Harmonious Junk
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Harmonious Junk

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"Oriental Theater Showcase"

Those in attendance at the Oriental Theater on September 6th were the ones in the know. The newly renovated venue hosted three talented Front Range bands that night: Poontucky, The High Five, and Damon Wood's Harmonious Junk. Damon Wood's rock star stylings were in full effect for the final set of the night. Fueled by funk-driven improvisations, the former lead guitarist for the James Brown Band led his Harmonious Junk band through classic covers and recent originals. With several years of touring around the world and performances with many well known musicians under his belt, Wood knows how to put on a show. His band is full of ultra-talented musicians willing to take risks, and this group is not afraid to extend jams to the cosmic outer reaches. The Junk got everyone up and dancing and Wood's spectacular stage jump to close the show left everyone wanting more. By Katie Flannery Oct. 06' Music Buzz magazine - Katie Flannery


"Leaving James Brown"

Only last week, after eight years of playing with the James Brown Band, Damon Wood decided he wanted to take some time off and focus his energy on his own band. Harmonious Junk has been playing together since April 2003 after Wood left his hometown of Las Vegas and moved to Denver. "Leaving James Brown was not an easy decision," Wood said. "Half of it had to do with the desire to work on my own band, but at the same time, it got a little stagnant after a while; there are no new records, no new songs..." He said the experience was unbelievable, though. "I've done of all his concerts since '99. We even performed at Woodstock '99," he said. "The international traveling was very new to me too. I guess it's the kind of experience where you just hold on tight and enjoy the ride." Wood's move from Las Vegas to Denver in October '02 was part of a search for a richer and more varied music scene. The music scene in Vegas was too "one-directional" for him" and he did'nt want to be a part of the casino world. "Denver, on the other hand, seemed like a very fertile environment. There are a lot of different scenes with a lot of good bands in them," he said. "I thought I could get a good band and keep it," he said. Well he got it, is keeping it and is making the music he wants to make. He says "making it" comes down to people's talent, to having a creative vision and to sticking with it. "You have to work harder than anybody you know," he said. A little over a year ago, Harmonious Junk released it's first cd, 'Space Cadet'. The album got them named "Best Jamband of Denver" by Westword. Wood described the album as a "kind of psychedelic journey." Chad Aman on keyboards, Jack Alterman on bass, Derek Aman on drums, and Justin Jones on saxophone round out the band, which will play on Saturday for their first time in Frisco. "It seems like the audiences in Summit County are very much into music and very open to trying new things," Wood said. "There seems to be a different crowd every time though, which makes it more difficult because you have to win them all over every time." The band performs Saturday at Upstairs at Jonny G's. - Summit Daily News by Carolina Thibaud


"Harmonious Junk:Space Cadet"

It's easy to like the musical byproduct of James Brown's axeman Damon Wood and his Denver posse Harmonious Junk. Wood struts his road-tested guitar stuff on Space Cadet and demonstrates creative songwriting ability, weaving diverse influences into a musical tapestry that recalls classics like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Albert Collins and Jimmy Herring. Despite old-school influences, the music feels new and bares a unique stamp. Keywork by Chad Aman (also of Denver's Cocktail Revolution and Byron Shaw Projex) simmers and shines throughout, while bass ace Jack Alterman keeps the low end tight and thumping. The disc goes out strong, stringing together four very solid cuts: "Gimme Gimme," "Only True Friend," "Magic," and "Luster."

- Jambase.com by Nick Hutchinson


"Making Jazzy Funk fun from Sex Machine to Sanford and Son"

Playing guitar in Godfather of Soul James Brown’s band would probably provide more than enough creativity for most people, but not for Damon Woods. In his spare time he has formed the formidable jamband Harmonious Junk. Because of Woods’ JB touring commitments, Harmonious Junk plays pretty much exclusively in the Denver area, he notes, adding, “We’ve played most of the venues in Denver to decent success, but now we are looking to branch out and progress.” Based on what I’m hearing, the band has plenty to offer. Since forming in Las Vegas in 2001, it has released the superbly crafted Space Cadet, which sees the band exploring a plethora of instrumental textures with some unusual twists. Not surprisingly there’s an underlying funk edge but in a jagged sort of psychedelic fashion: Witness the sassy opener “Sweet Delight” and the percolating riffs of “Bubbledown.” Elsewhere the band flits from melodic jazz-rock (not unlike Steve Kimock) to the beautifully haunting title cut, which features pirouetting leads counter-pointed by delicate piano work that really highlights the sophistication of this ensemble. Woods says that in a live environment he and his bandmates are apt to improvise more, melding songs. “We do Stevie Wonder’s ‘Sir Duke’ but without vocals… We also take ‘Sex Machine’ and segue into the theme from Sanford and Son just for fun.” Woods and fellow band members are each accomplished and exciting players that like to take risks and turn things around (Woods in particular can whip out funk riffs, blues solos and jazz fills with ease and finesse). The band is currently working on its sophomore effort. www.harmoniousjunk.com - Relix Magazine by Mick Skidmore


"Junk Brothers"

Touring with the Godfather of Soul can get a little heady. One minute you're at the Apollo in New York, and the next you're performing in such far-flung locales as Turkey, Greece or the Caribbean. Yet for Damon Wood, who plays guitar in James Brown's band and fronts his own outfit, Harmonious Junk, a stage is a stage, no matter where the bus is parked.

"I like to have fun when I'm playing," Wood says emphatically while pacing around his Congress Park apartment. "That's really what it's all about."

And he does have fun -- usually. Not every show is a love-fest, Wood says. He tells of gorgeous theaters at which he and the JB gang are treated royally with choice food and luxury accommodations. But when the band plays, it's to a relatively staid audience that is required to remain seated. Fortunately, these stodgy outings are offset by peppier crowds at more relaxed venues.

"We'll play other shows where the perks aren't so good but the crowds are great. Personally, I'd rather eat a shoddy meal and change in a cramped space to play for an amped audience."

But back in the suburbs of Las Vegas, long before Wood was backing the hardest-working man in show business, his patrons consisted mainly of Weedwackers and the occasional mouse. "It was basically a garage thing that never left the garage," he says of his first musical vehicle. And while his next project was more of a hot rod, it still wasn't all that road-ready.

"We were inspired by bands like Yes and Rush, maybe a little Zappa. We wrote songs that were so involved, we couldn't even play 'em," Wood recalls with a laugh. "We all knew a little bit about theory, but mainly, we'd just write these weird, complex parts just because we thought that it was cool."

After a while, prog rock lost its luster. Determined to find a band that was going places, Wood and a drummer friend posted ads in some local rags. One of the people who responded was Jimmie Van Zant, the first cousin of Lynyrd Skynyrd's late vocalist, Ronnie Van Zant. After some initial tinkering and a little rehearsal with the group, Wood finally hit the road.

"We played Skynyrd covers and had about a dozen original blues and Southern-rock tunes," Wood remembers. "We played thirty states, traveling in a motor home with a trailer attached. We went through four of those. One of them actually burned up. The engine had flames coming out of it when we pulled in to return it. We were workin' it pretty hard, but we made okay money, and there was a party every night. We were just trying to get to that next level."

After year four with Van Zant, the excitement wore thin for Wood, and by 1995, he was back living with his parents in Sin City. The time spent on the road made for some good war stories and minor-league bragging rights, but ultimately, he was at a career crossroads. He spent his days working as a delivery driver, and to keep his chops up, he spent his nights working on a dock -- so to speak.

"I was backing a few different singers in the evenings, and Las Vegas being Las Vegas, they mostly wanted to cover time-tested stuff like 'Sittin on the Dock of the Bay' and classics like that," says Wood. "Vegas is a show-business town, so lots of people go there. But the music scene is a little more confining."

His after-hours efforts in Vegas eventually led him to a soul/rock outfit fronted by a female vocalist named Tomi Rae. One evening, a visiting James Brown happened to catch the act and was smitten by Rae (to whom he is now married). Brown also liked the sound of Rae's band and invited the outfit to play a pre-Grammy party at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. "We did a bunch of Janis Joplin covers at that gig," recalls Wood. "Tomi has a smoky voice that's really good for that kind of material. We also played 'I Feel Good' with James Brown sitting in." Mr. Dynamite enjoyed the performance so much, he asked the band to open a few shows for him. Those outings provided propitious exposure for Wood. Brown later called the young slinger and asked him to join his legendary outfit for a European tour. "I was getting ready to go to work one morning when I got the call. I was supposed to be with them for just part of a tour, but I'm still doing it five years later," he says, grinning.

Usually clad in a blue or red tuxedo while slashing for Brown, Wood seems more at home in his band, Harmonious Junk, as a batik-sporting soul cat with a beatnik-like frizzy goatee and longish hair tucked into a '70s-era leather cap that would make Huggy Bear proud. Wood first formed Junk in Las Vegas while he was between tours with Brown. He tapped a friend to play bass, found a drummer they both liked, and the initial incarnation of the group fell together. In September 2002, Wood moved to Denver, where he decided to re-create the band with Mario Di Bona on drums, Jack Alterman on bass and Chad Aman on keys.

The group recently holed up in the studio and is poised to release a disc of its diversely influenced material in early spring. Bouncing between psychedelia, funk, blues, jazz and reggae, its guitar-driven sound is tight, even when venturing on flights of improvisational fancy.

"We're trying to keep it sort of old-school," Wood says. "Just musicians. No DJs. No tracks. Just an organic setup that allows us to stretch out, but also something that's danceable and that's boogieable. We're looking to create that mix that entertains people but also entertains us. And we try to appeal to people of all ages, whether they're fifteen or fifty."

Wood says he enjoys playing for erudite listeners. He says he often receives positive feedback along with a few kernels of insight, whether he's laying down tunes by Billy Preston, Stevie Wonder or one of his own compositions."I love it when people know their stuff and have a broad knowledge of musical history," he enthuses. "That's the kind of crowd I like to play for." Between Soul Brother Number One and Harmonious Junk, Wood is well positioned to stay in front of the musically well informed, though he takes nothing for granted.

"The JB lineup has been stable for a while, but I'm the last person to have gotten in, so that keeps me on my toes," he says. "I like playing for Brown, but I take advantage of my off time to work on Harmonious Junk. It's nice to come home and get in my own band." - Westword Magazine by Nick Hutchinson


"Jam On It by Katie Flannery"

JAM ON IT-By Katie Flannery-Colorado Music Buzz July 07'(excerpts)-When I received a message from former James Brown guitarist Damon Wood predicting a "Funk throw-down" at Herb's, I knew I had to attend. The house packed and the crowd buzzing with excitement, the night of May 25th was one to remember. Sitting in with Harmonious Junk was long time bassist for the James Brown band Fred Thomas, who laid down the funk and took over on vocals from time to time. Joining the band during the second and third sets were two more Brown alumni: Jeff Watkins on saxophone and Hollie Farris on trumpet. The band whipped the crowd into a dancing frenzy as they flawlessly snaked through songs of varying genres, and the James Brown covers were performed with precision and joy. I have never seen Wood and the members of his band smile so much while playing. My friend Mel tapped me on the shoulder as she leaned over to yell in my ear, "James Brown is in the house...who knew?" Wood's original tunes often make a statement - with humor. Aware that there is already more than enough negativity in some music, he consciously tries to insert comic features into his songs. Wood describes his music as "Improv rock that is Funk and Jazz based. I don't want to be classified in any particular genre...it's hard to step out of that box if you want to do something different in the future." Harmonious Junk will release their second album at the end of the summer, feauturing drummer Jason Kather, saxophonist Justin Jones, keyboardist Chad Aman, and bassists Sam Smith and Fred Thomas. - Colorado Music Buzz July 07'


"More funk than junk"

Damon Wood’s music career has taken him many places with many people, but his experiences with James Brown always rise to the top.

It was during a performance honoring the Godfather of Soul that Wood found himself performing “Sex Machine” with Brown and Michael Jackson.

“In L.A., when James Brown was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, Michael Jackson jumped out of the wings and read a speech to give him the award. Then he jammed ‘Sex Machine’ with us,” Wood said. “Me and the bass player looked at each other and were like, ‘Is that Michael Jackson on stage with us?’”

Wood was a lead guitarist in the James Brown Band and played with the legendary musician for almost eight years.

“He’s real intense, and I had a lot to learn from him. He’s probably the greatest entertainer I’ve ever seen at work,” Wood said. “He definitely knows a lot about the business. He put out his first single in 1956.”

Wood now leads the band Harmonious Junk, a funk-rock based ensemble that takes a jazz approach to improvisation.

“We take you through a lot of different styles within one set. If you hear 10 songs in a set that are all in the same genre, it gets kind of old,” he said. “And people are more picky now with, ‘Take me here and take me there.’”

When Harmonious Junk improvises on stage, the band members do it with a “group mind” — everyone listens to one another and takes turns leading.

“We look at it as how we create our art on stage, and that’s bigger than all of us individually,” Wood said. “It’s one of the funnest aspects; it’s more deep and fulfilling and meaningful — almost spiritual.”

When working on the soundtrack for the movie “The Tuxedo,” Woods had to get used to changing things around.

“We recorded ‘Sex Machine’ with Jackie Chan in the DreamWorks Studio with us,” he said. “And James Brown, as usual, changed the whole arrangement on the spot.”

One of the highlights of Woods’ career was when he toured Japan with Brown.

“The Japanese people are so appreciative, and in Japan, they all know your names and have gifts for you,” he said.

The people who set up the shows for the band impressed him even more because of their helpfulness and attention to detail.

“They had everything completely set up before you even get there,” Woods said. “The guitar pick you lost at the show the night before, they found it, and put it on top of your amp.”

But no matter where or whom Wood plays with, his goal is always the same.

“You have to figure out what’s going to make people get off,” he said. “And we have to make sure we get off, too.” By Allison Plean - Steamboat Pilot


"Memory On Larimer"

June 1, 2007 by Dave Flomberg Rocky Mountain News "Grab your horn and meet us down at Who's on First." Zach was playing drums for the open jam at the long-since-closed Cherry Creek bar and grill with Denver pianist Joe Bonner that summer evening, more than a dozen summers ago. I wasn't even old enough to drink legally, but Zach said it was cool. They were set up on the patio, and as I assembled my horn, I noticed a trombone sitting on a table a few feet away. It was a stunning instrument; the gloss-black-lacquered bell was elegantly adorned with gold etching. I was agog. I asked Zach whom the horn belonged to. He jerked his thumb over at a man chatting with a couple of other musicians. "It's Fred's." Fred Wesley was there. The former musical director of the James Brown band. George Clinton's main man. The greatest living funkbonist in the known universe. I quickly began packing up my horn. No way was I gonna get on the same stage as that guy. But Zach eventually talked me down, and I ended up not only playing, but getting to chat later with an idol of mine. Fred wasn't just magnanimous, he was encouraging. It was one of those chance encounters that sparks an epiphany, or at least nudges a young player's musical focus in a new direction. These days, Front Range aficionados have had ample opportunity to see another of James Brown's sidemen. Damon Wood was the Godfather of Soul's lead guitarist in the late '90s and early '00s; his jam band Harmonious Junk has become a Mile-High groove staple in the past few years. Anyone in attendance last week at Herb's, the jazz and blues dive on Larimer at the north end of LoDo, can attest to why. Rolling through blues, old school R&B, funk and jazz tunes sprinkled with rock riffs and swamp-soaked delta changes, Harmonious Junk is one of the more aptly named bands you'll see. Its ability to blend styles and influences is exceptional, matched only by the players' musicianship. The cool thing about seeing a band fronted by a sideman to one of the most influential figures in the history of pop music is you'll never know who might show up. Last week, saxophonist Jeff Watkins and trumpeter Hollie Farris joined Junk's lone sax player, Pete Wall, along with Fred Thomas, Brown's bassist, who was also taking some vocals. Between the horns and Fred on the mic, the mood was visibly energized. Herb's was packed with bodies. We were at a booth to the side of the stage; the narrow path between the bar and booths became impossible to navigate. The crowd was heady and drunk, thoroughly enjoying the jam, and just as excited when Journey blared on the jukebox between sets. Band members were mobbed by well-wishers when they stepped off stage. It's a moment I can't help but pause to appreciate. From Fred Wesley to Fred Thomas, the number of lives touched by James Brown still grows. Even here, at a calescent gin mill at the edge of downtown Denver, five months to the day after his death, he's still the hardest-working man in show business. Harmonious Junk • HJ plays June 9 at the Hornet (76 Broadway, 303-777-7676) and at 11:15 a.m. June 16 at the Highlands Street Fair (West 32nd Avenue and Irving Street). - Rocky Mountain News by Dave Flomberg


"Harmonious Junk to Rock Fly Me To The Moon"


The Telluride Watch April 27, 2007. Harmonious Junk to Rock Fly Me to the Moon Saloon. By Rebecca Thoreson (excerpts) The Denver based Harmonious Junk is headed up by former lead guitarist for the James Brown Band, Damon Wood, who toured with the Godfather of Soul for some eight years. "I'm kind of in this reflective, sentimental time, looking back at everything," says Wood, referring to the passing of Brown last year. "It was an amazing experience, he was such a personality," recalls Wood. "He would never cease to amaze me. I learned a lot about being a bandleader from James Brown. One of the things was that if a tune is not working, don't try to trudge through it, move on to something else. You have to have eye contact so you can jump into something new. It's a spontaneous thing, being in touch with the people who are there." Spontaneous may best describe the multi-faceted, and sometimes eccentric Brown. Wood recalled a session with the Black Eyed Peas while they were recording the multi-platinum album "Monkey Business". "James Brown hi-jacked that session," said Wood. "James said, I'm bringing my band, my singers and my wife." Not without controversy, Brown's legacy endures. "..when you got to know him, you realized he just had his own musical glossary. He'd use words like 'tonation' and 'ten chords,' and all the jazz guys would freak out, because those aren't really musical terms. But he knew what sound he wanted and he got it." Wood also recalled the energy that JB brought to his performances. "I'll always remember him sweating buckets of sweat on stage, and thinking, wow - he's in his seventies." Wood brings his incredible wealth of experience and his own dynamic energy into his latest project, Harmonious Junk, with their heavy funk, jazz, and soul-laced rock and roll. Dubbed Denver's "Best Jam Band" in the 2005 issue of Westword Magazine, the group released their debut effort, Space Cadet to rave reviews. "I probably should mention that I have been in Telluride before. It was the weekend of 9/11. That's when James Brown did his acapella version of 'God Bless America.' That was quite a day. This will be our first time in Telluride, and we're really looking forward to it." Get down with Harmonious Junk, with their infectious jamadelic, soul tinged brand of rock and roll. Wood is a musical treat, so don't miss it! Rebecca Thoreson-Telluride Watch 4/27/07 - The Telluride Watch


"Rock and Roll Soul Power by Margaret Hair"

"Rock Roll and Soul Power" by Margaret Hair Steamboat Today April 28, 2008 Damon Wood is well aware that to ask something like, "So what's the difference between playing bars in Colorado and touring with James Brown in Europe?" is to ask something extraordinarily stupid. But he plays it off, and answers the question in the friendliest possible way. "We don't play for nearly as many people," Wood said on the phone from Las Vegas where he's hanging out for a few days before starting another leg of a continuing regional tour. On Saturday he'll be in Steamboat Springs with his three-piece band Harmonious Junk for a show Mahogany Ridge Brewery and Grill. The band's second record is due out soon, and includes a guest appearance by original JB's bassist Fred Thomas. Up until about two years ago, Wood played guitar for the Godfather of Soul's rotating band, and has credits that include a Bonnaroo performance, a spot on a Black Eyed Peas record and the guitar lines on Brown's last studio recording with the Soul Generals, an unreleased track (available on myspace) called "Gutbucket Funk". Wood talked about how he ended up on tour with the haardest working man in show business, how that tour got him into jazz and funk, and how playing Colorado mountain towns measures up to all that. "Tell me something about Harmonius Junk".We kind of mix up funk and some blues, rock and jazz...so we're kind of semi-improv.I used to play with James Brown so we mix with that sort of jam band, rock improv kind of thing. "How did you get hooked up with James Brown?" I actually was playing in a short-lived band in Las Vegas and somebody (in the band) got noticed by James Brown. I ended up being in his opening act-he had this act he was kind of managing. "So how did you end up in his band?" We were already with him, and we had passports and stuff like that, and i got a call one day that somebody could'nt make this Europe tour. So of course I got a lot of world touring experience, did some recordings with him and some concert DVD's with him. That was really cool. The James Brown Band was a really cool learning experience. I learned a lot more about jazz and funk coming from that band-before that I had moreof a rock background. "How did Harmonius Junk come together and how did you end up in Colorado?" I started it in Vegas, and there was just no place to play...There was no place for an original band. It seems like you can only play a couple times a month in Vegas. I ended up getting hip to Colorado and some towns there, and now insteqad of playing a couple of times a month, we've got like 28 shows in 3 months. And it's all pretty close to Denver-we've worked a couple of spots like Mahogany Ridge that are only a couple hours away, and we always see the same kind of people. We can hit a lot of these places every two or three months, and it's a really good mix out there. "What can people expect to hear at the show?" We're going to be a three-piece when we play Steamboat. Sometimes we have keys and sometimes we have sax when we're closer to Denver, but we'r emostly three-piece this year. We do maybe a little more than half originals now, and we kind of do our own take on the covers. We do stuff from Zappa to Ween to Grateful Dead. We do some old blues stuff, some old funk stuff; we do a couple of James Brown tracks. And a little "Sanford And Son" theme. - Steamboat Today April 28, 2008


Discography

Currently featured on Altitude TV's "On Stage" Series. "Space Cadet 2004" Harmonious Junk: Has played on 91.5 KUNV Las Vegas (TheLyonsDen), 99.5 The Mountain Denver, Radiojam.com, and Sprawlmag.com
Space Cadet was in the top 40 plays list for 8 weeks on Radiojam.com

Photos

Bio

Former lead guitarist with James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, Damon Wood, releases Harmonious Junk's second studio cd "Too Cocky In Nagasaki" with a 10 show in 10 day tour with James Brown Bass Legend Fred Thomas. The cd release tour continues with shows all around Colorado. Currently featured on Altitude TV's On Stage music series with live clips and interviews from their CD Release party July 3rd. Harmonious Junk is a funk and jazz based improv rock band that tours Colorado and neighboring states year round. Their music is a mix of many styles and continues to evolve. Their songlist is filled with classic covers and dozens of road tested originals and fresh bits and medleys. 100+ shows a year and looking to do more national touring.