Theory of Everything | 10.05.01 | Boulder Theater | Boulder CO
A very interesting week had transpired in my life since the last show I saw, Soulive, over a month ago. My girlfriend had come down with a case of mono weeks before the show and was a little tired; a hard week of work was rumbling through my head. The drive down there was its typical boring self on I25, which glides down the Front Range. At night the mountains are almost impossible to see, and it gets much worse as one passes the lovely town of Greeley and its fine stink of cow dung. The way into the charming but expensive town of Boulder is not much better with the pathetic suburbia surroundings of Longmont. For anyone that thinks that all of Colorado is like Aspen are sorely mistaken. The Front Range is like last beacon of the plains mixed with small foothills and some fairly sized mountains capped off with middle-America towns. Boulder, however, is the exception. This town has more money than Sam Walton, my friends, and the people there are not afraid to show it. Many good bands play there because with that money the town has built two beautiful small indoor venues. The Fox Theater is home to many a jam band gathering and almost always a quality performance. The venue selected for our enjoyment on this evening was the Boulder Theater, a small open theater with great sound and artwork in which almost any band would love to play. The jam was a throw down of local musicians from such bands as the String Cheese Incident, The Motet, former members of Leftover Salmon and the Tony Furtado Band, and last, but not least, Jamie Janover on percussion.
Compared to the third jam, which occurred on June 6th and had Robert Walter on keyboards, the atmosphere inside the club was a lot looser than most Boulder shows. Shows in Boulder are always super crowded, and it’s nearly impossible to get a drink. But this time, with the club at about half capacity, a mellow Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey played to a not-so-attentive crowd. Being a fan of these guys for a couple of years now myself, and seeing them at very intimate venues all over Chicago, it was very disappointing to see the reaction of the not-so-drunk-yet Boulderites, who were not enjoying a great couple of songs. The songs that I heard sounded tight, like a young version of MMW. These guys at full power can blow most young and equally noted jazz bands out of the water. They mix together the great rhythmic sounds of Sun Ra, and possess the funk grooves of Herbie and Miles when needed. They were pretty chill for the better half, (about 20 minutes), of the time that I got to see of them, but that only highlighted a pretty decent jam that followed.
The set break seemed to take about an hour. For those of you that don’t know about this type of super jam, (not in any sense of the New Orleans type) it consisted of Kyle Hollinsworth (SCI) on keys, Ross Martin on guitar, Dave Watts (Motet) on drums, Jans Ingber (Motet) on percussion and vocals, Jamie Janover on percussion, Tye North (formerly of Leftover Salmon) on bass, and special guests Jessica Lurie (Living Daylights) on sax and flute and Jamie Mansfield (JMP) on mandolin. With this lineup we were expecting another solid night like the third, and I held a slim hope that a wandering Jon Fishman may take the stage, since he was in town with Jazz Mandolin Project and performing the next night.
At about ten the show started with a tight instrumental led by Jessica Lurie and Ross Martin exchanging solos. The next tune, which was quite unexpected, was a blues and jazz laden version of Little Feat’s “Skin it Back.” Let me say that I am a huge fan of this song. This version was beautifully played with the exception that the singer, Jans Ingber, tried to make it sound as if he was Marvin Gaye, and not the original vocalist, Lowell George. He was badly mistaken. The next song was a short funky number where Jessica once again took control of the jam. In the last jam these men held, Ross Martin was usually the one controlling the jams, which got to be a little annoying. With Jessica, the jams had a much looser side to them. They did not seem to be going for the funk, but letting it come to them. After Christmas 1806, the pick, in my personal opinion, for worst jam of the night occurred when they played the Chaka Khan/Rufus/Stevie Wonder funk hit, “Tell Me Something Good." Why jam bands have decided to take on this funk dud is a mystery to me. This, by far, was the worst version I’ve heard yet, with Jans and special guest Michael Kang singing the simplistic lyrics. The jam that followed was horrid; it was missing the two fundamental parts of this song. First, they had Jessica shaking percussion instruments when this song has a sax solo in the middle. Second, the song also has clavinet layering over the keys. What was horrid about this was that the percussion seemed to drown Kyle out, and you could barely hear him. This was also the case with many songs in the last jam with Robert Walter. The song that this awful funk tune went into was an Irish jig composed by Jamie Mansfield. The song itself was very pretty, but when playing funk, the key element is to keep it going. This jam had no place being there, and it completely turned the crowd’s dance into a hazy stare. The last song, again, was strongly led by Jessica, and had the same light funk air to it of the earlier songs. It was not a bad first set because of the instrumental jams, but I was thirsty for a great second set.
On a side note, Jeff Coffin was supposed to be playing the saxophone at this T.O.E. jam, but he was nowhere to be found. He was replaced with Jessica Lurie from Seattle’s Living Daylights, who, if you have never heard this band, please go to a show of their's immediately. They are a great little jazz band with a funked-out flavor. But anyway, Jeff’s whereabouts were not mentioned. I was disappointed in the musicians for not addressing this because his name was on the bill, and some of us had wanted to see him. Sorry, I just found it rude that no mention of this was made, but back to the review...
The set break loosened my spirits, with the help of my friend Jack Daniels. They again started out with a funk jam entitled "Bamm!." This song was very good, with the first sounds being heard from Kyle and Jessica helping to complete a fine jam. The second and third songs were also quite spacy and light. The good thing about this jam was that the music was free form, and the jams fairly unrehearsed. That aspect is something I like in a super jam of this nature. The musicians seemed very relaxed on stage, and all seemed to communicate very well together. The highlight of the second set was the jam “Voyage.” This song had all the makings of a classic funk jam, highlighted by a great sax player bouncing off a slap style bass player and a funk keyboardist. It was a great song, and one they should consider bringing back for the next show. The layering in this song was fantastic with Jessica using all types of effects on her sax, and the whole band getting that techno groove on. The other highlight of the set included a smooth transition jam of The Beatles', “Taxman” which included amazing solos by Jessica, Kyle, and Ross Martin. The last two songs of the set were good jams with the repeat of “Yogi’s Day Off” from the first and second jams. The encore was a mix of R & B and Classic Rock. The first song entitled “New Train” did nothing for me personally, but seemed to get most of the people dancing. The last song was “When the Levee Breaks” by Led Zeppelin. This song was tight, as all the Zeppelin jams this band does are, with the exception of Kang coming out and singing again. He can not sing and should not attempt to on such a complicated lyrical song. Jans, on the other hand, gave this song his all and did quite well at his best Robert Plant impersonation. This set was a lot looser than the first; all the jams were performed very well and even the vocals were not too bad. It was a very happy experience for all ticket goers as we departed the theater.
On the whole, I would say this was a great show because of Jessica Lurie and her style of saxophone playing. Kyle seemed to be enjoying himself, though he could barley be heard. The percussion section was amazing, though very loud at times. The song selection was a little random, and the sightings of Jamie Mansfield almost always meant the jam was about to slow down, but overall it was not a bad night to be an American. For being my first show since the attacks, it was a nice feeling to kind of get back to the norm of what I call a life. For most, music is just background noise, but for some it is a celebration and a time to be alive. For that reason, I say thank you Theory of Everything and all the great shows of my past, present, and future. And for the all the musicians, keep playing, and for some, don’t sing when you shouldn’t. Remember Roseanne Barr with the Star Bangled Banner? Thanks for reading and take care...
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