John Mancini Band
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John Mancini Band

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | INDIE

Baltimore, Maryland, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2016
Band Folk Fusion

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"Indie Artist of the Month (April, 2011)"

Straddling the broken white dash between big band and folksy pop, John Mancini and company caught our attention with his brand of slightly left-of-center, timeless songwriting and arrangements. With crispy clean production and surprising instrumentation, we felt it was only right to wheel the spotlight in his general direction and bring some groovy soundwaves to your earholes.
In our endless search for knowledge, we went even further and probed the frontman about the nature of his project as it launches it latest offering Sun King.

MusicZeitgeist: Tell someone who has never heard The John Mancini Band something about it.

John Mancini: Ever since I added the word “Band” to my last name in 2007, I’ve had several talented musicians join me in making original music, the most dedicated of whom has been Tom Haller, a great friend and amazing drummer. Just listen to that machine gun snare and those monster fills! It’s so much fun playing with this guy. We recently added two new members: Kevin Lichtfuss on bass and Adam Kuchta on keys. Live, we’re a powerful jam band with occasional horn players and special guests — including, of course, our most special guest: the audience.

MZ: Talk about your latest release “Sun King.”

JM: I spent over a year recording it as well as most of the money I had saved up from teaching. We recorded in a great studio and the production is top notch. Lots of layered vocals, horn arrangements and synthesizers. It’s also a great looking CD. We worked hard on getting a design that matched the integrity and feel of these songs, several of which run 6+ minutes. We’ve got tight pop songs on here, but the long form jams are something that we often go for in concert, and we wanted to capture that on Sun King. With ten songs running almost an hour, it’s the kind of album you can listen to straight through, and it takes you on a little trip. Pick it up on iTunes or CDbaby or just about anywhere else. It will make you happy.

MZ: Where are you guys based at present?

JM: The city that gave you Animal Collective, Tupac Shakur, and Frank Zappa — Baltimore, baby. But we love to get out of town. Lately we’ve been making the trip up I-95 to Philadelphia and New York. Shooting down to Virginia. The East Coast is cozy. We’re on it.

MZ: How long have you been working at it? And when will you be satisfied that your work is done?

JM: I’ve been writing songs for over ten years. I love writing songs. I’m looking for that hit song, that one that changes the conversation, that one that sticks around to inspire the next generation. You know. Is that even still possible? I also just love playing live music and seeing live music. It’s a party I’m happy to throw wherever there is electricity and for however long I can move my limbs.

MZ: Where are we most likely to run into you next?

JM: Summer festivals… Film and television placements.. More features like this one.. What can I say? We’re getting popular. I hope more people will buy the album and support the project. Connect with us online. Come see a show. We would love to meet you! - MusicZeitgeist.com


"Last Call Baltimore Featured Artist"

Featured Ripper: JMB
"Check out these guys. They recently rocked out at our open recording sessions at Hightopps. They will be playing a lot of venues around town soon. Get off your warm sofa and see them!" - Last Call Baltimore


"UK CD Review"

Bassists: so often undervalued, so often ignored, so often the member with the least talent (see Sid Vicious and all he did for the bass-playing profession). But most people would argue that get the bass right, and the rest follows. John Frusciante and Anthony Kiedis may have the media-fuelling stories to tell, but a lot of people still feel that Flea is the rock around which The Red Hot Chili Peppers is built. The bass-playing on the John Mancini Band's self-titled debut, an album of jazz-fusion, taking in rock, alt-country, funk and reggae. Although described as a trio, the album features seven musicians, bringing cellos, saxophones, trumpets and a concertina.

The opening salvo of "Don't Go Easy" and "Lighthouse" (a brief instrumental interlude) gets things off on the right foot, and demonstrate David Wright's clearly impressive bass-technique. The band, which describes itself as a "jam-band but less disorganised", shows on "Don't Go Easy" a tight and clear understanding of where each member is going. With its shifty skiffle beat and alt-country fiddle, the track starts in blues-rock territory, before jam elements come to the fore: there's the obligatory guitar solo, trumpets popping up in support and nicely-executed bass flourishes before an abrupt finish. "Lighthouse", on the other hand, is a languid, laid-back instrumental in the west-coast-cool style. It feels like an interlude, which it is, but it doesn't suffer for it.

"Buried Alive", with its white-boy soul, reggae-lite feel to it could quite easily sit at the end of a small-town American indie drama. It's probably the poppiest on the album; no surprise then that it won an "honourable mention" in the annual Billboard World Song Contest. Indeed, reggae fusion (a taboo term in any music reviewer's vocabulary) makes a reappearance on the next track, in the enjoyable "Lost In Space". A smooth, ska-fused dose of brass-tinged funk, it successfully sidesteps the dangerous UB40 trap, but veers a little too close to naff, as (fortunately brief) "jazz-hands" musical faffing at the end sees the "jam-band" chickens come home to roost. It's a shame because it's a very nicely constructed song, which builds a patient progression around a single guitar riff until the whole song falls away in jazz-noodling.

Unfortunately, the latter half of the album feels a little inconsequential, lacking the energy of the early tracks. The nadir is the misjudged "reinterpretation" of "All Along The Watchtower" (a brave choice regardless of the artist) which sees the band strip the track of its energy, its lyrics and its emotion before ramming it through a smooth, easy-listening filter. It comes out sounding like the audio equivalent of decaffeinated coffee, and worryingly, not a bit unlike Sting's "Englishman in New York". "Switchback" turns back towards the band's jazz-fusion roots, an instrumental that displays no little playing ability and once again that mutual understanding key to successful improvisation.

The album, an intriguing mix of jazz, rock, blues and reggae, highlights the best and worst that one can expect from fusion bands: an occasionally imaginative melding of genres, energetic and relaxed in equal measures, which unfortunately trips up on a couple of instances (the "All Along The Watchtower"-cover/"Andy Roam" debacle most notably) which give the feeling that fewer genres and more development would have made for an album with a bit more identity.

- Whisperin and Hollerin


"CD Review"

The John Mancini Band has an identity crisis, or at the very least a geographical crisis. Everything from their song arrangements, to their overall sound, to even the packaging of their self-titled release screams “Boulder.” The band couldn’t be more Boulder, in fact, but the truth is the band comes from Baltimore, of all places — with its namesake having spent only a short time in Colorado, Crested Butte to be exact.

Regardless of that zip code challenge, JMB is getting huge accolades for their release, with tracks winning Relix Magazine’s JamOFF! contest and the Billboard World Song Contest, among many, many other awards.

The album is a fun mix of jammy party music, which shows a strong jumping off point for extended noodling, but keeps the songs tight enough that full concentration isn’t required for every track. It’s lively, fresh and light music, even if it does come from the East Coast.


- Marquee Magazine


"CD Review"

On their debut album, Towson’s own John Mancini Band delivers a strong mix of jam band improvisation laced with a country and jazz flavor. The songs jump swiftly between a sound reminiscent of spaghetti western soundtracks to subtle jazz, which wouldn’t be off place if it came from a Flecktones release.
The performance of each of the musicians on this release is nothing short of superb; each of the instruments on their own would suffice to make a great track. Even as each musician plays parts independent of the rest of the band, it all comes together as sounding meticulously arranged. The interaction between the guitar, bass, piano and drums on “Lighthouse” is wonderfully atmospheric even in its simplicity and brevity.
The strongest points on the album are when the instrumental sections take the center of attention. The guitar solo in “Don’t Go Easy,” with its faux-backwards tracking effect, the stomping horn-accompanied bridge in “Lost in Space” and the bass-chording intro of “Switchback” demonstrate this well.
Though it’s understandable they’re cutting the tracks down to a reasonable LP length, only two of the 10 songs go past five minutes in length. It’s odd when the spots it’s expected they would let loose and top soloist on top of soloist are when they hold back the most. The two instrumental tracks are both the shortest tracks, coming in at four minutes combined.
As far as debuts go, this is incredibly good stuff with only minor faults to go against it. The production is amazing and the musicianship is enviable. If they emphasize their strengths more on future releases, they might have something truly great on their hands.
--Brian LaCour

- The Towerlight


"Band Cover Story"

Adjunct English and film professor John Mancini III will often start his first class of the semester sitting in the back row of the classroom with his head down and a hoodie pulled over his face.


“[The students] freak out when I stand up and start handing out the syllabus,” Mancini said.


At 32 years old and only four years out of graduate school at the University of Southern Mississippi, Mancini does look like he belongs at a desk as opposed to behind a podium lecturing.


“My secret mission in taking the job was to start a band,” he said. “I knew I would meet a lot of talented people here because they have a great music program, and it worked.”


The Towson University-based John Mancini Band has taken off since their formation in 2007, their most recent accomplishment being featured in the October issue of Relix magazine.


“It’s the steeple of the jam band community,” Mancini said. “So it’s kind of crazy to start at a magazine like that.”


The band consists of Mancini and undergraduates Tom Haller and Dave Wright. They have been playing gigs at the 8X10, Recher Theatre, and, most recently, Sullivan Hall near New York University.


In the fall semester of 2007, Mancini met Haller, a music performance major, in an English 102 course he was teaching. Haller was a student who had added the course late.


“He was one of those people that’ll actually talk to you,” Mancini said of Haller. “Most people just sit there, especially first year students.”


After trading CDs in class and discovering a common interest in music, the two decided to jam together. Haller had recently broken up with Adelphi, a Towson rock band signed to Drive-Thru Records, and needed a new group to play drums in.


“At first it was a little different being friends with a professor,” Haller said. “But he’s an easygoing guy and we both had a common interest, which was music, so it was very easy to connect.”


They later added a bassist, Wright, now a junior finance and economics major, and the band was formed.


“We have the trio, and I feel that it’s essential for us to keep that bond,” Mancini said.
Apart from Mancini, Haller and Wright, other musicians are featured on their first album “JMB,” which came out in the spring of 2009.


Russell McCray plays alto saxophone on “JMB,” and Towson senior Patrick McAvinue plays fiddle.


Another contributor to the John Mancini Band is John Mancini Jr., a lecturer at Towson University and the younger Mancini’s father.


“He’s always played music,” the younger Mancini says. “He was a trumpet player for a lot of the time when I was growing up. He was in all these bands. He’s probably a big influence.”


As for the reason for the elder Mancini’s performance on the album, “it was kind of understood or expected,” the younger Mancini said.


As a younger professor, the line between student and friend or equal is harder to distinguish, according to the younger Mancini.


“When I started teaching, a lot of my friends still went to school here,” the younger Mancini said. “So I didn’t really feel that distinction between teacher and student.”


Haller agrees that the age gap between some members of the band doesn’t define their relationship.


“It’s really not a matter of how old someone is,” Haller said. “If you can connect on a level that’s beyond all the societal norms, it doesn’t matter.”


Not to say that age hasn’t gotten the band into trouble before, according to the younger Mancini.


“We’d go into a bar [to play] and they’d be like ‘we need to see your guys' I.D.s,” he said.


The reaction of students to undergraduate members of the band playing with a professor is something gets mixed reactions, according to the John Mancini Band.


“When I tell people that I'm in a band with a professor, one of the first questions they ask is ‘oh, did he give you straight A's?’” Wright said. “My answer is ‘no, because I never had him, unfortunately.’ But he did help me understand difficult homework assignments every now and then so that I could get A’s in several classes.”


The view of their band mate as professor is something hard to get past especially with the elder Mancini.


“I really enjoy playing with Tom and Dave, and John... in that setting we are all peers,” said the elder Mancini. “I just wish they wouldn't call me Dr. Mancini.”

- The Towerlight


Discography

Ancient Americans:
"Untitled" Debut EP (summer 2012)

John Mancini Band:
"Sun King" LP, 2011
"JMB" LP, 2009

Photos

Bio

Ancient Americans, John Mancini Band's latest creation, is a collaboration between singer/songwriter, John Mancini -- whose 2009 debut was recognized by Billboard and Relix magazine -- singer, Jessie Firey -- a new front woman with great vocal ability and swagger -- as well as drummer Tom Haller and bassist Kevin Lichtfuss -- both of whom were signed to Drive-Thru Records.

The tightly crafted rock songs on Ancient Americans' debut EP showcase the band’s strong musicianship, hip lyrics, and well developed melodies. They share influences with The Black Keys, The Strokes and Foo Fighters among other contemporary indie rockers. The combination of heavy guitars, grungy bass and expert drumming along with Jess’s and John’s vocals characterizes the sound of the new album, which was released in July, 2012.

Rhode Island School of Design graduate, John Mancini, began writing songs while working as a house painter in Crested Butte, Colorado. He worked as a production assistant for Warner Brothers and HBO, published short stories, won awards at film festivals and worked in a liquor store before earning an MA in creative writing at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Over the past three years John Mancini Band, which included drummer Tom Haller, built a loyal fan base that voted them Jambands.com's New Groove winners in 2010. Their songs have been placed on the GAC Network, and the band has enjoyed AAA radio airplay across the country and overseas, as well as positive editorial reviews in the US and UK.

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Praise for Sun King:

"Slightly left-of-center, timeless songwriting and arrangements."
--MusicZeitgeist.com

"If you like Phish, good feelings, or summertime, you’ll want to give the full album a listen. The band’s sophomore release offers well-crafted songs with funky bass and driving beats, while the band’s namesake Mancini sings smooth storytelling lyrics."
--1146 miles.com

Praise for JMB:

"Mancini delivers lines that will make your girlfriends shiver."
--Leeway's Home Grown Music Network, Raleigh, NC

"Randy Newman singing songs written by John Fogerty and Dr. John... his molasses voice sliding to a point between Newman and Graham Parker, with a little bit of Supertramp’s Roger Hodgson."
--Jack Rabid, Big Takeover Magazine, Brooklyn, NY

"David Wright's clearly impressive bass technique is energetic and Relaxed in equal measures"
--Whisperin and Hollerin, Ireland, UK

"The performances by each of the musicians on this album is nothing short of superb."
--The Towerlight, Towson, MD

"Lively, fresh, and light"
--Marquee Magazine, Boulder, CO

Contact John Mancini: johnmanciniband@gmail.com