Stephen Perkins and Tony Franklin with Willie Waldman at The HoodLab
This tight formation of Banyan consisting of Stephen Perkins, Willie Waldman, Tony Franklin, and Brian Jordan was smack dab in the middle of a two night run at Quixote’s True Blue. Banyan had a history with Summer Camp, having performed twice at the festival. Last year they performed the opening set on Sunday morning at the Moonshine stage.Perkins and Franklin arranged for a short drum and bass jam at the multi-purpose space known as HoodLab. Distributer of HoodLamb Hemp coats out of Amsterdam, HoodLab is also an art gallery and a space for live performances. Curated and owned by Adam Dunn, this place is one of the hidden gems in Denver. Opening up was self-described funk metal group Herb N’ War. They were without lead singer Eutimia Cruz Montoya. So, they played as a power trio and basically blasted through an improv set that featured heavy riffing and some tight drum work by Carter Casad. Without their voice they were left to focus on the music, and honestly this was a perfect fit for the Perkins Franklin jam.
There was a modest gathering, many of which seemed to be regulars and friends of the proprietors. Originally billed as just a drum and bass jam with Perkins and Franklin, Waldman added his horn to make it a full-blown Banyan show. Perkins unleashed his fury on the drums as the crowd settled in for thirty minutes of freeform rage. Franklin tickled his fretless bass to the delight of the audience as Waldman, without any effects or petals, created a cacophony of sound with just his horn and a microphone. At one point Waldman created distortion by inserting the mic into the bell of his trumpet. Franklin went wild on the bass causing the roof of the HoodLab to rumble as the Perkins broke into a raucous beat to blast off on another jam tangent. All in all, this entire musical journey was short but powerful. As they finished up, Herb N’ War took the stage again to close out the evening. If you get the chance spend some time at the HoodLab, this place was special, and worth the visit.
Banyan with The People’s Abstract at Quixote’s True Blue
No one puts together a lineup quite like Jay Bianchi. As I entered the newly reformatted venue, which has moved to the old Bender’s Tavern, the band Tick was warming up in the main room. Quixote’s is two stages split by a large wall. Each room contains their own bar, and it actually does work quite well. I opted to watch some docile covers by The Mighty High Band in the front room rather than get bitten by the Tick. The Mighty High Band is a basically a Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, and Legion Of Mary cover band pulling out deep cuts from Garcia’s side projects. This band was a fun way to ease into the night. Performing songs like “Tangled Up In Blue,” with amazing accuracy I was happy to have caught a bit of The Mighty High Band.
As Tick cleared the stage it was time for something completely different. The People’s Abstract could be called a Zobomaze side project. However I prefer to think of them as another side of the same musical coin. With Zobo’s Sean Dandurand, this tight four piece at first glance has a lot in common with Zobo. When they start playing those similarities disappear. The People’s Abstract is a instrumental blend of jazz, funk, rock, and more. As people slowly filtered in, it almost seemed that they were caught off guard by the incredible music coming from the stage. I too found myself blown away but this unassuming quartet. Given their warm take on jazzy funk, they were a perfect fit to open for Banyan.As I mentioned earlier, this was a tight four-piece version of Banyan. I have seen this group bloated with as many as seven members, however this amalgamation of Banyan had laser focus and impeccable back and forth. With Franklin and Perkins holding down the rhythm, Jordan and Waldman were left to fill in the musical gaps. Performing two sets, over the course of a few hours, Banyan proved once again why they are not to be missed.
Banyan Live at Quixote’s True Blue on February 9, 2013.
Weaving their way through jazz, rock, and Middle Eastern inspired jams, Banyan is as fluid as any group you will see live; in essence with a rotating pool of players you have to see. Perkins just wows the crowd as he slowly peels off layers until he is left in his signature black wife beater. Watching Stephen Perkins in a tiny room playing jazz to forty of fifty people is something everyone should experience. He is a force behind the kit that literally unleashes an all out attack on the skins. Waldman back on stage with his effects is able to paint sonic murals that fly around the crowd. Franklin too is a beast who simply shreds. Brian Jordan, continues to impress with his virtuoso guitar work. They sounded fantastic together and I would love to see this lineup continue to tour regularly, as it was too much fun. If you’ve never heard of them, download the show, take a listen, and get inspired. This type of free form musical exploration is a rare treat in today’s paint by numbers scene. It’s definitely worth checking out and it could change your perspective on what jam can be.
After witnessing an amazing set at Summer Camp from Banyan featuring Stephen Perkins and Willie Waldman, I was happy to see Mr. Waldman was on his way to Denver. This set was a bit different as it featured four incredible live painters performing with the band. This year Summer Camp invited several artists to paint at the festival and it really adds a bit of spice to the experience. In a way this show was much like a mini-fest in an evening.
The last time live painters Bukaty, Wisdom, Callerman, and Keener were together was as the Kanrocksas Music Festival. This time around they were painting a Free Jazz performance from Willie Waldman Project. WWP is a group that morphs on the regular taking on different members based on locale and availability. This time around the musicians consisted of Willie on trumpet, Brian Jordan on guitar, Cory Kertzie on drums, and Garrett Sayers on bass. A tight group to be sure, but the night also had its fair share of surprises.
I arrived early and met with the band for an interview. I wanted to dive into the collaboration between the live painters and the musicians. I have been seeing Wisdom paint with Waldman for ten years now and the most interesting element of his painting is his reliance on the performance rather than the final product on the canvas. He paints on an illuminated background and when he is done he takes a picture and wipes it away. The impermanence of his art is mind-boggling. Bukaty has a flowing, sometimes frenzied style, however as of late he has opted to really let the music dictate his work. Don Callerman, also known as the “House Painter” at Quixotes ranges from linear impressionism to more direct representational pieces. Laurie Keener does some incredible caricatures of the musicians and is well known for the way she depicts not only the performers but also their instruments.
So with the painters in “Quadraphonic Surround Sound” in place it was tine for the set to get underway. As they started there was only about thirty souls gathered on the newly renovated patio at Quixotes. I have to point out that the light turnout had to do with the fact that the show was poorly promoted. For the caliber of music and level of talent of artists painting it was most definitely a shame that not more people made it out. The lack of attendence did little to detract from the musical performance or the artists. I guess what I’m saying is that the music was absolutely top notch. Willie was not only the bandleader but also his soulful trumpet acted as the glue that tied the act together. Brian Jordan is simply stellar, working with a wide range of musical styles he pulled out all the stops on his guitar throughout the two set show. The dynamism between Sayers and Kertzie built over the course of the entire evening. Kertzie is a monster on the kit and working with someone as accomplished as Garrett really gave him the room to shine. The paint splattered on the canvases as the group flowed in and out of Latin, world, jazz, and rock soundscapes. There are no setlists really, as it is all improvised; however you can listen to the tape from Kind Recordings on Archive.
The second set saw more surprises including a sit-in from Cecil “Pnut” Daniels who stopped by after playing a Thursday set at the Highland Tap. Not only have Wednesdays with Garrett Sayers Trio become incredibly popular, but Thursdays are also hosting live music as well. He plays a Midi Horn that looks almost like a toy saxophone; however the music he created was anything but child’s play. I had heard of Daniels, but this was my first chance seeing him live and it was a great addition to the night’s performance. Another gentleman stepped up to the microphone for a version of “Big Boss Man,” which got the small crowd dancing on the patio. All in all it was a great night of music that made me wish more people had the pleasure of seeing. When Willie has a backing band that is made up of quality musicians he can really rip on the trumpet. I would go so far as to say that the band was as good as any group I’ve seen him with. It was a lot of fun, and I would love to see this exact lineup again and again.