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At A Glance
Free Peoples formed in 2001 in the Bay Area. The original ensemble was a trio with Tim Sawyer on guitar and vocals, Michael DiPirro on bass and vocals, and Johnny Downer on guitar and vocals. They focused their sound on acoustic music. Genres included folk, bluegrass and hints of old- timey and American traditionals. With the growing demand to play in venues requiring more electric music, they brought in Sonoma county drummer, Bradley Leach in 2002. The band began a new path, incorporating electric bass and guitar, but still keeping its original feel and its acoustic- based repertoire alive. In 2005, drummer, James Foster, replaced Leach as drummer and trombone great, Jason Thor, entered into the scene. With the addition of Foster/Thor, came yet another shift in the band’s musical evolution. Rock, Jazz , Soul, Reggae, and Funk became apparent in their writing styles. Then came the untimely death of Downer in 2009. As a result, the band changed its personnel temporarily. DiPirro was replaced by Mark Calderone on bass and Karl Kummerle on violin. The band incorporated Kummerle’s gypsy jazz sounds and Calderone’s rock steady bass playing. Then in 2011, DiPirro returned and with him came the addition of Nick Hasty on tenor sax, flute, and vocals and Jesse Shantor on alto and baritone sax. The current line-up to date is Tim Sawyer,Michael DiPirro,James Foster and Nick Hasty with special guest Jason Thor. The horns brought yet another shift in the band’s musical evolution. New Orleans and bebop came into the foreground. Yet Sawyer and DiPirro, whom have always been the principle songwriters, maintain that acoustic, vocal-based context in the songwriting and performances overall. Free Peoples have been called “ Porch rock pros” , and their songwriting is” sophisticated with twists and turns that take the music several steps from the unexpected”. They have quietly become one of the best American roots bands. As of 2013, they have three studio albums and one live album to date.
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