Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band
The Iridium, New York, NY
June 28, 2017
Story by Gary Blicksilver
Photos and video by Sharon Budman
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The first time I saw The Allman Brothers was on January 18, 1982 at the University of Miami. I don’t recall every last detail – actually I don’t recall many details – but I do recall being a passive attendee. Having just transferred from Georgia Tech, and being new to the lay of the land, some guys on my dorm floor said “Hey, The Brothers are doing a free show on the patio – you in?” Having heard of them, but not yet being a card-carrying member of the Peach Corps, I tagged along. The rest, as they say, is history.
That first setlist (over the years, I would see The Allman Brothers 17 more times, the last of which was their penultimate show at
The Beacon Theater) contained two songs in particular which would forever be a part of my life: “Jessica” and “Melissa.” Expressed differently, my then-wife agreed to let me name our two daughters after these classics. The one stipulation was that if we ever had a third child – and a girl, “Little Martha” was NOT an option. Suffice to say, I quit while I was ahead and considered myself a very lucky man!
Another fact about that show only very recently came to light. You see, two days earlier the band was up in Gainesville playing at the University of Florida bandshell (no comment from this Hurricane). I came across a video of that performance and was looking at the line-up way back then – a couple of names less familiar to me based on my late 90’s to 2014 predilection: David Goldflies, Mike Lawler and brothers Dan and David Toler. These gentlemen joining the core of Gregg Allman, Dickie Betts, Butch Trucks and of course Jai Johanny Johanson. Err…wait…strike that – where’s Jaimoe? Unbeknownst to me, Jaimoe and The Brothers had parted ways in 1980, so my first show at U of M was missing this future Hall-of-Famer.
Fast forward to 2017 and Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band. Started during breaks in The Allman Brothers touring schedule (Jaimoe thankfully rejoined the band in 1989), this collective replaces the 2nd lead guitar and additional percussion with a horn section. The effect here is to sort of take The Brothers’ classic (and I use the term very gingerly, as to not offend anyone) “southern rock” catalog and morph it into something that, while clearly blood-related to the original, moves it to the swinging side of the street. In addition to drummer Jaimoe, the current line-up of the band consists of:
Junior Mack – Guitar, Vocals
Dave Stoltz – Bass
Brian Charette – Keyboards
Paul Lieberman – Tenor Sax, Flute, Piccolo, Percussion
Kris Jensen – Tenor & Baritone Sax, Backing Vocals
Reggie Pittman – Trumpet
So, while these talented musicians can take their sound pretty much anywhere they want to go, for tonight’s show at The Iridium in New York City, The Allman Brothers were front and center. This was, after all, the band’s first outing since Gregg passed on in May. The show got going just after 8:30 PM with Jaimoe talking about what the band might have to do to get thrown out of this downstairs club. Lucky for the band, the near capacity crowd was not letting anyone out anytime soon.
The band warmed up with a “Les Brers in A Minor” tease, which led to a beautifully performed “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Towards the end of “Reed,” Jaimoe went into a drum solo; one of two during the evening. Next up was “Can’t Lose What You Never Had,” a song originally performed by Muddy Waters, but his version had a well-placed “Ain’t” in the title. As he did throughout the evening’s songs, Mack sang with the same career defining soul as this evening’s spiritual guest. He also managed to slip a glass slide on his finger and really coax some twang out of his Gibson SG. This all moved us to a bluesy “Stormy Monday,” a song by T-Bone Walker, but etched in The Brothers’ history via At Fillmore East. Again, Mack stretched out on guitar eventually ceding to Lieberman on sax. Taking a break from The Brothers’ repertoire, the band played “Jaimoe’s Groove,” a fine instrumental from the bandleader himself.
At more or less the halfway point, Pittman did the band introductions, and when it came time to introduce Jaimoe, he emphasized his “hall of fame this” and “lifetime achievement award that” credentials. Jaimoe then joked that he was “too nervous to play after all that.”
Mack then launched into an almost religious “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” If ever there was a theme song for life, this was the one:
“You don’t need no gypsy to tell you why
Ya can’t let one precious day to slip by
Well, look inside yourself, and if you don’t see what you want
Maybe sometimes then ya don’t
But, leave your mind alone and just get high”
On this, Charette added greatly with a dance on his smaller electric piano (of course he also plays the Hammond B3 – a prerequisite for this genre of music). As the company got deeper and deeper into it, strains of “Midnight Rider,” “You Don’t Love Me” and “Jessica” could clearly be heard. Mack, who also performs with the Heritage Blues Orchestra, is no stranger to this brand, having played with The Allman Brothers – he really gets their musical DNA. They closed this long one out with Jensen thundering away on his sax.
Mack then asked if we were enjoying ourselves and “how many of us do not live in the area and that includes New Jersey?” Though I mentioned Brooklyn, France seemed to be the far point of the night. After some comedy club-style laughing, Mack announced, “I think we got time for one more tune,” and led the way on one of his own Brothers-tinged compositions “Dilemma.” Again, Jaimoe took over at drums, soloing for slightly longer than during “Reed.” As they worked back to a full complement of musicians, Pittman did his own thing on trumpet.
It should be noted that while this is a one-drummer operation, Stoltz, in hanging back with Jaimoe, more than provides his share of sonic persuasion to the band’s sound.
Having just seen Dead & Company at Citi Field (Ed. note: read contributor Jeff Winick’s review of that show here), one of the striking differences between Jaimoe and his equally legendary “competitor” Mickey Hart, is the amount of gear they travel with. While Hart works with every type of percussion instrument ever created by man (or if you take the “beam” into account…by aliens), Jaimoe uses a basic kit, even down to his band’s name scrawled with what appears to be crayons on the bass head. He sticks to what he knows best – soulful rhythmic fill. And whereas many drummers will go with louder and louder, and faster and faster solos, Jaimoe likes to bring it down to almost a whisper. You could hear a pin drop while he was executing his two solos.
After some slight pleading from the crowd, the ensemble encored with “Black Cat Bone,” written by Ivory Lee Semien and Harding Wilson, and performed by Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Johnny Copeland, among others. This selection featured Lieberman doing a solo on piccolo.
A great show in an intimate little venue. The irony in all of this, for me anyway, is that the first time I heard live Allman Brothers’ music, it was sans Jaimoe. And now, 35 years later and with the deaths this year of Gregg and Butch, and the self-imposed retirement of Dickey, Jaimoe is the last man standing and still out on the road – even if only local to his adopted Connecticut home. And like their legendary March stands at The Beacon, it’s still good to be a peach in New York City!
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