The Art Of The Sit-In | Nikki Glaspie

Written By: Chad Berndtson

:: The Art Of The Sit-In - Nikki Glaspie ::

Welcome to another edition of The Art of the Sit-In, where we mix it up with the scene’s most adventurous players and hear some stories from the road. Be sure to check out our recent discussions with Roosevelt Collier, Luther Dickinson and Matt Butler – you’ll be glad you did!

What a fascinating road traveled by drummer, singer and all-around badass Nikki Glaspie. She came up in New England jam, funk and R&B circles, mixing with the likes of the Sam Kininger Band, John Brown’s Body, Eric Krasno, Adam Deitch, the crowd at legendary Boston jazz nook Wally’s Cafe and plenty of others.

[Photo by Joshua Timmermans]

A wing-and-a-prayer move to New York left her nearly broke. But right about near wit’s end, she landed a gig with the type of visibility few players in our scene ever get to achieve, being invited to perform with Beyonce on tours all over the world.

Glaspie left Beyonce’s employ in 2011, ready to keep expanding her horizons. These days, she’s all over the place and plenty busy, but focuses most of her energy on Dumpstaphunk, which she joined as a full-time member more than two years ago, and The Nth Power, which combines her with Nigel Hall, Weedie Braimah, Nick Cassarino and Nate Edgar, and is well on its way to being the scene’s next marquee supergroup.

Glaspie has some good stories. Naturally, we asked her to share a few just ahead of her many planned appearances at this weekend’s Bear Creek Festival.

JAMBASE: You’ve got a lot going on – what’s on the frontburner right now?

NIKKI GLASPIE: Right now, it’s Bear Creek, and that’s really as far as I can see because I have so much happening there. We have Dumpstaphunk and we’re also doing a Dumpsta-Lettuce jam with people like Bootsy and Questlove, and that’s going to be awesome. And the Nth Power, we landed the greatest slot in the world: Saturday night, in the Music Hall, after everything’s done. It’s the 2 a.m. til whenever slot.

JAMBASE: Right, right, everyone’s amped, wants to keep the party going…

NG: …Yep, they just take it inside. It gets cold at night, come on in, we’ll keep you warm. I’m also going to be playing with the Jen Hartswick Band, we have two slots. So yeah, I’ll be super busy at Bear Creek. I’m also doing a gospel set with Nigel and Roosevelt [Collier] and I’m playing with Lettuce too.

JAMBASE: All over the place, as usual. So it seems like you’ve settled into a nice balance, prioritizing Dumpstaphunk and the Nth Power and mixing that with other appearances. How do you pick your spots?

NG: Dumpstaphunk is in the main gig, but really, the spots pick me. When we’re not doing Dumpstaphunk I’m playing with the Nth Power. That’s definitely my baby right now, we’re trying to cultivate it and make it grow and get it to where we want it to be. We want to be playing more gigs, but everyone else is working, too, and has stuff which is the hardest part. Nate plays with John Brown’s Body and they work as much as Dumpstaphunk does. Nigel, he’s doing Warren Haynes, and John Scofield, and Lettuce, and has his own band, too. Nick’s out with Big Daddy Kane and he’s traveling a bunch.

But when we can do it, we are doing it. It’s our band, not like someone else’s band that a few of us are a part of. Everyone has an equal stake. We all love playing and writing together and it just feels right.

JAMBASE: How did the Nth Power lineup come together?

NG: In part with Jen Hartswick. Me and Nick, we’re regulars in her band, and I brought Nate in when Jen’s regular bassist at the time couldn’t make it to a gig. Jen says to me, I need a bass player, do you know any good ones, and I’m like, do I know a bass player? Of course I know a bass player – I know the sickest bass players on the planet!

So I called up my good friend Nate Edgar. We met in Boston, he’s been in John Brown’s Body forever and is a really good friend of mine. All those guys, we all used to be roommates, I’ve known them forever. But I knew he wanted to get down to New Orleans more and kind of get into the scene, so I had him come down and we did an all-star band with folsk like Nigel and Marcie Chapa and Dela from Slightly Stoopid and Dave Bayliss from the Pimps of Joytime.

I knew all this guys forever, and long story short, when I got the Beyonce gig, I kind of disappeared from that time in our lives when we’d all play music together all the time. But I figured we’d all just kind of collide again. I called Nate, and he came and said I’ll definitely do something.

Jen called Nigel. I’ve known Nigel for 10 or more years, I knew him up in Portland, Maine, when I was with the Sam Kininger Band and he was up there doing gigs. Nigel and I had kind of been waiting to find something we can work on together, but then he was going out with Warren Haynes so it was like, I guess we’ll try again another time.

But eventually we got to try it. It was the last gig of Jazz Fest, the Sunday morning 3 a.m. set at the Maple Leaf, and I remember we had soundcheck and we were all like, oh my god, this is a band. We just kind of looked at each other, and everyone knew instantly it was something we had to do. We played that show and we could do no wrong, everything I played was gold, and it was only because of what everyone else was playing.

JAMBASE: Amazing how that happens. How soon after were you able to focus on new dates and actually recording new music?

NG: We finally got back together in November of last year, played a gig and started to record. Then we got back together again in February, finished some of the recording, and released an EP at Jazzfest. We did like five gigs at Jazzfest, which was pretty cool. It started out as two gigs and then became five gigs.

JAMBASE: As it always tends to go at Jazzfest, right?

NG: [laughs] Yeah, yeah, like it always does. I mean, wow I had 22 gigs at Jazzfest this year.

JAMBASE: I think that beats Roosevelt.

NG: Yeah, I think it does. I think Stanton played 22 gigs, too. George Porter Jr. played like 26 or 27 though, he had us all beat.

JAMBASE: He doesn’t count; that’s what George does!

NG: Yeah, I’m just trying to be George. We’re all just trying to be George Porter Jr.

JAMBASE: Right on. So you have some more Nth Power dates coming up I gather?

NG: We’re doing a run of shows in December – like a two week run basically on the East Coast. We’ll be doing D.C., we’re doing Asheville, Charleston, Atlanta, I know that. We’re doing New York and Chicago and I think we’re going to do Boston and New Hampshire, too.


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