* John Brown's Body & Groundation *

John Brown's Body

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that Kings And Queens is a synthesis of every aspect of John Brown’s Body’s storied career. It’s as if, after close to two decades of existence, this pioneering band has finally crafted their ultimate statement, tying together styles they’ve dabbled in, paid respect to, created, or pushed forward into one tightly woven mosaic. JBB’s Future Roots is now present tense.

John Brown’s Body formed (in Boston in the mid 1990s) at a time when there wasn’t what you’d call a U.S. reggae scene. The American bands that played reggae were regional at best, touring little, and many were primarily cover bands of the best known Jamaican reggae. JBB was one of a handful of groups that began touring nationally and created distinctly American reggae, steeped in traditional vibes but incorporating elements from other genres. Whereas most groups tackled typical reggae themes –religion and marijuana – JBB acted more like an indie band, writing songs that used the vocabulary of reggae to express their own experiences. Over time, this style has become the norm. The U.S. scene has grown tremendously – to the point of having two bands debut records in the Billboard Top 20 in 2012 – and many in the genre point to John Brown’s Body as a key influence.

However, this is not your typical story of an influential band doing what they did 20 years ago now trying to cash in on the movement they helped foment. Because a funny thing happened along the way for John Brown’s Body – they evolved and grew, taking their music ever forward, and have continued to influence the scene as much today – some might even say more so today – than they did at the start. The band’s relentless touring schedule helped pave the way for the nationwide scene, showing other bands that it was okay to be from the Northeast and still be comfortable playing in California, Hawaii, Colorado or Iowa. Early on, members of the band formed their own record label to highlight their local scene, which has since become the norm in many pockets of the scene. JBB delved deeply into dub effects from the start, incorporating elements of electronic music well before that became standard for today’s bands. Yet, JBB is somehow still utterly unique within the scene, even after two decades at work, which brings us back to the record at hand.

Musically and lyrically, lead singer/songwriter Elliot Martin has crafted a work that seems both self-reflective and visionary. A song like “Old John Brown” is obviously open to interpretation that Martin is commenting on both the man for whom the band is named after, as well as the legacy of the band itself. Musically, the song evokes riddims Burning Spear used in the 1970s, which has been an undercurrent influence on the group since the beginning, but has rarely surfaced as obviously as it does here since the band’s earliest breakthrough records.

The group’s last full-length record, Amplify (#1 on the Billboard Reggae chart in 2008), was extremely forward-thinking, steeped in electronic effects. Last Fall’s JBB IN DUB EP (#1 on iTunes’ Reggae Chart) stripped things down to the bedrock elements of reggae. Kings And Queens utilizes the best aspects of both these records, while bringing back much more of the classic JBB sound into the mix and production. This is reinforced by working with engineer Matt Saccuccimorano, who worked on some of the band’s earliest successful albums, and the involvement on numerous songs by former guitarist/keyboardist Nate “Silas” Richardson. Bassist Nate Edgar continues to astonish with his nimble and muscular bass lines. The bass and drums have always been at the center of Martin’s songwriting, but in Edgar and founding drummer Tommy Benedetti, he has found his most spectacular partners-in-crime. Martin has crafted his strongest batch of songs ever, coupled with startling horn lines written by the JBB Horns. Saying the JBB Horns are an influential bunch is no small talk, considering past alums have gone on to play for Slightly Stoopid as well as form the eclectically amazing band Rubblebucket.

The most obvious touch point for the band’s sound has always been classic UK reggae, especially the work of Aswad, Steel Pulse and Dennis Bovell, and that unmistakable influence permeates every track, most noticeably in the heavy drum and bass and complicated horn lines. As it was in that scene, JBB’s songs are more focused on sufferation, urban realities and overcoming, with songs like “Plantation,” “Empty Hands,” and “The Battle” sparking protest over haunting minor chords. This is not beach resort reggae. This is reality. However, the record is by no means all gloom and doom! Songs like “Shine Bright” and the love song “Fall On Deep” both add lightness, and even in his darkest metaphors, Martin can find hope and positivity (listen to the chorus of “Plantation” for evidence of that).

Kings And Queens is bookended by three songs (“Step Inside” and “Invitation” at the start and “Searchlight” at the end) that invite listeners into the live arena where this band has excelled from the beginning. Evoking sound systems from the music’s origins in 1960s Jamaica as well as JBB’s own powerful live show, these songs remind all listeners about the strength in numbers found in the reggae community, especially at live shows and festivals, and how John Brown’s Body has long been one of the greatest live acts in the genre.

This record shows that John Brown’s Body continues to lead from the front of the pack. They look forward by looking back and find a way to invite JBB fans from all eras into their packed and sweaty tent. As the opening song says, “So many people / Step inside, step inside / Come one and all / Got to make the dancehall tight.”

Bursting forth from their underground status, Groundation has taken the music
world by storm. Capturing the essence and drive of true roots reggae, the internationally
renowned band takes the art form to new heights by blending elements of jazz, funk, salsa,
fusion and transcendental dub in a progressive amalgam of sound.
Music fans from across the globe have taken note. Over the last few years
Groundation has performed for hundreds of thousands of fans around the world,
headlining shows in twenty-five countries on six continents, and appearing at some of the
world's largest and most prestigious music festivals, including Denmark's Roskilde Festival,
Australia's WOMAD, Germany's Summerjam, and Italy's Rototom Sunsplash. With an
unparalleled international following and the critically acclaimed release of their 2012 CD,
Building an Ark, Groundation has cemented its reputation as an international ambassador
of American music, clocking tens of millions of YouTube hits in the process. Whether on
their masterfully self-produced studio albums or in their now legendary live performances,
Groundation's sound is without category, yet deeply familiar, offering listeners everywhere
an access point for musical connection.
"Groundation" alludes to the decades-old communal Rastafarian ceremony of
"Grounation," a ritual based on the meditative powers of music. But Groundation is an
idea for today, uniting audiences and using the universal vibration of music to help bring
about a positive social evolution.
Groundation's origins are in the jazz program of California's Sonoma State
University where, in the fall of 1998, Harrison Stafford (guitar/lead vocals), Ryan Newman
(bass) and Marcus Urani (keyboards) began their artistic collaboration, developing both
their musicianship and their global outlook. It was there that Stafford taught the first
California State University accredited class on the History and Culture of Reggae Music.
This core group was joined in 2000 by San Francisco-based jazz trumpeter David
Chachere. Since 2008 the rhythm section has been fueled by the fiery drumming of Renobased
jazz-fusion specialist Rufus Te Kanawa Haereiti, while Bay Area percussionist Mingo
Lewis Jr. (son of Santana and Return to Forever percussionist Mingo Lewis) adds heady
Afro-Cuban layers to Groundation's stout syncopations. Vocalist Kim Pommell, from
Kingston, Jamaica, joined the group in 2007, deepening Groundation's harmonies and
taking live shows to new heights. All of them are featured on the group's new album.
Though they are based in California, Groundation's music is closely intertwined with
the roots of Jamaican reggae. In seven studio albums they've collaborated with a who's
who of reggae elders, including Don Carlos, Leroy 'Horsemouth' Wallace, Pablo Moses,
The Congos, and many others. They've toured with Steel Pulse, Israel Vibration and
California sensations Rebelution to name just a few.
Taking up reggae music's commitment to the upheaval of our unjust social system,
and forwarding this message through a fresh, improvisation-based musical lens,
Groundation has become the biggest, most respected American reggae band touring the
world today. Come join us and find out why.

Cave Music: It's like House, but its more wild, more jagged, more free, more natural to live in.
"Whoever thought of a band with two saxophones and a drummer? That's the stupidest idea, right?" Moon Hooch saxophonist Wenzl McGowen asked the crowd at a recent gig. Well, Wenzl, James Muschler (drums) and Mike Wilbur (saxophone) never intended on forming a band together. The three guys graduated from The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in Manhattan in 2010. Wenzl and Mike shared mutual contempt, each one thinking the other was a cocky sax-o-phony. And while they were both correctly judged each other, they eventually learned tolerance when Wenzl moved in to an apartment with James, next door to Mike.

The three began busking in the subway and in the city's parks. At the same time, Wenzl was producing House music and writing House for saxophone. When the guys played this music in the subway, people immediately began dancing.

One subway passenger asked, "What's your band's name?"

Mike blurted, "Moon Juice."

A Google search revealed that there were already multiple bands called Moon Juice. With the help of a thesaurus, the name Moon Hooch was selected, and more importantly, the trio now realized that they were, in fact, a band.

Since solidifying as a band, Moon Hooch has quickly gained a reputation for inciting "subway raves" (they were banned from performing at the Bedford Ave stop off the L line in Brooklyn for "starting too many dance parties"), their strange instrumentation and explosive live show. Their frequent presence in New York City subways and parks has brought them notice and fans which has led to appearances as the house band on Australian TV show "Hamish and Andy's Gap Year," and a national tour with Mike Doughty (Doughty saw them on a train platform and immediately invited to tour as his supporting act). They are now at the midpoint of a six month residency at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory, having sold-out all shows to date.

The band has already begun to expand its sound beyond just two saxophones and drums. Wenzl inserts a cardboard tube into his saxophone to create a Dubstep style womp, and switches between a contrabass clarinet and electronic wind instrument. They also have begun experimenting with various vocalists, inviting both singers and rappers on stage with them at shows.

Recorded in just a single day, their debut record, "The Moon Hooch Album," gives the listener a taste of what's to come for these guys. They seamlessly blend House, Dubstep, Drum & Bass, and Jazz into style that is uniquely Moon Hooch: Cave Music.

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* John Brown's Body & Groundation * with Moon Hooch

Friday, October 4 · Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM at Baltimore Soundstage

Tickets Available at the Door