"One good thing about music....when it hits you feel no pain"

Recently, people have asked me how I have dealt with all the chaos and tragedy that we all have experienced. I give them the same answer that many of us all know....MUSIC! It's quite amazing how music can be a tool to heal one's mind and soul. Whether it be the Delta blues, Afrobeat funk, avant-garde jazz, lyrical folk, classical Indian ragas, or a 30 piece orchestra... music has the ability to transport you to that place that makes you feel happy within. On this Thursday night it happened to be the amazing sounds of Sound Tribe Sector 9 that helped transport me to that special place.

My first experience with Sector 9 was as I was waking up at the Allgood Festival in Brandywine, Maryland three summers ago. While they did not incorporate as much of the electronica sounds then, they sure did interest me enough to get me out of my bag and get my early morning groove on. The buzz surrounding Sector 9 since their move to the west coast has been tremendous. I spoke to someone at the show that mentioned the last time the band passed through the Higher Ground in Winooski that their were about 20 people present. That was not the case tonight. Slowly but surely, the venue got packed with many eager people anticipating to hear what this "buzz" was all about. The northeast got a taste of Sector 9 this summer at the Berkshire Mountain Music Festival, but this current swing through the region is sure to help the band expose their unique healing experience to all that choose to attend.

I was especially looking forward to this show, as this would be the first time I would see the band play with a light show. The band helped prepare us for a dance-filled evening by starting off with a downtempo groove that helped get folks warmed up. One of the many reasons why I enjoy these guys is that they never force their sound. They always take their time and just let the songs develop from the energy that they get from the crowd... patience is a virtue as some would say. As a whole, Sector 9 has the ability to shift gears from a trance groove to a drum'n'bass feel to a deep house sound with such ease. Much of that credit has to go to Zach Velmer, the band's drummer. In terms of drumming abilities and sheer tenacity, he is in a league all his own at times. DJ's looking for drum'n'bass beats/breaks should have nothing to worry about as long as Zach is still pounding the skins. I believe Zach and drummers like Alan Evans of Soulive, Dale Fanning of the Living Daylights, Andrew Barr from The Slip and Billy Martin from MMW are the new wave of drummers that will help bring hip-hop/electronica elements to help cement the future of jazz music. Either way, it's worth the cost of admission just to see and appreciate what Zach can do behind a kit.

Dave Murphy, the bass player does a fantastic job of holding the bottom end and working with Zach to help be the glue that binds all these sounds together. He had some dub/reggae bass lines that had me feeling quite "irie" at times and a quick, yet beautifully melodic bass solo near the end of "Baraka." The keyboard/organ/piano extraordinaire, Dave Phipps helps creates these beautiful and soothing soundscapes for the rest of the band to play on top of. When he's not making these soundscapes, he's creating all sorts of quirky electronic sounds to help folks practice their dancefloor moves. Like a true jazz guitarist, Hunter Brown was seated in a chair all night. Some folks seemed to be turned off by a guitarist that chooses to sit down and perform, why is beyond me. When your creating fluid jazz licks or nasty funks riffs like Hunter is doing... I say sit, stand, jump, walk or do whatever you please, just keep it coming! I spent a lot of the night paying attention to Jeffree Lerner or at least when he was playing the tablas. Being a tabla player myself and a fan of classical Indian music, I am always thrilled to hear people use the tablas within a different musical context. Besides the tablas, Jeffree did a great job of rounding out the bands sound with his percussion duties.

Sector 9 works a crowd just like a good DJ... just when you think it's over they kick it up a notch and make you leave it all on the dancefloor. They did this exact same thing during the tune, "Kamuy." As it was, my body was worn out... but Phipps kicked out the oh so familiar keyboard intro to "Kamuy" and I found myself shakin' my bones once again. It's hard not to move to these guys. They have taken all the best aspects of electronic music and incorporated it with jazz music to create a sound that is all their own. While the music has an undeniable spiritual effect, it also has the undeniable need for "cuttin' rug".

Is the turntable an instrument? While it took me a while to accept this notion, I will have to say yes. The turntable is used to do the same things that many jam-based artists are looking to do... make people DANCE. This is exactly what Sector 9 is doing, getting people together to create this source of positive energy through dance. Is this the future of jazz music? That I don't know, but if it is, the future looks bright.

I just recently read a article in the Burlington-based improv-jazz magazine Signal to Noise in which they did a interview with Phish drummer, Jon Fishman. The idea behind the interview was to create the dialogue of the interview by performing a blind hearing-test to Fishman. The interviewer would play a track from an album and Fishman would try to guess who it was and then they would talk about that track or the artist. Well, one of the tunes happened to be the second track from STS9's Offered Schematics Suggesting Peace. While Fishman said he liked what he heard, he didn't know who it was. Well, I sure hope that someone tells him and everyone else what they are missing out on.

"So hit me with music....hit me with music now" -Bob Marley

Cecil Thomas
Jambase Vermont Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 10/2/01]

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