Words By: Scott Bernstein
Soule Monde with Trey Anastasio :: 5.01.14 :: The Iridium :: New York, NY ::
It was 7:30 p.m. last night and I had finally finished a long day of work and was about to
in for a relaxing night on the couch. Yet after learning Trey Anastasio would
sitting in with Soule
Monde at The Iridium in NYC, about 30 blocks from where I stood, I knew I had to get
down there. Little did I know that about an hour later I'd be
watching a guitarist I'd be following around the country for the last 20 years play two
sets and an encore with two of his longtime band mates making for a memorable evening I
won't soon forget. The collaboration came together on a whim, with Soule Monde keyboardist
Ray Paczkowski deciding to call Trey earlier that afternoon and NYC resident Anastasio
offering up his services.
When I arrived at the famed jazz club in Times Square about 45 minutes later I thought I'd
been had. There were perhaps 10 patrons scattered around the room and none seemed to be
kind you'd see at a Phish show. I walked up to one of the maitre de, who informed me I was
in for a treat and after seeing my reaction, she said "you heard, didn't you." We didn't
discuss it any further as she seated my party directly next to the stage. I couldn't
believe my luck and figured I should probably tell the rest of the community to get down
to The Iridium, which I did with a YEMblog
tweet. Just after 8:30 p.m. Anastasio took the stage with his two TAB band mates,
drummer Russ Lawton and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski, aka Soule Monde, and it was on. At
this point there were perhaps 20 people in attendance and for lack of a better term, the
newcomers were looking more "Phishy." The guitarist utilized a Fender Stratocaster, which
provided a very different tone than his usual Languedoc and just a few pedals including
his trusty wah-wah pedal.
With each passing song more people started arriving and I got a kick out of watching the
look of disbelief as they walked in to the tiny club and saw what was going down. Word
clearly had spread and the room was starting to fill up. The drums/keys/guitar trio mostly
focused on Soule Monde's riveting originals. Anastasio had no issues finding his spaces
within the avant-grooves Ray and Russ laid down. The guitarist used interesting chord
voicings and was at ease with the material. He didn't solo very much, instead showing off
his masterful rhythmic skills and Big Red didn't stop smiling throughout the whole
There's so many times you hear rumors that Trey would sit-in with this person or that
person and it never turns out to be true. There are other times Anastasio would guest for
a song or two and then jet. Last night's Soule Monde performance was the full monty. The
Phish guitarist never left the stage during either of the two sets. It was unlike any
situation I'd seen Trey perform in as there were no roadies, no guitar tech Brian Brown,
no huge five-digit rig - just one musician stopping by to perform with two of his most
trusted collaborators. Anastasio used plenty of elbow grease to elicit
vibrant tones in a way he doesn't with his usual Languedoc.
As setbreak hit word got around the club that a huge line had formed outside. Venue
operators gave those who were on hand for the first show the opportunity to stick around
for the previously scheduled 10:30 p.m. performance and not many left. The room filled to
capacity, a measly 140 patrons, for a second show that was very different from the first.
The normal decorum of a jazz club was lost as the capacity-crowd hooted and hollered at
every opportunity. During setbreak it was interesting to hear everyone's stories about how
they found out and there seem to be many dinners that were left uneaten last night as
those who heard about the collaboration changed their plans with a quickness and headed
down to The Iridium.
Soule Monde doesn't plan the setlist before taking the stage and last night's performance
was no different. Russ and Ray would call out songs to each other between tunes and then
the keyboardist would tell Trey what key the next number was in. It was crazy to see how
quickly Anastasio picked up on what Lawton and Paczkowski were playing. When the guitarist
stepped to the mic for an impromptu encore after the second performance, we learned why he
was familiar with the material. Trey noted that Soule Monde's studio album was his
"coffee-drinking" music and he listened to the disc over and over. Knowing Anastasio, many
of his listening sessions probably involved playing along with the songs.
After receiving a massive standing ovation, the trio did return for that aforementioned
impromptu encore. Ray told the crowd they wanted Trey to sing a tune and he set up a mic
in front of the guitarist. Soule Monde and Anastasio then lit into a "Cayman Review" that
wound up being the only Trey original of the evening. "Cayman" was performed in a fairly
similar manner to TAB performances with of course much fewer musicians. Those in the crowd
exchanged knowing glances as the band left the stage leaving many of us in awe of what we
had just witnessed. The venue was so packed that staff manned the doors and wouldn't let
anyone leave without showing their receipts as proof they had paid. This was far from a
typical night at The Iridium.
Now, as amazing as Trey's performance was, one of the lessons I was left with is just how
good Soule Monde's music is. The duos play a MMW-esque brand of groove-rock that shows off
the incredible skills Lawton and Paczkowski possess. Had Anastasio not been there, this
still would've been a fantastic performance and I'm the new owner of the band's studio
album - one of the first physical CDs I've bought in years. It will now be my coffee-
drinking music as well.
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