(I Love) LaMP: Versatile Trio Lights Up Park City Music Hall

Russ Lawton, Scott Metzger and Ray Paczkowski delivered a satisfying show on Friday night in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

By Matt Hoffman Apr 15, 2024 11:04 am PDT

It was the best of times in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where on Friday night LaMP, the powerhouse jazz-jam trio, treated the sold-out crowd at Park City Music Hall to two eclectic sets of high-energy musicianship and danceable grooves that capture a talented and beloved band that’s hitting its stride.

Some have described LaMP as a supergroup, which is true in the sense that it consists of three seasoned veterans of the jam band scene: Russ Lawton (drums, Trey Anastasio Band), Scott Metzger (guitar, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead), and Ray Paczkowski (organ, TAB). (The band’s name is a portmanteau of their last names.)

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But unlike some other supergroups, Lawton and Paczkowski began performing as a duo, Soule Monde, nearly 20 years before forming LaMP and have been playing together for even longer in TAB. This career-long musical partnership has proven to be the perfect place for Metzger to bring his own diverse history of tastefully commanding playing in a variety of groups across an array of styles from acid rock to gypsy jazz, hard bop to rockabilly.

The room — full but not uncomfortably packed — was electric when the band took the stage at 9:15 p.m. (Zdenek Gubb, Twiddle’s bassist from 2007 through the band’s indefinite touring hiatus announced in 2023, was not able to open the show, as previously intended, on account of a family emergency.)

They opened with “Mimi Digs It,” a funky organ-led Soule Monde rocker. Unlike in Paczkowski’s jazz trio Vorcza, which includes an upright bassist, the Milkman himself covers the low end in LaMP (as he does in Soule Monde), additionally playing melody and harmony across his organ and clavinet. His left and right hands sometimes seem to function as independent band members, locked in rhythmically and harmonically with one another and the rest of the band.

Metzger next began the second song of the night, “Out of Curiosity,” a guitar-forward original that initially read as a straight-ahead jazz number before Lawton’s locomotive drumming got the room dancing.

Paczkowski, the band’s spokesman — he once was a milkman, after all — cheerily introduced “Some Days,” the opener from the band’s self-titled 2020 release, as a song “about those certain days when everything just is … OK.” The audience felt substantially better than OK as the band continued through “Bernard,” another LaMP original, before Metzger kicked off “Pork ‘n Slaw,” which was originally released by Metzger’s blues-rock trio WOLF!. LaMP’s version ripped, with blistering lead work and chicken pickin’ from Metzger, complemented by Paczkowski’s substantial organ sounds, in contrast to the electric bass in the WOLF! version.

The band closed out the first set with “Tinyland” and “Tango,” two Soule Monde tunes where the players experimented with quieter dynamics and left space for one another to solo before taking a break.

The band led off the second set with “Cosmo,” which found Metzger pushing the gain on his Telecaster as the band leaned in frenetically before winding their jam down abruptly. They continued through “Hey Francis,” a WOLF! tune featuring an avant-garde free jazz introduction, and Soule Monde’s organ-driven “The Nail” before commencing the heavily syncopated LaMP original “Hit Return.” Lawton’s emphatic drumming propelled the group and crowd along, with Metzger and Paczkowski following suit rhythmically and Metzger’s tone and playing evoking ‘70s jazz fusion. The trio played hard and fast through Soule Monde’s upbeat “Jody Grind,” which left plenty of room for Metzger’s fingers to fly and round out the arrangement.

The band ended the second set with two jazz covers: first, Ali Farka Touré’s “Allah Uya,” a desert blues number frequently played by Soule Monde. Metzger’s Malian-style guitar work was a welcome addition to the Soule Monde arrangement, with Paczkowski’s left-hand bass work channeling the resounding simplicity of Billy Cox of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys.

They closed the set with “Elsie’s River,” by South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim (f.k.a. Dollar Brand), featuring an unaccompanied drum solo by Lawton.

The effusive and appreciative audience was ready when the band returned for their encore, a fast-paced Soule Monde tune called “Influence” that served as the perfect vehicle to showcase the group’s individual and collective talents as they brought the show to a close.

LaMP is touring through the end of April, after which the bandmates will turn their attention to TAB and JRAD tours. They have shows scheduled on June 5 and 6 at Nectar’s in Burlington and also plan to release a 2-LP set from their multi-night run at Nectar’s in 2023. In July, LaMP will return to the studio to record the follow-up to their 2020 self-titled debut.

Audio (Taped by Fred Nicolois)

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Setlist

Set One: Mimi Digs It, Out of Curiosity, Some Days, Bernard, Pork n’ Slaw, Q Division, Tinyland, Tango

Set Two: Cosmo, Hey Francis, The Nail, Hit Return, Jody Grind, Allah Uya, Elsie’s River

Encore: Influence

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