The Brian St. John Quartet
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The Brian St. John Quartet


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"Jersey Boys Jam"

The Brian St. John Quartet sound has traveled far. It has made it all the way to the Dirty South. The Quartet hails from New Jersey, a state that has produced plenty of musical talent. Vocalist/guitarist Brian St. John began his musical journey in the summer of 2002, when he first started playing guitar. Percussionist Matt Carlson, bassist Jon Irizarry, and pianist Brian Cornish joined St. John shortly thereafter. The Quartet’s sound recalls a group with a similar name, The John Butler Trio. St. John’s band references influences like Ben Folds and The Grateful Dead on their MySpace page. A bit of these can be heard in the quartet’s tunes, however their sound isn’t nearly as jam-tastic as The Dead’s. The track “Elixer” is reminiscent of The String Cheese Incident, mixed with an exciting harmonica solo. The band released their EP, “Southern Discomfort”, in 2007.

by R. Daniels - Bootleg - Essential Culture

"SICA: Eclectia"

SICA, The Shore Institute of the Contemporary Arts is proud to announce a new multi media event – “ECLECTICA; A misguided and ill-conceived compilation of dissimilar events ”.

This occurrence will be on Friday, October 9 th at 7:00 pm. It will be MC'd by the hyper-energetic, MIKE BLACK , and feature the following incidents in some yet unknown and random order:

The Brian St.John Quartet – BSJQ is an incredible Jazz & Blues group hailing from the northwestern corner of New Jersey It is comprised of Matt Carlson (drums, percussion, vocals), Brian Cornish (tenor and alto saxophone), Jon Irizarry (bass, piano, vocals), and Brian St. John (guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica, vocals) . While their sounds is unique and defies comparisons, some say they sound kinda like Traffic, Dave Matthews, Galactic, Neil Young, and The Band rolled into one!

- Shore Institute for the Contemporary Arts

"Sax Appeal: The Brian St. John Quartet"

Fresh out of New Jersey comes The Brian St. John Quartet, a foursome folk-rock band with a sound that is strangely mellow and upbeat at the same time. The name makes these sharply dressed guys seem uber sophisticated and prestigious, like you'd hear an elementary school orchestra butcher covers of their songs on a monthly basis, but the music, although refined and tight with barely any frills, is anything but boring, with splashes of sax and other instruments you rarely hear in mainstream music nowadays. It's a little bit pop with catchy vocal harmonies and loveable lyrics, and it's a little bit rock with it's inherent energy, but it's not pop rock; it's got it's own funk...just like the water in Jersey where this up-and-coming quartet hails from.

Upon hearing the opening licks to "There Must Be More," I was reminded of a mellow party, sitting on a couch, stoned out of my mind...and content with my life. Brian's voice is akin to Bob Dylan's...if Bob Dylan didn't suck at singing.

Their influences include musicians, authors, poets, and girls who break hearts, all of which are audible in my personal favorite song, "Shame On Me." A bit slower than the rest, this song exudes a resigned confidence in a future love after a rough break up. The lyrics are depressing but at the same time oddly uplifting, since the overall idea of the song is being able to get over a bad break up. Kudos must also be given for the jazz sax complimenting the 1950's movie references ("A Streetcar Named Desire").

Checking these guys out is a must! Shame on us for not being able to make it to a show, but you should check them out on March 20 at The Box in Washington, New Jersey - Rock and Roll Freakshow

"Hot Jazz on a Cool Night"

Photo gallery in 7/17/08 NJ Herald after free concert in the park in Branchville, NJ - NJ Herald

"In Technicolor Album Review"

Dressed in sharp black and white, with dark sunglasses and rolled sleeves – led by the gray-suited man with the maniac grin and the voice of subtlety, Brian St. John himself – the Brian St. John Quartet shout the shout of underground East Coast cool. Their colorless uniforms reflect the grey skies and drab brick buildings of the famous Asbury Park, in cover art that tips a hat to a tradition of Jersey Shore sound. The album? Their debut – paradoxically and aptly titled In Technicolor. That contrast is only the beginning – the BSJQ is too good for simplicity.

As their name indicates, the band boasts four members, all accomplished and talented musicians in their own right and all of whom contribute their artistic sight to the band's cohesive vision. Their front man, Brian St. John, writes most of the group's original material and plays lead guitar and banjo, with occasional harmonica fun. Matt Carlson, an animal drummer who plays like two men, is the group's outstanding percussionist. Jon Irizarry, the colorful pianist of Pegasus Jetpack, contributes with piano and cool bass guitar. Lastly, in a move that puts the BSJQ a class above the bands that play alongside them, they sport Brian Cornish on tenor and alto saxophone. The BSJQ has something to say, they know how to say it – and with an ensemble like that, they can't help but say it splendidly.

In Technicolor opens in exuberance with the heartbreak-defying "There Must Be More," with a lively whoop following the introductory chords and the heady saxophone wailing behind the intelligently crafted lyrics of youth and yearning. Already the quartet is walking a different street, and they hook you with it – the song refuses to lower itself to anger, even while the singer knows there must be more than what the girl of the song insists on treating as simple. This song sets the tone for what will continue to be a theme throughout – the joy that can only be expressed in the songs of sad things, and is otherwise inexpressible.

And then they're off, telling us that love and war ain't much of a fight in the dirty "Mess." Wait a minute – I thought there must be more than this? Oh, there is – but in this sullen piece, the quartet begins to demonstrate their personal knowledge of both sides of life's coin. Sometimes it's not beautiful sadness –sometimes it's desultory hostility, and the instrumental denouement of "Mess," banjo and all, perfectly conveys the frustrated acceptance of a life that sucks.

Now they're riding some other wavelength in "Old Soul," as they investigate the dislocated nature of men who've seen the world in all its complexity, and learned life's lessons too soon. Something of a mournful ballad of experience, this song begins to demonstrate the band's range of ability – at times they sound like an up-and-coming East Coast version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Irizarry displays his piano dexterity, and the backup vocals by Irizarry and Carlson are especially effective on this track's chorus.

Unconventional to be sure, St. John's vocals are nevertheless smooth and settled – he knows his limits and knows how to sound good, and the rough charm of his manner and voice is really brought to the front in the next two tracks, "No Need for Tomorrow" and "Make Everything Fair." It's not a coincidence that these songs were placed together – they illustrate what often seem to be the only two ways to love – despairing from a distance, or passionately in the dark. In the first, St. John explores the tender side of his vocal range, evoking the unavoidable transient nature of affection in an almost, but not quite, subdued desperation. It's a brilliant blues song, incorporating a crying harmonica and expert saxophone by Brian Cornish – I know of no other instrument that so perfectly imitates an impossible feeling of longing. In the second, St. John gets sexy, lowers his voice for some mumbling and lets out that back beat. Jon Irizarry's groovy bass underlies the whole teasing piece, and the funky rhythm leaves the clothing scattered around the room. The song concludes with clever, playful instrumentalism between all the players, bringing to mind a grown-up game of "I do this, and oh! you do that."

The heart and soul of this beautifully textured album, without a doubt, is the delicate, swaying, bewildered love in "Shame on Me." It is the best song here. It suspends the listener in a slow pace of shame and regret, and buoys him up in passionate backup vocals, gentle guitar and wonderfully weeping saxophone – John Coltrane would be proud. It is in the lyrics of this song that the paradox of the colorless group appearance and their colorful debut album title is resolved – technicolor dreams only appear to be black and white. The world is not always at it seems – joy is underneath sorrow, meaning is present in pain, and a man fooled twice can still feel fine, because the greatest answers lie in the beauty and depth of small questions like "why won't she call?" and "can she see my reflection next to hers?"

Too deep, you say? Too thoughtful, not really your thing? You just want a simple, primal rock anthem? Hey, guess what – the Brian St. John Quartet can do that too. They let the beast out in "Southern Discomfort," giving rein to Carlson's frenetic drumming and letting St. John's guitar tear itself apart in disordered solos that would make the devil jealous.

They're not done yet – the quartet now presents its most ambitious song, "The Simple Life." Clocking in at over eleven minutes in length and written in the highly unusual 7/4 time signature, it's a jazzy epic with a nod to prog rock. It's lighthearted and satisfied in its mood, and expresses the contentment that this life can offer – something that until now has not been offered to the listener on this album. Although it plays a part in the album as a whole, since a note of happiness may be merited, "The Simple Life" is the one weak song in the collection – it lacks something of the finesse and well-textured dimensions of the other tracks, perhaps because of its greater length. To be fair, however, it does include a brilliant duel of guitar versus sax that is a pleasure to hear and even better to see live.

The last entry is "Taking Sides," and here, finally, the band cuts loose with the frustrated anger to which they refused to condescend previously. This song comes as an afterthought to the contentment expressed by "The Simple Life" – "wait, there's one thing pissing me off." It comes at just the right time, and concerns just the right subject. The usual difficulties of life can be answered with a song and a sad smile – not so with war. The confusion of the war and the indecision of men unable to see the whole picture but wise enough not to have an opinion is perfect fodder for frustration – and once again, the BSJQ is too good to accept a simple answer – for to take a side is, to a certain extent, to simplify a question. For men who see the world in all its chaos and transience, there are some questions with no easy answer – and hence, wisely, the political undertones of the song are ignored for the sake of the existential horror of war itself. This produces a far more poetic result – and it takes a mature band to separate singer from speaker so well.

That's In Technicolor – and that's that. What do the BSJQ sound like? Comparisons to other bands are often useless – rock, jazz, blues, bluegrass - they sound like a band that ought not to die. They sound like artists. In Technicolor is not an ambitious project. The quartet has not attempted something they cannot handle. It is a tight, well controlled work of art perfectly directed at the lonesome lover and transient wanderer inside any man who every set out on a quest for a home, an identity, and the meaning of his life. The BSJQ are young men with old souls – and for them, the depression is great and the bird of happiness is blue. For them, black and white is in technicolor, and joy is in sadness. The Brian St. John Quartet is huge.

- Isak Bond - Isak Bond


LPs - "In Technicolor" 2008
"How's Your Memory" 2006

EPs - "The Southern Discomfort EP", 2007



"New Beginnings," says guitarist Brian St. John, "that's pretty much what it is all about." The Brian St. John Quartet came together as a result from the breakup of old projects and forge new beginnings. "Starting over with a clean slate is a wonderful, invigorating thing."

Having all jammed together at various times, the band came together for what was supposed to be a one-off jam session at the 169 Bar in late fall of 2007. From the first rehearsal, things just seemed to click. St. John(guitar/mandolin/harmonica/banjo/vocals), Jon (bass, piano vocals), and Matt (drums/percussion/vocals) had all played together from time to time with other groups, but the addition of Brian Cornish (tenor and alto sax/flute) added to crucial 4th element to tighten and add depth to the trios thunder.

Their sound mixes all of their influences fluidly. Matt Carlson’s schooling in classic rock mixes with Jon’s funk and pop backgrounds, while St. John is heavily rooted in roots and blues music. Mix in Brian Cornish’s be-bop and free jazz influences and you have a live force to be reckoned with.

The end of 2008 saw the release of their first album together, the aptly titled "In Technicolor." It features 9 tracks the boys had been playing throughout the summer and has been receiving rave reviews by fans who've picked up a copy.

Past Venues:
NJ: The Stanhope House - Stanhope
Arthur's St. Moritz - Sparta
Lenora's - Hackensack
Lake Shore Inn - West Milford
Pioneer Bar and Grill - West Milford
Sheridan's - Andover
Pat's Bar - Mt. Arlington
Flatbrook Taphouse - Branchville
Lakeside Tavern - Branchville
William Paterson University - Wayne
Evolve 2012 Music Festival - Augusta
Grist Mill Cafe - Andover
The Rubbish Garden - Sparta
The Acoustic Cafe - Rockaway
Brave New Radio - Wayne NJ, Campus of William Paterson University
The Canning Company - Long Branch
WTSR 91.3 FM The College of New Jersey - Ewing
The Twisted Tree Cafe - Asbury Park
Cafe 55 - Brick Township
Tapestry Cafe - Netcong
The Box - Washington
New York
The Knitting Factory - NYC
169 Bar - NYC
Sarah Street Grill - Stroudsburg
Delaware Valley High School - Milford
O Brien's Pub - Lynn
Out Of The Blue Art Gallery - Cambridge
The Home Grown Cafe - Newark
New Hampshire
The Shannon Door Inn - Jackson