Robert Randolph and The Family Band

Robert Randolph and The Family Band

Many musicians claim that they “grew up in the church,” but for Robert Randolph that is literally the case. The renowned pedal steel guitarist, vocalist and songwriter led such a cloistered childhood and adolescence that he heard no secular music while growing up. If it wasn’t being played inside of the House of God Church in Orange, New Jersey—quite often by Robert and members of his own family, who upheld a long but little known gospel music tradition called sacred steel—Randolph simply didn’t know it existed.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that the leader of Robert Randolph and the Family Band—whose label debut for Sony Masterworks, Got Soul, will be released on Feb. 17, 2017—is today an inspiration to the likes of Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana and Derek Trucks, all of whom have played with him and studied his technique. It wasn’t until he was out of his teens that Randolph broke away from the confines of his social and musical conditioning and discovered rock, funk, soul, jazz and the jam band scene, soon forging his own sound by fusing elements of those genres.

“It was all church music. It was a movement within our church and that’s all we used to do,” says Randolph of the sacred steel music he played at the time, music whose association with his church stretches back to the 1920s. Once Randolph began to discover other forms of music, he saw how they were all connected, and was eager to find his own place. “All music is related. Gospel is the same as blues,” he says. “The only thing that changes is in hardcore gospel people are singing about God and Jesus and in the blues people are singing about ‘my baby left me’ and whiskey. When we first started out, guys really weren’t allowed to leave the church. I was the one that stepped out and started this thing. My dad would say, ‘Why do you come home smelling like beer and cigarettes?’ ‘Well, we just got done playing some smoky club till 2 a.m.!’ It was all foreign and different.”

By the early 2000s, Randolph had begun applying his dazzling steel guitar technique to secular music, and from that grew the Family Band. The group’s sound was so different than anything else around that they were soon packing New York City clubs. Their first album, 2002’s Live at the Wetlands, was recorded at the now defunct jam band haven, and was followed by four studio albums and another live set, each widening the band’s audience—they’ve long been regulars on the festival circuit—and broadening their stylistic range as well.

“Things happened really fast,” Randolph—named one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone—says now. “When I look back on that time, to be honest, I had no idea what the hell we were doing. We’d get told, ‘You guys are going on tour with Eric Clapton.’ ‘Oh, OK.’ I thought, this guy must not have a clue who I am but the first time I met him we talked for about an hour and played music backstage.”

The Family Band’s improvisational skills quickly made them mega-popular among the jam-band crowd, but for Randolph and his band mates, what they were doing was just an extension of what they’d always done. “The jam band scene has that name but it’s really a true music art form scene where you can just be who you are,” Randolph says. “We fit in that category in some sense but the jam band scene itself has changed a lot since that time. I’ve grown to like songs and I like to jam within the song.”

On Got Soul—which features guest artists Anthony Hamilton, Darius Rucker, Cory Henry—Robert Randolph and the Family Band walk that line deftly, displaying their virtuosity within the context of a dozen smartly crafted tunes. “I like both playing live and recording,” says Randolph. “The thing about a record is you get a chance to rehearse parts and fine-tune things. But if you look at most great music artists—people like Stevie Wonder—the song is totally different from the show. When you’re in the studio, it’s hard to improvise without an audience. But for us, well, we’ve been playing in front of audiences our whole lives.”

Michael Bellar & the AS-IS Ensemble

At its core, the music Michael Bellar & the AS-IS Ensemble makes is ecstatic. It’s wide open improvisation with earthy, percussion fueled grooves. It’s funky and weird. It’s expansive and arresting. It will always be in the moment and without apology. Beyond that we don’t know what to call it! Hailed as “GENERATION NEXT” by Billboard Magazine following their first ever NYC show, Michael Bellar & AS-IS Ensemble are known for their joyous, never the same way twice live musical experiences. The group has performed at a wide range of diverse festivals and venues across the country including the NYC Winter Jazz Festival, Telluride Jazz Festival, Brooklyn Bowl, the Kennedy Center, SXSW, A Bear’s Picnic, Blue Note Jazz Festival NYC, Avery Fischer Hall (for Habitat for Humanity), San Jose Jazz Festival, Evolve Fest, JVC Jazz Festival, Rockwood Music Hall and spent a summer as the house band at the world famous Blue Note jazz club in NYC. The group has opened for artists diverse as Robert Randolph & the Family Band, John Scofield, Oliver Wood (of the Wood Brothers), Medeski Martin & Wood, the Everyone Orchestra, Tea Leaf Green, Greazy Meal, Jolie Holland, Grant Green Jr. and the Ryan Montbleau Band. Performing solo, Michael has opened for the likes of Raul Midon, Jon Cleary and Carsie Blanton. As a sideman, Michael has toured/recorded with Amos Lee, Art Garfunkel, Oliver Wood (of the Wood Brothers), Red Baraat, Ryan Montbleau, Wheatus, Carsie Blanton and Euro pop star Giorgia. -

“And now for something completely different. A deeply funky new album...."
The Charleston City Paper

"This renegade trio led by keyboardist and sonic explorer Michael Bellar blends pop, rock, funk, jazz and world music elements into a provocative brew on this spirited alt-jazz outing.
Jazz Times

Holy sh_t! This is amazing!
WIDR (Kalamazoo, MI)

"Keyboardist Michael Bellar gives the piano a voice all its own...."
Flagpole Magazine

Truth be told...they don’t sound like anyone. Good music has no expiration date nor is it genre specific.
Good music should hit you on multiple fronts and permeate your soul long after the last track has finished.
Mission accomplished! One of the best of 2014”

Lions on the Moon

Formed in the spring of 2014, Lions On The Moon is made up of four incredibly talented young musicians -- 13 year old singer and song writer Nicky Dylan Winegardner on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, 11 year old guitar prodigy Brandon “TAZ” Niederauer on lead guitar and vocals, 14 year old Dylan Niederauer on bass and vocals, and 15 year old Henry Thomas on drums. Their music is an original blend of rock, pop, funk, and blues, that delivers a youthful, energetic and infectious new sound filled with optimism, emotion, and intent.

The band came together when legendary Georgia musician, Col. Bruce Hampton, who is known for discovering young talent having nurtured the likes of Derek Trucks, Jimmy Herring, Oteil Burbridge, and many others, saw an opportunity to create magic between his young singer/songwriter friend Nicky Dylan and this new sensational young guitar player by the name of Brandon Niederauer. Bruce added that Brandon’s brother Dylan was also a very talented bass player and that they should form a band. After hours of jamming together for the first time, it was clear that Bruce was onto something, and it was the beginning of something very special. Within a month, another amazing staple to the band appeared. A local young drummer by the name of Henry Thomas, who had recently won "Darien's Got Talent," was invited to join the boys for a marathon jam session, and when it was over, Nicky stated emphatically, “We have found our John Bonham.” And the rest of history shall write itself.

Since appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres Show at the age of 10, Brandon (Taz) has firmly established himself as the young guitarist to watch on the music scene today. He has appeared on stage with virtually every member of the Allman Brothers Band including Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, and Oteil Burbridge, as well as other notable musicians such as George Clinton, Eric Krasno, George Porter Jr., Robert Randolph, The Neville Brothers, and countless others. He has played at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Jam Cruise, The Big Blues Bender, and was the talk of The Bear Creek Music Festival in November 2014 and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) in January 2015. He is invited regularly to sit in with top bands at the Brooklyn Bowl in NY and Las Vegas, and will appear in the March 2015 Relix magazine issue as an up and coming artist to watch.

The Lions' success begins with a genuine love of music, a passion for performing, and a burning desire to create original art. In their year together, the band has created a strong repertoire of original music and played multiple music festivals and venues, including Gathering of The Vibes, Greenwich Town Party, South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC), Stamford Palace Theater, Brooklyn Bowl and B.B. King's Blues Club in Times Square. They have opened for Robert Randolph and the Family Band as well as Grammy Award winners, The Blind Boys of Alabama. And to top it all off, the band recently went into the studio to record their first album with the legendary music producer/engineer, Terry Manning (Ardent, Stax, Compass Point) and co-producer, Michael Mugrage. A strong beginning for a band, whose original music and extraordinary musicianship goes well beyond their years.

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