Jon Stickley Trio and Cabinet

Rowayton Community Center Norwalk CT

August 21 2016

By Miles Hurley


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An admittedly awkward change of scenery, due to a bothersome threat of on-and-off cruddy weather, took the scheduled music billing of Jon Stickley Trio and Cabinet in Norwalk, CT from Pinkney Park to down the street in a very intimate basement library-type place. But, after much gratefully dedicated technical work and audio checking, both bands stepped up to put on two jubilant performances.

An acoustically crafted, jazzy and indie wonder creation of a band, Jon Stickley Trio is: blink and you miss it. Almost like a gleam of sunshine in falling rain, or like the bird that Jerry told us is probably passing by, the sounds outpouring from the fingertips of each of these members commands a combination of melody and improve work, of which to be blown away by in the same motion makes you do a double-take to make sure you actually heard what you just heard.

At one point in the set, fiddle player Lyndsay Pruett takes to the microphone and proposes an old bluegrass standard from Kenny Baker. I vaguely recognize the name and think “hmm…alright, alright, cool.” They start the tune up and jump into it’s main riff and I think “Ahh right. This one.” Five minutes later they’ve taken this definitely standard, famous Kenny Baker song careening off into boldly original territory, chords descending into something more minor without a second thought and rhythm shaking up dramatically, and now I think, “Woah.” This must be a normal, basic train of thought to experience with a Jon Stickley Trio performance. There is video of this very cool performance below.

In the neat interview I was able to have with the Trio, which you can watch below, the band discusses riding a line somewhere between the musical lanes of concrete, composed material and totally freeform improvisation-watching them live for the first time afterwards, this assertion made itself perfectly clear to me. The music of the Jon Stickley Trio boasts truly intricate composed material, including beautiful musical lines and sections of songs with. But then, having such a naturally-felt chemistry between the three of them, they have no trouble spring boarding off of this material into unique, in-the-moment-territory.

Often, as was apparent during this set, this is a springboard into benevolently upbeat and tangible, very danceable grooves, giving the crowd something to really hold onto and ride. Other times, their own material lent itself very easily to bluegrass-style breakdowns, with Jon and Lyndsay bulleting forward with first-rate soloing. This is a band that, at least such as during this set in which I first experienced them, takes the music between one pole of sincere sounding folk music, moving with a mood of melancholy or sweetness, and another pole of rousing, impressive rhythmic get down.

Centering it all is drummer Patrick Armitage, who reminds me of drummer Russ Lawton, simply in the way he conjures every available piece and sound of the entire drum set in a constant, almost dizzying method of filling every single pocket of space between Jon and Lyndsay’s harmonizing. The result seems not much unlike the art of dancing, in which guitarist, fiddle player and drummer are all carefully but also zestfully poking around each other’s playing in an amazing weave, sometimes complimenting one other, something just supporting them with a good, backbone beat. And the listener is coming along for the ride,

Towards the end of their set, was exact demonstration of this in a couple originals played back to back in Never Stop > Ocktapickin’. There is video of which there is also a link to video you can watch.




Cabinet, who came next, put on an equally spirited set. Having seen these guys a few times now, there’s happy report that they definitely seem to have true fun every time they play. This results is the whole of band, which consists of two drummers, a bassist, fiddle player and mandolin player, a guitarist and a banjo.

I was surprised, but not at all discouraged, by the ratio of outright jamband rock to traditional bluegrass, the former of which there was a lot more in this set. The meaty middle of their set, for instance, culminated in a lengthy, confidently experimental psychedelic sort of reaggae jam, and the result was entertaining throughout-entertaining because of the playing from members like banjo player Pappy Biondo or guitarist Mickey Coviello, never fell below a line of expert and was exciting the whole way through. At the end of this exploration came a neat cover in Elvis Costello’s “Watching The Detectives.”

But that’s not to say they were without their time-tested Americana. With all of their instruments, their treatment of bluegrass and folk-oriented music is incredible, as was evidenced on this night, for example, in a smoking version of Susquehannah Breakdown.


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