballad “I Need You,” to the boys (including Cris Jacobs) trading licks on the feel-good anthem “Lafayette,” Anders’ tunes ran the gamut and evoked emotional responses from the audience all across the spectrum. And Jackie’s soulful songs did much the same – from the down to earth “I Don’t Live In A Dream,” to the folksy “Tupelo,” Jackie showcased his versatile skills, from impeccable songwriter, to full-throated vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist. His substantive take on the gospel of Blind Willie Johnson with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” transformed the venue to another time, another place, and left audience members to ponder their own personal plight towards the metaphorical fork in the road between salvation and damnation. In the end, we finally got our Grateful Dead tribute to boot. As Cris Jacobs traversed the stage once more, the trio busted out a raucous version of “New Speedway Boogie,” and mid-verse, in the midst of an audience singalong, Jackie proclaimed, “fuckin’ Deadheads everywhere!” Well ain’t that the truth.
As with the Grateful Dead, these two Princes of Americana channel the very best of the American musical landscape into their own special blend of awesomeness. With a respect towards tradition, and an aim towards innovation and originality, there’s nothing like catching these guys in the flesh. If Jackie is the soul of this ensemble, then Anders is the heartbeat, as each brought their singularly extraordinary talents into play, and manifested an unparalleled symbiotic scene. With jokes and quick witticisms in between songs, they materialized an atmosphere of lightheartedness and levity making for a night of seamless serenity and sonic sorcery. These songsmiths continue onwards with ‘Tourgether 2017’ and have several more dates on the horizon. Enjoy the below videos – yet they are only an amuse-bouche – you’ll have to catch the show for the main course.
“Does this white light make me look fat? Good I’ve been trying to gain a couple pounds!” – Anders Osborne
“Lafayette” – Anders Osborne (video by bklynwmn)
“I Don’t Live In A Dream” – Jackie Greene
“Nobody’s Fault But Mine” – Blind Willie Johnson Cover
L’shana Tovah Tikateyvu! Phish does what they do best, and played a silly awesome joke on us with the announcement of New Year’s Run 2017 on the eve of the Jewish new year. Rosh Hashanah and 5778 will start off with a bang thanks to Phish. As half the band falls squarely in the Jewish camp, the nuance of announcing the run on this date may fly over some Phans heads, but not this Hebrew fella here. While I never thought it possible, my love for this band just jumped up a notch. Was this a coincidence? Maybe. Was it a planned, yet subtle joke? Likely. These guys rock the gags almost as well as their instruments – And it looks like we might get that 2017 Avenu Malkenu after all!
While this was the worst kept secret in the Phishaverse since the very end of The Baker’s Dozen, it’s now official and feels oh so sweet. Seventeen shows in 2017 is happening – Even Billy Joel can’t compete with a record run like this. When Phish is all said and done, they will have played 56 shows at Madison Square Garden, since their debut at the World’s Most Famous Arena on December 30, 1994.
For the 2017 New Year’s extravaganza, we are graced with a perfect show weekend, as New Year’s Eve falls on a Sunday – And a Thursday to Sunday News Year’s Run falls in that magic sweet spot. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is the only word that comes to mind as thoughts turn towards New Year’s in every way imaginable. Into The Garden we go again for another Phish pageant of perfection!
Down to the details – The lottery pre-sale is already underway via Phish Tickets, and ends on Monday October 2, at 10 a.m. EST. Public on-sale for all the shows are scheduled for Friday October 6, at 12 p.m. EST. A limited number of 4-day passes are available. The rest of the brass tacks are available via the above link. Much luck to all on their quest for golden tickets!
Apples & honey, challah french toast, and Phish…ohhh myyyyy! Love and light to all of you in the New Year!
There are countless Grateful Dead cover bands across these great United States taking their own spin on the GD canon, yet when it comes to David Bryan & Friends, the phrase “cover band” is a dirty term. Surely, they play Grateful Dead songs, but replication is nary the objective. They are a Re-creation Band, taking these timeless tunes, and transforming them into their otherworldly own.
What JRAD is to a face melting, brain busting, interpretation of the Grateful Dead canon, David Bryan & Friends is the soothing soulful mellow opposing side of that same coin. Not to say you won’t get your groove on at a David Bryan show, for you no doubt will (bring your dancing shoes!). But painstaking attention to arrangement, and vocal virtuosity sets them widely apart from your dime a dozen GD tribute act.
Specifically, shining centerstage is the angelic voice of the troupe’s namesake. David’s vocals are soul shattering and will tug at your heartstrings as you join the band on their melodious migration through the Grateful Dead songbook. He is joined by a hand selected ensemble of impeccable vocalists (male & female) and distinguished musicians that are tried and true in their own right.
Kenny Brooks (Ratdog) on saxophone with David Bryan & Friends
One particular player of note is Kenny Brooks, longtime saxophonist of Bob Weir’s Ratdog. Another is the badass bassist Chris Crosby (Danke Baby), and as brother of The Terrapin Family Band keyman, Jason Crosby, all things Grateful Dead runs through this guy’s veins. It’s truly a GD family affair in this ensemble. Long Island’s own guitar virtuoso, Steve Urban (Fields Of Dreams), is also in company, adding his own special style to the mix. And as a super special fill-in, Bill Bonacci (Stella Blue’s Band) will be shredding the strings on lead guitar. Dave was not fooling around when putting together this crew, and attendance at his upcoming American Beauty NYC shindig is essentially mandatory for any self-respecting Deadhead, or true-blue music lover.
In only a few short days, you too can experience the musical mysticism of a live David Bryan & Friends show. They will lay it all out on the stage at American Beauty on this Thursday, September 7th (Doors @ 8pm). If you find yourself within a 50-mile radius of the New York Metropolitan Area, you’d frankly be a fool not to check these masters of melody out. I can guarantee with wholehearted confidence that this will merely be your first foray into David’s world, as his alluring illuminations of Grateful Dead song will leave your soul screaming for more.
You will find the venue itself to be enticing in its own right, beguiling to jam band minded folks with its acoustics and aesthetics. A plethora of craft beer is on tap to boot, appealing to every personal penchant under the sun. Yet if insanity is abounding, and the music nor brews are doing it for you, all the free pizza your tummy could desire is on hand too. Thursday night’s scene provides something for everyone, and at the reasonable fifteen-dollar price of entry (comparable to a pack of smokes in Manhattan), you’re “bound to cover just a little more ground,” and get your monies worth and then some.
This band is a jewel in the rough, a diamond yet to be mined. For the few in the know, they keep coming back for more, yet now it’s your time to get in on this right stuff. Head to American Beauty on Thursday, and share in the groove with David Bryan & Friends. As I personally vouch for the versatile virtue of this crew of exemplary players, feel free to track me down and rough me up if I’ve mislead you in anyway.
PS- Please listen to one or all of these videos below (lineups vary), and you will see what I’m talking about…when you’re done, click on the Facebook event link below, RSVP, and find all the pertinent details…
The majestic moment of magnificent bliss we’ve all been waiting for, the bombastic blockbuster of the summer, highly anticipated by Phans across the planet, is finally upon us. TODAY! In a short few hours, the epic 13-day residency by Phish at Madison Square Garden will commence. If the five show dress rehearsal that took place in Chicago, Dayton, and Pittsburgh, is any guide, we are in for an epic treat come Friday evening. All speculation points towards the Baker’s Dozen finding a high regarded place in Phishtory. The unique residential nature of the run at an indoor venue in the summertime has already been the talk of the town for quite some time. Since night one of Northerly Island, we’ve been collectively drooling over CK5’s massively mobile lighting rig. And if the boys deliver, which they certainly will on many, if not all nights of the run, we’re in for a spectacular exhibition in musical madness and psychedelic sorcery.
While the saying, “we are everywhere,” remains potently true in most corners of the planet, the phrase will take on new form over the next two weeks, as Phans from all throughout the world, of all shapes, sizes, colors, and creeds, will flock to the Big Apple in joyous delight. As each night’s Phishy extravaganza will only take up a fraction of our day, we’ll have lots of time to explore what the greatest city on Earth has to offer. Phans will be in coffee shops, pizza places, movie theatres, yoga studios, parks, museums, bars, hotels, massage parlors, restaurants, on the tops of skyscrapers (because they are grand after all), etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Even an avid Phish Head chiropractor is offering special rates on adjustments for Phans in need all throughout the Dozen. As we traverse the city formerly known as New Amsterdam, wave that phreak flag wide and high. Let us know who you are, and if you’re not a #TarpNazi, chances are we’ll get along famously. New phriendships will manifest, new relationships formed. Maybe you’ll meet the future love of your life?! With the greatest spectacle known to mankind laying down roots in the finest city on this side of the Milky Way, anything is possible. In this time of the season, the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, Phish and New York City will throw down like never before.
There will be countless Phish-related events to check out, from pre-show booze cruises (see you at DeadPhishOrchestra!), to post-show late night euphonious extravaganzas. There will be kid oriented Phish cover bands playing (you don’t really need to hide your kids, or wives for that matter! The more the merrier!!!), and Phish-themed spin classes are very much a thing too! Where better to detox fresh for next night’s rowdy rager?! American Beauty, a bar and music venue down the block from MSG will be holding an inside shakedown of sorts, where you can find those goodies, from food, crafts, and beyond, that you’d normally seek out in summertime lots. Long story short, there’s something for everyone out there, even the most phinicky Phan can take pleasure.
When they say they circus is coming to town, they weren’t shitting you. The everyday earthlings might confront confusion when crossing through our scene outside MSG and beyond, but by and large our kind community will treat those bystanders with love and affection, and maybe even encourage a few to let loose and get down. This ain’t no fucking Barnum & Bailey. No animals were harmed in the making of this extravaganza! Maybe some braincells were lost, but the sacrifice is minute, paralleled with the payoff. We are a beautiful people! Except the Tarpers of course, who should leave their giant plastic sheets in their hotel rooms. Feel free to tarp your hotel bed, or build a sweet fort while you’re at it, but keep those synthetic monstrosities far away from the floor at MSG. Phans barely tolerate you as is, and I highly doubt MSG staff will be sympathetic to your cause to lock down a 30 by 30 space for you and your fifteen closest imaginary friends. You’ve taken much heat over the last week, Tarpers, but you really deserved it all. Yet you are Phans, which implies you might just be intelligent. Please take a clue and leave your pool covers and rolls of duct tape at home. Remember: “the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” Don’t be douchebags. It’s a simple request.
So in the end, I wrote this little piece in haste because I felt the need to put something on paper before we ascend into our psychedelic Phish-hole. Usually I take an inordinate amount of time to edit and proofread the drivel I publish, because it has my name on it, and I tend to be a maniacal about things I hold near and dear. Perhaps I’ve said nothing new here, or maybe you picked up a gem of inspiration that’ll be useful for your jovial journey into the imminent metropolitan musical mayhem. If you’re interested in any of the countless Phish-themed events taking place over the next weeks, please hit google to find out the details, or better yet, Facebook (I’d link you myself, but I’m too busy getting ready for the Dozen!).To say I’m psyched for this 13 show rodeo to commence, is the understatement of the millennium. This will be the highlight of my summer, as I’m sure is the case for many. While some of us will find ourselves with enough wind at our backs to scarf down all 13 shows, others will take what we can get and make the most of our experience. Cashing in on the goodness of our circumstance is always the aim. So as you traverse these great United States on your voyage to the city that never sleeps, please drive safe and take it slow. Once you’re here, I pray you rage to your heart’s desire, but please rage responsibly. Look out for yourselves. Hydration, hydration, hydration! And pay mind to your neighbors whether you personally know them or not. Let’s take mind of each other and be the big happy phamily we’re meant to be. If you perceive something as wrong, please speak up. If you think a phan is in trouble, please ask them if they’re alright. The worst that might happen is a silly misunderstanding. The best result could be one’s rescue from undesirable elements, and saving a stranger from years of trauma. Common sense pholks…it goes a super long way. We have the ability to police ourselves when need be, by merely speaking up. Posting a picture of a perceived wrong to Facebook will not solve the problem. Open your minds and hearts to your neighbors, and use your words people, not your smartphone cameras. Positivity will reign freely if we just let common sense be our guide. We don’t need no stinking badges! We can police ourselves with minimal intrusion, and for the rest of the time: live and let live! Peace, love, and Phish. Our trip is short…see you soon 🙂
Since the early days of movie projection, prior to the advent of “Talkies,” music has been irrevocably fused with film. Some soundtracks have served to move us more brightly than others, as is the case with the James Bond franchise, and its accompanying music that has spanned six decades and counting. With such a bountiful collection of themes and title tracks, it only took a little inspiration to send self-described James Bond junkie and bassist extraordinaire, Freekbass, off running with a project solely dedicated to recreating and expanding upon the James Bond musical universe. The Band is Bond, a brand new ensemble, aims to harmoniously transport us into the secret agents world with a dash of thrill, intrigue, and improvisation.
For their inaugural show at the Brooklyn Bowl on February 16th, Freekbass has assembled a stellar troupe of players that are uniquely inclined to tackle the Bond catalog with vigor and grit. The genre spanning group largely resides near Freek’s home base of Cincinnati, and with the core of the group bounded by geography, these purveyors of song have put rehearsal on the front burner, tackling the vast Bond catalog whenever time will allow. This attention to detail will make for a confident showing as The Band Is Bond hits the storied Brooklyn Bowl stage mid-February.
Freek’s first recruit was Jennifer Hartswick, who serves as a beyond perfect fit, chiming in on those female heavy vocal leads that are the signature to many a Bond theme, while providing that essential brass boost on trumpet. Next Freekbass called upon Razor Sharp Johnson, of Bootsy’s Rubberband, and P-Funk fame, to man the keys. The Band rounds out with one of Freek’s friends and collaborators, Jyn Yates on drums, Nicholas Gerlach (Turbo Suit) playing the Tenor Sax, and TSLY, occasional Freekbass coconspirator, on guitar. The Band Is Bond’s spiritual player, is Ken “Big Bamn” Smith, Freekbass’ longtime drummer and confidante, who tragically passed away in an automobile accident earlier this year. Bamn provided direction for The Band at its inception and was slated as the original drummer. Surely he will be on everyone’s mind at the BK Bowl performance.
Prior to this first show, Freekbass was kind enough to take some time to talk The Band Is Bond, the inspiration behind its name, and losing Bamn. After reading the interview, make sure to click the link at the bottom, and get your tickets to The Band Is Bond at the Brooklyn Bowl on February 16th. And don’t forget to “dress to kill” as Bond themed regalia is highly recommended!
Russ Glowatz (RG): First off, let me offer my condolences to you over the loss of Big Bamn.
Freekbass: It was a shocker man. I’m starting to finally get my head a little bit above water. We’re on the road traveling in dangerous conditions all the time, so the most ironic part is it happened when we were home. He was such an amazing cat. As tight as we were onstage, we were offstage, so I really appreciate your sentiments.
RG: This past month has really been something else in respect to the passing of legendary musicians.
Freekbass: Oh yeah I know man. 2016, especially January. I’m glad it’s February, hoping this month is a bit better.
RG: You’ve previously mentioned that you considered Bamn a brother. How did that tight relationship reflect upon the music you both made together?
Freekbass: Bass players and drummers always have that special relationship anyway, because of the fact that we’re kind of in the rhythm world together, but him and I especially. Our families would hang out together off the road. I grew up as an only child, and as musicians we have a tendency to put walls around ourselves a little bit, and as an only child that adds to it. And Bamn was one of the first people that I fully fully trusted. He was one-hundred percent real.
When someone’s really close, and you go on the road with them for a little while, once in a while you start to see a little chink in the armor, and you’re like “oh, okay.” But everything about [Bamn] was so genuine, and I feel like I could really trust him with anything, my whole life. Even when I sit here and talk about it, it almost gets me choked up, because in some ways I don’t let myself get too close to people, and he was one of these people I did.
He pushed me too a lot. He pushed me to be better, and look higher, and anytime I’d say to him “that we’re gonna do this, this year,” he’d want to take it to a higher level. He’s a real special person, and David Bowie’s got one heck of a drummer up there in heaven right now.
RG: Without a doubt. And I’m sure you’re going to take with you the sentiment of “What would Bamn do” as you go forward.
Freekbass: That’s it! Even as I’m putting together my new band right now, he’s totally in my mind, that I’m really gonna take it to another level with him in mind.
RG: Focusing on the new project, it’s really heartening to see you push forward with the Brooklyn Bowl show that’s coming up on February 16th. I imagine Bamn wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. So with that, what was the spark that inspired the creation of The Band Is Bond?
Freekbass: I’ve always been a huge James Bond fan since I’ve been a kid. I’ve always been enchanted by the the gadgets, the storylines, and the music. Especially the older James Bond movies, the ones from the sixties. That first time period, that whole kind of Mad Men, skinny ties, and Art Deco looking era. And what kind of spawned it, I was actually listening to Pandora and a James Bond tune came on, and I thought “man, it’d be really cool to redo these songs.”
And with the James Bond thing too, my mom likes James Bond, my grandma likes James Bond, kids that are fifteen, sixteen years old like James Bond, so it really spans so many generations. It’s not just in a timeframe. I think the first James Bond movie came out in ’63, and they just had a brand new one that came out this year, and I think that’s because of the timeless aspect of it. You have such a timeless character, and the music is so timeless as well, so I thought it’d be a really cool idea to interpret those songs.
Not twenty minutes later I called up Jennifer Hartswick. She was really into it. And especially to have a female singer, since so much of the soundtrack has female vocals for a good chunk of the music, she was the first person I thought of, because she’s one that can handle those kind of vocals. And that’s how everything kind of started, and then we started putting musicians together, and here we are today.RG: While delving into the different decades and eras of Bond, I’ve noticed that the music always has this contemporary appeal, yet it simultaneously is paying homage to a sound that’s completely authentic to the James Bond universe. The sound is wholly unique, and whether the music came from the 60’s or the modern era, it’s being tapped into. How would you characterize that sound?
Freekbass: Right. And that goes back to the timeless thing I was talking about when the idea of the band came together, because whether it’s the song that Adele does in Skyfall, or going all the way back to Goldfinger with Shirley Bassey in 1964, you could almost replace those songs in either era and they would work. There’s harmonic things that show up in every era. You know the original James Bond theme, from Dr. No, which is the one everybody knows about, has a kind of treble-ized guitar sound. That kind of harmonic structure, you’ll hear it in all the songs, they kind of stick those into every theme song. That half-step, kind of semi-dissonant, definitely that early 1960’s spy movie mentality thing, even if you’re doing a ballad, or more of a rock tune, they kind of have that sensibility about them. And again, just like you said, there’s this bridge between times.
There’s a few exceptions that stand out. There’s one of the songs we’re doing from The Spy Who Loved Me by Carly Simon, and that’s almost like a seventies soft rock song, which is different. But the majority of the sound [fits that sensibility], even “Live And Let Die” by Paul McCartney, that’s another one we’ll be doing, I think, at the Brooklyn Bowl, is such a sick song, and a lot of people don’t think that’s a James Bond theme song. Everyone knows that’s a Paul McCartney song, but it’s actually a theme song from the movie.
So ideally what we’d like to do is get a bunch of shows under our belt, do some festival dates, and then put out an album of original songs influenced by the James Bond soundtrack. And a pie in the sky thought is to have The Band Is Bond actually do the theme for one of the James Bond movies in the future. That would be a long long term goal. You never know what happens when you put something out in the universe.
RG: That’s a wonderful goal. You guys are reaching for the stars on that one, and based upon your collective abilities, it’s totally possible.
Freekbass: I’m sure there’s a lot of politics and stuff involved with that kind of thing, but in paying homage to such a great library of music, hopefully some people that are involved in that world might like what we’re doing.
RG: There can be a fine line between replication and reinvention. In covering songs from the Bond canon, how will you skirt that line going forward. I’ve listened to “You Only Live Twice,” your rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s original, and while it seems The Band Is Bond stayed more or less true to form with that song, I imagine you may let loose on other things.
Freekbass: Definitely. We’re kinda walking that tight rope with that too because with a song like “You Only Live Twice” we kind of played with some ideas in the studio, but that one felt so conducive to just represent it similar to the way it was. But for a good chunk of these songs, when we’re rehearsing they’re already taking on a new personality with all the players we have involved. We thought about getting in the studio immediately and trying to do a bunch of tracks at once, but then we thought, “hey, let’s get some shows under our belt first…like six months from now, these songs may have a whole different sound.” Definitely the idea is to stretch these songs out and try to let everybody give their personality to them, there’s no doubt about that. You’re gonna see a lot of that on the debut night at the Brooklyn Bowl.
RG: Looking forward to it. I will be there will bells on! I don’t know if I’m going to have a Bond costume though. I gotta think about that.
Freekbass: Yeah! That’s another cool thing about that show. It’s not just for the band, but we’ll be able to create this whole world for the audience too.
RG: Audience involvement absolutely gets that whole synchronous vibe going, having everyone show up in their favorite Bond getup. Now, to round this out, what’s your favorite Bond movie, if you could name one?
Freekbass: Up until last year I would’ve said Goldfinger hands down. Sean Connery. But man, Skyfall was so good. That rivaled. I was a little nervous when they hired Daniel Craig as the new Bond, but I’ll tell you what, he has really taken it to another level. It’s almost like how when they redid the Batman series over the last few years and went a darker route with it. Because James Bond, he’s essentially an assassin, and Daniel Craig really plays up that side of it, and the writing of Skyfall was so good. So if you held me down I’d say Goldfinger, but man, Skyfall is a darn near close second, if not a tie.
RG: Lastly, unrelated to James Bond, what makes you tick? What’s that driving force that gets you out of bed each morning to do what you do, and to do it so well?
Freekbass: Without sounding cliché, just the music. Whatever projects I’m involved with, whether it be The Band Is Bond, my own group, or others. I have a side group with DJ Logic, and Steve Molitz called Headtronics that we do sometimes, and it’s always about that. That’s definitely the inspiration to get up and do it. Because you have good shows, and bad shows, you have a lot of traveling. The stage part looks glamorous, but half the time your at gas stations drinking bad coffee. The music is the one stabilizing force that will get you through each day and get you to the next gig for sure.
RG: Thanks so much for your time Freek! Super psyched about the Brooklyn Bowl show on 2/16, and for everything you and The Band Is Bond does down the line as well!
>>>Follow this link to grab your tickets to The Band Is Bond‘s inaugural live performance at the Brooklyn Bowl on Tuesday, February 16th.<<<
>>To keep up with The Band Is Bond (news, tour dates, media, etc.) head to their Facebook page here.<<
>Stay tuned on all of Freekbass’ projects at his website.<
The Chase Brothers, Adam (Drums) and Matthew (Guitar), have been making waves as of late with two exemplary tributes, Jazz Is Phish, and The James Brown Dance Party. Both bands take the songs of their inspiring namesakes to new and exploratory levels. In each ensemble, with the Chase’s at the helm, the target is to traverse the tunes of these legendary acts, while creating an environment conducive to dance, elation, transcendence, and an all around good time. With Jazz Is Phish (JIP), the Phish catalog is used as a starting point to roundly reinvent the songs. In The James Brown Dance Party (JBDP), Adam and Matthew assemble a different All Star cast of musicians for each respective show, and through varied collaborations, the classic James Brown repertoire shines uniquely each and every time. In the end, while the road travelled reveals divergent scenery, both bands leave you with a similar lightness in your step that we all seek through live music.
While I could ramble on in perpetuity touting the merits of each of these acts, luckily for us the Brothers Chase were kind enough to sit down and answer a few questions. Their musical upbringing, the origins of each project, legacy, choosing collaborators, and more is discussed. So with an aim towards better understanding the motivations and aspirations of these two talented brothers in the prime of their musical lives, enjoy the following Q & A. When you’re done, get your tickets to JIP and JBDP to see these siblings of song tear it up at a venue near you in the upcoming weeks! (Find tour dates and ticketing links listed after the Q&A.)
1. For someone completely unfamiliar with Jazz Is Phish or The James Brown Dance Party, what would be your pitch to pique their interest?
Matthew Chase (MC): Both projects take a fresh approach to performing music. They combine players from different generations and backgrounds (music and life) to come together and create a unique take on familiar music. The pitch would be slightly different for each band since one is a rotating cast and the other is a set lineup that features special guests.
For the JBDP it’s an easy sell since everyone loves James Brown and his amazing music. Add an All Star cast including players from the original James Brown Band and a high-energy dance party set and there you have it!
Jazz is Phish is a very intriguing idea since the framework was already laid down by the Jazz Is Dead Project. Although Phish and the Grateful Dead have very different audiences, there is some crossover and most Phish Fans have heard about Jazz is Dead. So when they hear the name “Jazz is Phish” they already have some preconceived notions as to what it’s about. We honor that idea by transforming Phish tunes into instrumental arrangements turning the vocal melodies into “jazz heads” regardless of the style being traditional jazz or not.
I would ask someone if they heard of Jazz is Dead first then explain. Jazz is Dead took the Grateful Dead’s large 6-7 piece band and interpreted the music as a 4 piece with guitar, bass drums, and keys. We are interpreting Phish, a 4-piece band, with a seven to 9-piece band including a full horn section. This creates an entirely different dynamic and opens up the music to several different styles and feels. The idea of both groups, Jazz is Dead and Jazz is Phish, is not to play the music in a traditional Jazz setting but to open up the endless possibilities of an all instrumental version of these popular tunes regardless of style or genre. You have to see it for yourself because you never know what you will get!
Adam Chase (AC): When I am talking to my friends about The James Brown Dance Party and about Jazz Is Phish, I get excited about how I feel lucky to have two incredibly fun projects.
With the James Brown Dance Party, we are bringing together the old school players that toured with James Brown with a variety of All Star players from the funk, jazz and jam worlds. All of the musicians share a love for the music and since we are bringing some of the best players available, including musicians from Sly and the Family Stone, Snarky Puppy, Trey Anastasio Band, Kool And The Gang, The Saturday Night Live Band, Trombone Shorty, Galactic, Lettuce and more, we are able to create epic performances that move everyone in the room. Since every time we do a run we have a different lineup of players, each performance is unique, albeit steeped in the deep funk of James Brown.
With Jazz Is Phish, I love it because you don’t have to like Phish to love the project. Of course, if you do love Phish it’s that much better. The music is re-imagined into a large ensemble setting, where horns replace vocals and the nuances change to reflect a sound that respects the genius of the compositions as written, while introducing flavors reminiscent to the fusion of Herbie Hancock and the epic sound of Charles Mingus. The show is high energy, explorative, horn heavy and super funky!
2. Where did the idea to put on tributes such as these originate?
AC:As a musician that attended music school, I was frequently transcribing solos and studying recordings of other players. Frequently in various jazz combos, we would put on shows that were full records or well known pieces composed by the musicians we were studying at the time. I always enjoyed the process. When I was in a full time touring original band, I would frequently put tribute shows together in my hometown when I wasn’t on the road. It was a fun and allowed me to explore different music and learn different things to apply to my original music.
One of the tributes I put together then, was the James Brown Dance Party. At that time it was built around the players in my original band, which included my brother Matthew, Elise Testone, Ben Markowitz, Aaron Levy and myself. After the original band broke up and the core was no longer together, I thought it would be fun to reintroduce the project as something that a lot of musicians could share in, as so many musicians love the music. Inspired by Everyone Orchestra, I decided to re-launch the project with a revolving cast of players. We sold out our first show and haven’t looked back since.
Jazz Is Phish was an idea I had been considering for a number of years before I ever got it together. As someone that grew up on the music and was so inspired by the band, I had a passion for the material. I often found myself turning on friends to their music. I had a lot of musician friends that were from very different backgrounds and Phish really wasn’t their style. Regardless, I made them listen to some of my favorite compositions; Fluffhead, Reba, Guelah Papyrus…while not every musician loved the style or lyrical content, every one of them appreciated the compositions, musicianship and challenge the music presented. It occurred to me that if I could create a project that presented Phish’s music in a re-imagined, instrumental setting, there would be an entirely new audience interested in the material while also appealing to the legion of enthusiastic Phish fans (like myself) that were already out there. It all came together after a performance I did with Jeff Sipe. We were discussing various projects we had done, when Jazz Is Dead came up. At that point, I realized that Jazz Is Phish needed to exist, especially in a year that saw the Phish and Dead communities come together with Trey Anastasio’s participation in the Grateful Dead’s Fare Thee Well performances. I decided to assemble a mix of musicians that included those that grew up on the music, and those that had never listened to the music before.
3. The music of James Brown and Phish is adored by folks, young, old, and in between. What about their music do you feel gives it this cross-generational appeal?
MC:Both of these artists have extremely different music. James Brown’s music is simple with a tapestry of complexity in the layers, but always delivers high-energy, extremely fun tunes that appeal to anyone regardless of age! Phish music encompasses a huge variety of genres and hybrids of styles with amazing tension and release. The music Phish creates makes it possible for several entry points into their unique world. There is something for most people whether it’s long progressive compositions, quick funky numbers, or a secret language within their improvisation. Their amazing live performances, huge fan-base, massive venue settings and cutting edge light show makes the live experience undeniable for anyone old or young.
AC: For James Brown the appeal is that it is so badass and funky that no matter who you are, how old you are, or where you come from, the funk is undeniable. His ballads and his upbeat songs alike are well crafted, filled with intricate layers, straight ahead and topped with memorable melodies and amazing vocals. For Phish, the appeal is the unique aspect of the band. It is a group that for many, opens the door to a new way of looking at music. The classical influences on the compositions, the jazz theory infused improvisation and the playful quality of the songwriting are masterfully done in a way that rarely comes together so well. The closest thing to the experience of Phish, in my opinion, is the music of Frank Zappa, although I find the music of Phish to be far more accessible to the non-musician.
4. The James Brown Dance Party is constantly rotating musicians. What type of preparation goes into getting each respective ensemble seasoned for the stage?
MC: As Music Director, I try to provide anything necessary for the players to feel comfortable with our arrangements. We provide charts and notes when necessary. We strive to play with the best players in any given region we are performing in which makes it easy since they know how to prepare and are true professionals. Often we only need a quick rehearsal and sound check to work out some intros and endings. James Brown music is also widely known and performed. I don’t think you are allowed to buy a saxophone without learning some James Brown…
AC: We put in the time on the front end so that in some respects all the musicians have to do is show up for soundcheck and we are ready to go by showtime. Finding the right musicians is key. Musicians that know and love the music, are willing to shed on the songs and the charts, and come prepared, are who we seek out and what makes the performances so tight. It doesn’t hurt that at each show we try to include musicians like Fred Thomas, Mousey Thompson, Leroy Harper Jr. and Jerry Poindexter that had played with James for years and bring the authenticity to the group.
5. With these projects, where and how do you draw the line between replication and reinvention?
MC: With The James Brown Dance Party we try to play things close to the tapes but still allow our high caliber players to improv and extend sections. We also adapt things depending upon the vocalist.
Jazz Is Phish is a complete reinvention of Phish music. We may keep the style the same as the original but the fact that half of our band didn’t listen to Phish until this project makes even those renditions stand apart form the original. In Jazz Is Phish we are comprised of Jazz, Funk, Gospel, Soul, R&B, and Pop and Rock musicians each bringing their own flavor to the music. Which was by design. Having only a few players familiar with Phish keeps the overall sound fresh yet familiar.
AC: The James Brown Dance Party is not about replicating or reinventing. To replicate James Brown would involve someone trying to BE “James Brown” and in my opinion, nobody can BE “James Brown”. He was a one of a kind performer and trying to replicate him, to me, would be sacrilegious. It’s more about loving his music and getting well known musicians to express themselves through soloing and grooving on the tunes. We perform the songs true to form for the most part, but we allow space for the amazing musicians we have to let loose.
With Jazz Is Phish, we are completely reinventing the music. While some songs are closer to form than others, each song takes it’s own shape through, if nothing more, the collective influences of the players involved. As many members were not familiar with Phish coming in to the project, there are no preconceived notions of how the songs should be. That combined with the fact that all of the vocals are replaced with horns and strings, each song feels completely fresh.
6. On a musical level, what was it like growing up in the Chase household?
MC: Piano lessons at an early age and once we were past the 5th grade we got guitars and drums kits. The best gift you can give a few imaginative minds… Our parents didn’t anticipate how loud we would get at times, but always encouraged and supported us in our passion. Our mom and sister took piano lessons as well but neither considers themselves musicians. We didn’t have much guidance in music, it was all very explorative. Our grandma was a singer and did push us to get voice lessons. We had a very large peer group of musicians and several bands were formed out of that circle including the Bridge, the Bluegrass Band Smooth Kentucky, and our old original project Black Eyed Susan.
AC: As the younger brother of somewhat of a child prodigy, and someone that was put into music lessons when I was 5 years old, I don’t remember life without music. We always had instruments in our home and as we got older the amount of instruments and musicians around continued to grow. For me, life was always about playing music and performing, whether it was in school or at home.
7. In these post-James Brown years, where does JBDP fit in respect to carrying on the legacy of the Godfather of Soul himself?
MC: We are just trying to celebrate the Legend and bring people together from different walks of life on stage and in the audience.
AC: I think the JBDP is carrying on the legacy in a great way. By involving older musicians that toured with James with younger well-known musicians from various music scenes, I feel like we are doing a part in keeping the music of James Brown relevant to new generations of music fans that wouldn’t necessarily be checking out the music in a live setting if it weren’t for the All Star format.
8. Jazz Is Phish has recently gone into the studio. Could you shed a little light on what we can expect to hear from these sessions?
MC: It’s a surprise.
AC: You can expect an incredible lineup of musicians, some of which you would never have expected to hear performing Phish tunes, performing unique interpretations of the music at a very high level.
9. If stranded on a desert island, and you could either have a Phish album or a James Brown album, which would you prefer?
MC: I don’t know. That’s tough. James Brown would keep me in a better mood.
AC: I think I would take the album Billy Breathes because it seems like a good album for being stranded on a desert island.
10. In relation to band and audience, what does the word ‘synchronicity’ mean to you?
MC: Reaching a moment or several moments where the music plays the band and the energy from the audience drives the music.
AC: Synchronicity is a point when the band and audience are sharing in a special moment where the stars are aligning. I think it starts with the musicians having their ears open and allowing the music to come to them rather than forcing out things to say. When you combine that with an attentive audience that is in the moment with their enjoyment of the music, something magical happens. I’d call that synchronicity.
It’s a safe bet that if you and the rest of the showgoers bring enthusiasm and attentive ears to the upcoming James Brown Dance Party and Jazz Is Phish performances, Adam, Matthew, and their supergroup of cohorts, will no doubt bring the funk and fury to the stage, leaving all those in attendance scooping their jaws off the floor at the close. Synchronicity is their business, and leaving satisfied customers in their wake is the mission. So get synchronous. Get satisfied. Get your face melted. And don’t forget your dancing shoes!
James Brown Dance Party January 23 @ Asheville Music Hall, Asheville, NC (tickets) January 29 @ Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA (tickets) February 19 @ Howard Theatre, Washington, DC (Check JBDP site for updated ticket info)
James Brown Dance Party tour will feature members of James Brown Band, Sly And The Family Stone, CeeLo Green Band, Alicia Keys Band, John Legend Band, Snarky Puppy, Trey Anastasio Band, Lettuce, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Eric Claptons Band, Billy And The Kids, Tea Leaf Green, RAQ, Jazz Is Phish, Tenacious D Band, Breakestra, The J.B.’s, and more! (Check event listings for exact lineups.) *Stay up-to-date with JBDP @ their website and on Facebook
Jazz Is Phish February 10 @ Blind Tiger, Greensboro, NC (tickets) February 11 @ Southland Ballroom, Raleigh, NC (tickets) February 12 @ Asheville Music Hall, Asheville, NC (tickets) February 13 @ Smith’s Olde Bar, Atlanta, GA (tickets) February 18 @ The Hall at MP, Brooklyn, NY (Check JIP site for updated ticket info)
Jazz Is Phish tour will feature members of Giant Country Horns, Sun Ra, Snarky Puppy, Cosmic Crewe, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Jonathan Scales, Raq, TV On The Radio, High and Mighty Brass Band, Easy Star AllStars, Victor Wooten Band, Strange Design, Yo Mamas Big Fat Booty Band and more! (Check event listings for exact lineups.)
The gag will be on you this April Fools’ if you don’t attend this blissful destination event in the making. On April 1st and 2nd, Lettuce will gather up some of their musically inclined friends to put on Fool’s Paradise in sunny St. Augustine, Florida. Two nights of Lettuce on the beach alone is a recipe for a raucous affair, but in adding GRiZ, Chris Robinson’s Soul Revue (ft. George Porter Jr., Ivan Neville, Nikki Glaspie & Eric Krasno), Vulfpeck, Goldfish, and The Nth Power to the mix, this may just be the perfect party to kick off the summer festival season.
On top of the eclectic assortment of acts, expect more to be announced, as well as impromptu collaborations between the collective. Beyond the funk-fueled euphoria, there will artist-led expeditions, musical workshops, and explorative activities in one of the sunniest cities in the nation. Check out foolsparadisefl.com for more information on the two day event, and for camping and hotel packages.