JamBase Celebrates 20th Anniversary With The Slip, Surprise Me Mr. Davis & More
Twenty years of JamBase was celebrated with a concert on Saturday at The Chapel in San Francisco and a private party at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley on Sunday. Saturday’s action included performances from Ron Artis II, Big Light and the Camp Harry All-Stars, a.k.a Surprise Me Mr. Davis. Then, on Sunday, guests enjoyed sets from Clangin’ & Bangin’, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Holly Bowling, a variation of Tea Leaf Green, the Strangefolk Duo, Jennifer Hartswick & Friends, Nathan Moore & Friends and The Slip. The latter was the group’s first full set since 2015 and just their second of the past seven years.
Hawaii’s Ron Artis II and his band The Truth set the tone with a potent set of original material at The Chapel that included a collaboration with Brad Barr. Then, Big Light played a rare set. The lineup of songwriter/guitarist/singer Fred Torphy, drummer Bradly Bifulco, lead guitarist Jeremy Korpas and bassist Steve Adams presented material from the late ’00s and early ’10s before bringing out Nathan Moore. Nathan mentioned that Big Light was the first band to cover his material and the now quintet went on to perform Moore’s “Safe & Sorry.” Big Light and Nathan were then joined by one of Moore’s friends for “Hysterical Incredible.”
Surprise Me Mr. Davis closed out the night on Saturday under the pseudonym “Camp Harry All-Stars,” a reference to the High Sierra camp founded by JamBase staff members. The quartet is made up of Moore and The Slip: Brad Barr, Andrew Barr and Marc Friedman. SMMD went a capella to open with “Tombstone” and then played such beloved classics as “Everything Must Go,” “When A Woman” and “I Hate Love.” Moore vacated the stage after starting “Sissyfus” to leave the Barrs and Friedman to jam on the song before Nathan returned for the final lyrics. The night concluded with a triumphant two-song encore of original “As Long As There’s One Of Us Standing” and The Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown.”
Clangin’ & Bangin’ featuring keyboardist Kirby Lee Hammel and drummer Jake Alexander performed on the patio outside Sweetwater as attendees started arriving at the venue. The pair included a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “They Love Each Other” into their set and went on to welcome Artis II for Jimmy Smith’s “Back At The Chicken Shack” and Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina.” For the finale, the duo was joined by Hartswick on trumpet and Natalie Cressman on trombone for the original “Cable Car Strut,” a song which serves as theme music for The JamBase Podcast.
The action moved to the main stage for a rare JFJO set. Keyboardist Brian Haas, bassist Reed Mathis and drummer Jason Smart used their originals as springboards for plenty of deliciously weird improvisation. Haas went heavy on melodica, while Mathis utilized a distorted tone at times to provide a lead voice in the jams. Haas noted Smart stepped up to join the band just before they went on tour with Charlie Hunter in the early ’00s. Jason held down the drummer seat in the trio version of JFJO from 2001 – 2007.
Next up was pianist Holly Bowling, who deconstructed the Grateful Dead’s “Cassidy” and “Divided Sky” by Phish ahead of the Tea Leaf performance. The one-time-only Tea Leaf lineup for the evening featured keyboardist Trevor Garrod, guitarist Lebo (Dan Lebowitz), drummer Scott Rager and bassist Eric DiBerardino. Garrod led the quartet through “The Garden Part III” to open. An improvisational highlight came with an expansive “Caliyuga” in which the band totally broke from the song’s form and explored various jam spaces. JamBase co-founder Andy Gadiel, who along with fellow co-founder Ted Kartzman and CEO David Onigman gave speeches acknowledging the occasion, jammed with TLG on “Freedom” towards the end of the set. A special moment in an evening filled with them was former TLG bassist Reed Mathis joining the group on guitar for “Just Give Me One More Chance,” a single from 2013’s In The Wake.
Lebo wasn’t done yet as he went on to join Strangefolk’s Reid Genauer and Jon Trafton on lap steel for “Speculator.” Then, Hartswick and guitarist Nick Cassarino emerged for a cover of “Angel From Montgomery.” Jennifer and Reid traded verses on the John Prine classic.
Hartswick’s band was another “one-time-only” affair featuring Cressman, Cassarino, the Disco Biscuits bassist Marc Brownstein, Turkuaz drummer Michelangelo Carubba and Star Kitchen keyboardist Rob Marscher. The all-star ensemble presented a set of covers that included The Meters’ “It Ain’t No Use,” WAR’s “Cisco Kid” and Stephen Stills’ “Love The One You’re With” done in the style of Aretha Franklin. Guitarist Eric Krasno headed over to Sweetwater after his gig with Phil Lesh at Terrapin Crossroads and added to the blues standard “Stormy Monday.” Then, Umphrey’s McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins and Borahm Lee of Break Science along with Marscher provided a triple keys attack on Bob Marley’s “Exodus.” Artis II emerged for a riveting rendition of Chaka Khan & Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good” to bring the memorable set to a close.
Nathan Moore treated attendees to the final “tweener” performance and he also recruited a bevy of longtime collaborators. Brad Barr added harmony vocals to the “Nowhere From Here To Go” that opened Moore’s set. Then, Bowling, Andrew Barr, Marc Friedman and Lebo backed Nathan on the rest of his set, which concluded with an emotional “Back In 15 Minutes.”
The Slip closed out JamBase’s 20th anniversary party at Sweetwater Music Hall with a 10-song set and two-tune encore. After opening with the pairing of “Headshot” and “Sometimes True To Nothing,” the beloved trio worked through “Get With Me Fuji” to the delight of the crowd. Soon thereafter, Krasno emerged for an otherworldly “From The Gecko.” Brad and Eric, who first jammed together at a guitar camp in Connecticut as youngsters, complimented each other perfectly throughout. Other highlights from The Slip’s second set in the past seven years included the final segment of “Children Of December” and “If One Of Us Should Fall.” The Slip closed out the night with an encore that began with a cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” which saw Krasno run out to join in on the climax of Brad’s solo. Finally, both Nathan Moore and Eric Krasno added to a “Last One Ever” far removed from any prior version of the song.