Desmond Jones
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Desmond Jones

Grand Rapids, MI | Established. Jan 01, 2012

Grand Rapids, MI
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Rock Funk

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A good jam should never drag, and synchronized jam musicians, collectively fermenting the coalescence of a jam should avoid the indulgences of noodling. That’s the kind of stuff I found myself talking about during my conversation with Grand Rapids-based ensemble Desmond Jones.

“You never wanna get lost in a jam,” said guitarist Chris Bota. “We’re very conscious of the flow of energy in a jam and we made sure never to noodle.”

No noodling here

If you’ve listened to some classic Wes Montgomery jazz, you might perceive the more and explorative phrasings of guitar, bass and drums to be, well, noodling. Desmond Jones may jam, per se, but it’s more a rock-n-roll-tinged clinic on myriad genres, from jazz to blues, funk to samba, indie-pop to soul, and back around again.

Bota said the band wouldn’t have acquired their tightly meshed harmonization if they hadn’t been so open to experimentation in their beginning years. “You’re never gonna succeed unless you’re ready to fail a few times,” said Bota. “That’s one of our many mottos.”

The band includes Isaac Berkowitz (guitar), John Nowak (drums), John Loria (bass) and George Falk (sax), however, each player contributes vocals and several of them change up instruments.

“A big part of what helped us, early on,” said Berkowitz, “is that we kinda love the chaos. In fact, we practice chaos. If we can learn how to move in and out of it (chaos) when things happen then we can make it part of the song and move and travel with it.”

The elements joining this team of musicians is almost a form of telepathy. “We’re at a point, now,” said Nowak, “where we just know each other’s musical styles and characteristics. After playing 150 shows in the last year, along with doing four hours on stage every Monday (at the Tip Top Deluxe in Grand Rapids), it really isn’t that much chaos; it just might sound like it to somebody in the audience.”

Desmond Jones took their name from my mom’s all-time favorite Beatles song (Oh-Bla-Di, Oh-Bla-Da). Nowak and Berkowitz have been playing music together since they were twelve. They met Bota, Loria and Falk at Michigan State out of shared desires to start a band, then cut their teeth as sufficient vibe facilitators at various house parties around campus.

So happy together

The band really kicked into high gear in 2014 and 2015, hitting the road around the state while releasing two albums, (the most recent, Thick Cuts, came in late 2014). Last month, they ventured out on their biggest tour to date, reaching as far west as Colorado, playing 20 shows along the way.

“It’s cool to see how much we’ve changed,” said Berkowitz. “We never decided, at the outset, what style we wanted to play and we said we’re gonna be a jam band. With each of us listening to so many different things or each of us coming to the table with very different styles, it wound up with us being very open to trying new things, new genres and it all just happens naturally.”

“You don’t just find one genre anymore,” Bota said, reflecting on the wave of support the band’s been appreciatively receiving from fans. What audiences say after our shows is they notice how much fun we’re having,” Nowak said. “And they tell us that energy translates. We want people to have a good time at our shows.” - Ann Arbor Current


Moving recently from East Lansing to Grand Rapids to take advantage of the city’s “super exciting” music and art scene, the band Desmond Jones has wasted little time adjusting to its new surroundings and making an impact.
The jam band has set up residency every Monday night at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar & Grill on the city’s West Side, playing three or four hours at a clip, weaving an intoxicating blend of rock, jazz and funk while inviting musical guests and friends to join the five-piece band on stage.

The group also will perform in downtown Grand Rapids during ArtPrize, part of an after-hours series at the Harris Building.
“A lot of cool things are happening,” says drummer John Nowak, who along with guitarist Isaac Berkowitz is a native of the Grand Rapids area. “It’s been so much fun.”
The band – Nowak, Berkowitz, guitarist Chris Bota, bassist John Loria and saxophonist George Falk – is part of Michigan’s fast-emerging jam-band scene, joining groups such as Big Sherb, Fried Egg Nebula, That Freak Quincy and Pleasant Drive in building a growing audience for improvisational, genre-bending music.
Indeed, after just two weeks of playing the Tip Top, Desmond Jones already is looking “to get a lot of friends and other bands involved” in what’s become a highly collaborative atmosphere.
MAKING ‘A LOT OF GOOD FRIENDS’ IN THE JAM-BAND ARENA
“It’s awesome to be completely honest,” Nowak says of Michigan’s jam-band scene. “Some of our favorite shows are definitely ones where we team up with local bands. We’ve made a lot of good friends that way.
“I think for the fans it’s really cool to see the local music scene growing because we’re all playing with each other in different cities and opening for each other and doing guest sit-ins. It’s a really cool time right now.” - Local Spins


Local band Desmond Jones is well known among the Greater Lansing music scene.

Starting next month however, the five-person band is hoping to achieve popularity on a larger scale.

Desmond Jones, a band formed mostly by recent MSU alumni, is accustomed to playing local shows in Lansing and the surrounding area, but are now taking their distinctive rock-jazz-funk style out west. The band has shows lined up in Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

“We’re expecting it to be a ton of fun. I think that’s the number one thing,” drummer and vocalist John Nowak said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to play for a lot of new people and get our name out there, because Colorado is really important in the scene that most of the bands that we’re affiliated with play in.”

The band’s individualizing lineup includes all five members as vocalists, three guitarists, a bassist, two drummers and a saxophonist.

“My favorite part about this band is that we never don’t try something because of a certain style or anything like that,” guitarist and vocalist Isaac Berkowitz said. “So, like, if someone has a rock song, a prog song, a country song or something like that, we’re always going to play it because it’s music and we like to do it. We’re not going to try to say, ‘we’re a jam band’ or ‘we’re a country band’ or anything like that.”

After the tour, Desmond Jones has some ideas for future projects.

“We’ve been working on a lot of songs,” Berkowitz said. “I think we’ve got something, like, eight or nine songs ready to go that we haven’t performed yet, so we’re just getting those nice and ready to take out of the oven.”

Nowak said the band hopes to play at local and regional festivals this summer.

Before the band goes on tour, residents in the Lansing area can see them perform live at Mac’s Bar on Jan. 30, along with special guests Earphorik and Speak Easy.

“Earphorik is from Indiana, and they’re a really, really tight rock, prog, jam band. ... They’re just a really well practiced, really tight band, and they bring a really good energy to the show,” Nowak said. “Speak Easy is a group of MSU students and alumni, and they’re some kids from the jazz program at MSU. ... I think they’re really going to seize this opportunity to bring their fans out and showcase what they’ve got going on.”

Chris Bota, guitarist and vocalist, said the band is proud to come out of MSU and be among the other talented artists from the Lansing area.

“It’s nice, now that we’re starting to get some attention to help other bands that are from MSU,” Bota said. “I think we’ll always say that when we go on, that we’re Spartans.”

Desmond Jones’ most recent studio release, “Thick Cuts,” is available now from multiple sources, including iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify and the band’s website. Video recordings of all their live shows are available on the band’s online archive. - The State News


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

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Bio

Desmond Jones is a five-piece funk/rock/jazz fusion originally from East Lansing, MI and currently lives in Grand Rapids, MI. With original music written to compliment the group's sound as a whole, the music is centered around melodic guitar riffs, smooth bass lines, funky drum beats, and smooth saxophone. The group takes influence from Frank Zappa, The Grateful Dead, Phish, Charles Mingus, The Band, and Led Zeppelin to name a few. Desmond Jones has played all over the Midwest, in Colorado and West Virginia with bands like The Verve Pipe, Here Come the Mummies, Badfish- Sublime Tribute, The Main Squeeze, Dopapod, Tauk, Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas and many more. Look for them to hit the road in 2016-2017 and catch a show in your city! 

Desmond Jones puts on exciting and high energy shows and is proud to say that each set list and each song is different from show to show. 

Band Members