PJ Rasmussen and the Boardwalk Jazz Band
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PJ Rasmussen and the Boardwalk Jazz Band

New York, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014

New York, New York, United States
Established on Jan, 2014
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Apr
30
PJ Rasmussen and the Boardwalk Jazz Band @ Langosta Lounge

Asbury Park, New York, United States

Asbury Park, New York, United States

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Music

Press


"PJ Rasmussen Progresses Jazz Without Boundaries At City Winery"

Last summer, PJ Rasmussen sparked public interest in jazz with a new concept for a summer music series that combined guest artists from various genres with his core band. They played the 17 weeks of Rasmussen’s Boardwalk Jazz at N.J.’s Asbury Park and broadened the scope of this little-understood music for a broader network of future fans who happened by Langosta Lounge, which just so happens to sit in the middle of prime coastal real estate.

The young, East Coast-based, jazz-fusion guitarist and composer managed to score a host of young, hot, original and famous veteran guest artists for the cause: multi-genre singer/songwriter Khadijah Mohammed (Lenny Kravitz, Luther Vandross), veteran jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, pianist James Weidman, and vocalist Cassandra Kubinski (Dance Moms, Anna Nalick). Another twist to the concept allowed music fan Rasmussen to interview the guest artists for a series bonus.

Rasmussen walks the talk. His two critically acclaimed albums, Adventures In Flight and Another Adventure, lives the dream of true daring jazz fusion with a punch rather than a sigh. The originality in his songs borders on prophetic and inspirational, with a host of guitar heroes on tap for gut-wrenching, heartfelt movements that both rock and finesse.

This summer, Rasmussen’s at it again — with a different kind of Boardwalk Jazz Series, one closer to the action, New York City, and one focused on his own 21-piece jazz-fusion big band, with four vocalists. Rasmussen’s Boardwalk Jazz has taken up a summer residency at City Winery with much success, able to draw in quite a mixed crowd for a mixed set list of more than typical standard jazz.

Last Thursday, Rasmussen gave AXS an exclusive interview about his ever-evolving Boardwalk Jazz concept.

AXS: In your YouTube promo, you say that “Boardwalk Jazz isn’t a place, it’s an idea.” What do you mean by that? Didn’t this summer series start off literally on the Boardwalk of N.J.’s Asbury Park?

PJ Rasmussen: Yes, Boardwalk Jazz did literally start on the Asbury Park Boardwalk, and that will always be the beginning of the story. It’s where I’m from, where I grew to love music. But Boardwalk Jazz has always meant more than just a location. It was a statement of purpose. Now, Boardwalk Jazz has been refined into a show — a show based on my belief that jazz is music anybody can love. Originally, we put it on the boardwalk so that we could bring jazz to a different audience in a fun setting. Now, we’ve brought it to the City Winery with the same purpose. The Winery is a well-established venue, but certainly not a dedicated jazz club. That gives us tools to build a larger audience, and bring jazz back to the everyday person.

AXS: “The band has 21 different musicians, four different vocalists. They all work together to create one show and a great evening.” How has your concept changed from last year’s inauguration — a 17-week music series with lots of exciting guest musicians, like the legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli? And what precipitated the changes?

PJR: Well, the biggest difference this year is that the Boardwalk Jazz Band (all 21 of the musicians) plays every show. Another big difference is the fact that we feature four vocalists on every show — myself and three women. The third change is that almost all the tunes are originals. This all came as a result of the reaction to last year’s big band finale — people just went nuts. The spectacle of it generated a spark unlike any of the other shows, even Bucky. So we said, “Why don’t we do a whole series of them?” For me, it’s musical paradise, because with 21 musicians, you can do anything.

AXS: “It’s going to New York, ‘cause that’s where I’m going.” How did you go from Asbury Park’s Boardwalk to City Winery as a semi-regular summer band feature?

PJR: New York City has always been my destination. It was just a matter of timing. When we saw the potential of Boardwalk Jazz, that convinced me it was time to go to New York full-time. We brainstormed a list of standard jazz places to pitch. Then, a friend suggested the City Winery. As soon as I saw the room, I thought, “This is it.” They had the atmosphere, the reputation, and most importantly, they weren’t “just” a jazz club. No disrespect to my fellow jazzers, but the Winery is a venue that has a much broader audience and a relevance to the everyday person that most jazz clubs don’t.

AXS: What other differences can you single out between then (inaugural 17-week Boardwalk Jazz Series) and now (PJ Rasmussen and the Boardwalk Jazz Band)?

PJR: Not only is almost all the music original, but there’s new music debuted at every show. That’s very important, because it keeps us relevant to non-jazzers. We’ll still reference the classics, stylistically or something, but that’s what it is: references. We don’t need to play standards to carry on the tradition. In fact, we’re being more true to the tradition, because we’re not playing the standards. Another change this year is that we’re not featuring special guests. Instead, the focus is on the whole band, and the variety of players lets us feature someone different in every song. In one show, you’ll get everything from old school swing to modern big band, and everything in between. Musically, that keeps the band fresh, and it’s all part of the Boardwalk Jazz show — jazz without boundaries. Like Duke said, there are only two kinds of music — good and bad.

AXS: You and the Boardwalk Jazz Band did the second Winery show on Sunday earlier this month. What was that like?

PJR: The band had a blast! The crowd was really engaged and having a good time. That’s really important to us. That’s why we play. We’d actually just come from playing the Asbury Park Loves Jazz Festival the day before, so the band was really tight.

AXS: You’re all going back to City Winery for a September 13, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., brunch show. What’s in store?

PJR: Well, we’ll be playing a couple of new charts I’m writing for the band. One is a new arrangement of a tune from my first album. I’ll let which one be a surprise! I’ve got another I’m writing for all four vocalists, which is always fun too. There’s new music for every show. Other than that, what’s always in store: a good time!

AXS: How long is this standing Winery gig gonna be, and what would you like to happen next when it’s over?

PJR: We love playing at the City Winery, and are hoping to continue beyond the summer. I hope to be able to share more soon!

AXS: What’s going on with your music, any new recordings waiting to come out?

PJR: I’ve been listening to a lot of B.B. King since we lost him. Man, can he play! And sing...and write! He really could do it all, which is where I want to be. So I’m trying to work on my singing chops along with everything else now. It’s a challenge! I saw Clapton when he came to the Garden, too. He threw down the gauntlet at 70! Steve Gadd on drums. In the jazz world, I’m loving Maria Schneider right now. I’m trying to learn as much from her music as I can.

No albums are planned right now, but there’s been a lot of response to the Boardwalk Jazz Band. Something might happen there. I’ll keep you posted! - AXS Magazine


"All That Jazz: Brunch At City Winery"

"PJ Rasmussen and the Boardwalk Jazz Band put on an enjoyable show with great vocals." - IHeartBrunch


"Adventures In Flight-- Album Release"

"It's hard not to get excited about a guitarist as young as Rasmussen who has the compositional skills and chops to make a record this good." - Vintage Guitar Magazine


"Jazz Quanta: January"

PJ Rasmussen: Another Adventure (Third Freedom Music, 2014). Guitarist PJ Rasmussen builds a sound that is one part Chicago (with him as an erstwhile demented Terry Kath), one part Blood, Sweat and Tears (the Al Kooper original bio-melded to the DCT version) and one part James Brown. Through nine originals, Rasmussen dons different guitar masks, playing dirty one minute ("Full Speed Ahead") and ballad lovely the next (Under a Wave). Rasmussen's arranging is stellar, his horn charts precise and engaging. Another Adventure is a fully realized little-big band outing that makes the most of the the talent it employs. Jazz, progressive rock, retro-21st Century big band-hard bop? It is all there and all good. Kudos to pianist Jim Ridl and alto saxophonist Nate Giroux for stand out performances. - All About Jazz


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

The Boardwalk Jazz Band is New York City's only 21 person group to feature four separate vocalists and almost all original music. With an average age of well under 30, they are out to prove that jazz music is alive and relevant today. Covering a large range of material from jazz, blues, and rock, they believe strongly in Duke Ellington's famous statement: "There are only two kinds of music: good and the other kind." They play music designed to make the heart race, the blood pump, and the feet move!

The Boardwalk Jazz Band is featured in two annual nationally syndicated television broadcasts, including An American Christmas, which featured special guest Bucky Pizzarelli.

Band Members