Jatoba
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Jatoba

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Band Country Bluegrass

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Jun
05
Jatoba @ Private Party

Wirtz, Virginia, USA

Wirtz, Virginia, USA

May
28
Jatoba @ Private Party

Keene, New Hampshire, USA

Keene, New Hampshire, USA

Feb
13
Jatoba @ Brattleboro Winter Farmer's Market

Brattleboro, Vermont, USA

Brattleboro, Vermont, USA

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The last time a sitar, two acoustic guitars, a baritone guitar, a banjo and a mandolin were all together on a stage in Boone, Anoushka Shankar gave a moving performance at Farthing Auditorium. This Saturday, those instruments are returning once again to the valley below Howard's Knob and will provide the connection between musician and audience.

Both natives of Roanoke, Va., Jason Scaggs and John Jamison started playing music together in 2000, having met in middle school. Since then, they have been in multiple bands in Colorado, Vermont and Virginia. Under the name Stillsounds, Scaggs and Jamison performed on the main stage at Yonder Mountain String Band's Northwest String Summit Festival in 2004, and they have shared stages with bands such as Lotus, RAQ, The Breakfast, The Ordinary Way and Deadwood Revival among others. The duo's most recent project is JATOBA.

Incorporating a unique blend of two acoustic guitars, baritone guitar, mandolin, sitar and harmonizing vocals, JATOBA defines their sound through collective songwriting and extreme rhythmic improvisations.

Shortly after Scaggs and Jamison joined forces and after realizing their symbiotic musical attachment, the duo made a pact in 2001 to always come back to play music together, no matter where life's travels took them. After Jamison moved to Colorado in 2002, Scaggs followed suit and moved to Colorado to form Stillsounds with Jamison. When Scaggs moved to Vermont in 2005, Jamison returned the favor and moved to Brattleboro where he and Scaggs were part of the jam-fusion band Phil and the Fuzz for a few years before splitting off and forming JATOBA.

"By making the pact, well, it really worked out well," said Jamison. "We have been able to keep it all together and keep creating music."

Although the duo's musical tastes have now grown together, it wasn't always so. In middle school, Scaggs was an admitted Grateful Dead enthusiast, leaning more toward established and emerging jam band outfits. Jamison, although a fan of the Dead, focused more on teaching himself Doors and Led Zeppelin licks on the acoustic guitar.

"In high school, Jason was trying to pick up chicks playing Dave Matthews and Floyd on the guitar, and I was playing Jimmy Page licks," said Jamison.

But as the days of high school got further away, both Scaggs and Jamison took an interest in world music�Jamison gravitated toward Middle Eastern sounds based around the sitar and Scaggs studied African and Cuban rhythms. From the duo's case studies emerged a new sound that realized itself in an alternative acoustic atmosphere.

"Jason is more rhythmically based and I am more melody based," said Jamison. "That's the dynamic we have."

From the moment Scaggs and Jamison's picks stroke the guitar, their hands slapping the guitar body and their voices weaving in and out of harmony�such as on the duo's single "Ready, Set Go!"�it is clear that the two musicians work well with each other. With piles of instruments in each musicians' corner, the songs seem more like a conversation between two different people on the same subject. The musicians answer each other's questions with whatever instrument they see fit. Offering very different answers�in the form of musical improvisation�the two have enough history of playing music together that it is rare to see one throw the other for a loop.

The most recent addition to the band is the sitar, played by Jamison.

Jamison's uncle�the same man responsible for Jamison's long love affair with playing music�owned a sitar while Jamison was growing up. When Jamison was a young boy, he took naps in the same room as the Indian instrument and strummed its chords in amazement. While visiting his uncle a few years ago, Jamison decided to take the sitar and learn how to play it.

Jamison took the sitar back with him to Colorado and began learning how to play the instrument from Roshan Jamal Bhartiya, a sitar master whom Jamison vows to return to one day for instruction.

Jamison plays the sitar often in JATOBA shows, but even when it is not in his hands, the rhythms, melodic progressions and influence of the sitar are present in JATOBA's music. JATOBA's song "Take Me Away" is comprised of dueling guitars, but the influence of the sitar is definitely present.

"Staring to learn the sitar has strongly influenced me�adding Middle Eastern style to my playing," said Jamison. "I try to bring that Middle Eastern influence to guitar, or the style of Indian music in general. That music has a style to it and I really like that style."

And the name JATOBA? According to Jamison, the name is "more of a poetic explanation of our music and life" and refers to the jatoba tree of South America. The jatoba tree's roots run deep and are intertwined, much like Scaggs and Jamison's musical life, travels and fans across the country. - High Country Press, Boone NC


Saturday night I headed over to Peterborough, NH to listen to funky and mellow guitar-based sounds of Jatoba. This young duo of Jason Scaggs and John Jamison hail from Brattleboro, VT and they brought their ecletic, head-bopping acoustic sounds to Harlow's Pub, packed with thirty-somethings, local granolas, and well-to-doers drinking the organic ales on tap.

They started their set off with a really solid cover of Bowie's "The Man Who Sold the World" (or Nirvana's, depending on how old you are) and gave it a cool flamenco flair. They also did a sped-up, unexpected cover of Stone Temple Pilot's "Plush" that was really close to bordering on Weird-Al comedic, but well-done nonetheless. It wasn't all covers though, and their own material was strong enough to stand on its own. They broke out some cool instrumental songs that were surprisingly well-constructed, but still managed to feel loose and toe-tapping (I say that in all seriousness, because several times I found myself bouncing my foot along to the music - I don't do that often). They also did one song where - I can't be sure - seemed to have a sampling of the musical score that played in Star Wars every time Darth Vader appeared on screen: "dum dum dum, da da dum, da da dum..." You know, "Vader's Theme." :) "Take Me Away" has a sound reminscent of early Blind Melon stuff and is one of the best and most crowd-friendly songs they perform. "Winds of Change" was a great slow acoustic number that had a Neil Young/Simon & Garfunkel feel to it.

Jatoba's diverse and interesting sound pulls influences from artists like Jack Johnson, Guster, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Rusted Root and even Radiohead with their experimental, somewhat psychadelic guitar hums and wails. At first blush, they may strike you as another drop in the New England acoustic jam band bucket, but they're far from it. They restrain themselves from the narcissic tendency some bands have to go off on ridiculously long jams, and while there are moments they show off their guitar/mandolin/banjo playing chops (they hit some crazy kickass notes on a few songs that had people whooping), its only because they can back it up and it never detracts.

Scaggs and Jamison are great performers, have a lot of fun onstage with each other and with the audience, and are genuinely passionate about the music, not stopping at all during the few hours they played. "A lot of times when you stop, people tend to leave," said a breathless Jason Scaggs after their performance. "We wanted to really keep the momentum going." They even managed to overcome the constant hum of crowd noise and rivet many heads permanently in their direction.

Earlier in the evening when I was sitting at the bar, I heard a guy next to me ask the bartender, "Is this going to be one of those bands that they move the tables for?" And though there was only a lone, possibly inebriated old-guy dancer that night, Jatoba proved to everyone in that place that they are indeed a band to move the tables in any joint they play.

Jatoba's next New Hampshire dates will both be held in Keene. On February 9, they'll play at Armadillo's at 7:00 p.m. and on August 30 at 9:00 p.m. at the Keene Music Festival. - 18 miles NH



When I saw Jatoba for the first time at the Sterling Stage String Fling, it was also the first time I had ever heard them. It didn’t take me long to realize that the musical versatility that they offered, along with their obvious love and knack for performing for the audience, gave them quite a bit of potential for being one of the great and loved bands here in the Central New York Music scene. Following their show I hooked up with the guys to find out more about what Jatoba is all about.

Holly: The music of Jatoba encompasses a wide variety of styles touching on acoustic rock, bluegrass, and even Eastern style music as well as many more. How is it that a three man band is able to do this?

Jason: Our music is eclectic because all three of us are from different backgrounds, musically. John and I hail from the Appalachian mountains of Virginia where you have a strong influence of bluegrass and folk music. Jeff is from New Hampshire where is has been studying Jazz and Classical music. Individually each one of us has studied different genres such as African rhythms, Middle Eastern music and gamelan music.

Holly: Being that you all play multiple instruments; can you give me an idea of the process you use to choose which instrument to play and which style to go with, when you get together to write songs?

John: There’s not really a process that we go through to decide what to play. When somebody brings a song to the table we experiment with different instrumentations until we find the one that works best. Sometimes because we all can play an array of instruments we might change it up on the fly depending on our mood... or broken strings. Lately we have been writing more with Jason on the banjo and me on the mandolin. It keeps things fresh and exciting as well.

Holly: You must be pretty comfortable together as a band to be able to run in the many musical directions that Jatoba does. So how exactly is it that you came to be Jatoba?

Jeff: I met Jason in Keene, NH one summer. We started an electronic groove pop band called, “Phil and The Fuzz”! We were in search of another guitar player so Jason recommended that John, who was living in Colorado at the time, audition for the band. We sent him a CD to play and record to and it sounded great! Phil and the Fuzz ran its course until Jason decided he wanted to go more acoustic. After a couple of months later, Jason and John approached me to join their Acousta-groove-grass project.

Holly: Before Jatoba, what were you and Jason playing together John?

John: We made a pact while living in Vermont eight years ago that we would always, no matter what, do our best to keep the music going. Through these years Jason and I have been traveling around to different areas of the country, sometime together, sometimes not. For example, when he was in northern Arizona and I was in Roanoke, VA we would call each other on the phone and write music. We couldn’t play in time with each other because of the delay in the phone line, so I would play a lick and he would follow with another. We’ve sent lyrics back and forth via email too. We did what we could and it worked out because here we are.

Holly: When did you become interested in playing the sitar and how did you go about doing so?

John: Well when I was young my Uncle John was a musician, and ever since I can remember he had a sitar. I would be taking a nap at my Grandma’s house and I would always sneak off to “play” it. In all actuality I would just strum the strings and laugh hysterically at the sound they made. I loved it from the start! So about 20 years later I found that very same sitar at my father’s house. My Uncle had passed away about 15 years ago and my Dad took care of all his instruments. So I found it and just sort of took it. He wasn’t very happy about that, but I vowed to learn how to play it. So that began my studies and eventually I had the privilege to study under the sitar master Roshan Jamal Bhartiya out in Boulder, Colorado. I studied about 1 ½ years and then left Colorado. So that’s where I am now with the sitar and I’m constantly looking for a teacher so that I may continue my studies. But I still love playing it and I am constantly trying to find ways to utilize it in our music.

Holly: Jason, what did you do musically during your hiatus from your best friend?

Jason: Well like John was saying in a previous question, their have been a few periods of time when we were not playing together. I love writing music and playing live for people so it was easy for me to just keep on doing so. I consider myself a strong singer/songwriter and am very comfortable with crowds so I would play solo gigs a bunch. There was one project I was in back in Virginia that was awesome. I met two guys that had similar ideas in the way we as musicians can perform. Muhanndes played African percussion and John Perry was an amazing spoken word artist. We would play the most beautiful music! I love r - Upstate Live Music Guide Syracuse, NY


There is something about a band that can cover Phish’s “Rift,” flawlessly while managing to “own” the material, as a 3 piece string band. In 2008 we saw the New-Grass revolution with bands heavily influenced by Old Crow Medicine Show, Phish and Hot Buttered Rum. A new breed of Bluegrass surfaced that was a hybrid of the twang and charm of old standards mixed with soaring effects, intricate lead guitar work, and a touch of the insane. What you ended up with is bands needing to create and define their own genres of music just to try and explain it. Then, there is Jatoba. Their genre: Acousta-groove-grass.
They started turning heads in their hometown of Brattleboro, Vermont with covers of 1990’s rock anthems, Ween, and the occasional Phish tune. Their original music speaks from the mountains that they have called home, sending heart felt anthems but, always mixed with the right blend of fun. This all mixed with the occasional sitar jam. They never seem to take themselves too seriously which is part of the allure of a Jatoba show. They laugh and often and dance freely as they have musical conversations passed between good friends right before you.
Between Jeff Richardson’s thumping bass, Jason Scaggs’ percussive guitar technique, and John Jamison’s heavily middle eastern influenced lead guitar style, Jatoba has indeed proven that they are not your average string band. Most recently, they were recorded live in the WVEW studios in Brattleboro. The show has been made available by the band to download at archieve.org.
There are big plans in place for the band in the coming months. The band will be set to release their first full length album in 2009 and is touring heavily to support the demand they have created for their signature sound. They have continued to be one of the most self promoting bands on the scene right now. Often jamming into the wee hours of morning making sure everyone they meet has an opportunity to experience Jatoba.


- The Groovelink Magazine


JATOBA to perform @ Gallery Walk above the Emerson building
Friday, Oct 2 6:00p to 9:00p
at Downtown Brattleboro, Brattleboro, VT

Jatoba’s goal with this particular performance is to bring together the local and artistic community to share in what we hope may start to change the face of Gallery Walk. We feel that there should a stronger focus on the musical aspects of the community as opposed to just the visual. Jatoba will be bringing these two aspects together in one unique performance art display including a tasteful display of lights, music and performance.
- when.com


By Thomas Anderson Bookwalter/The Commons

BRATTLEBORO—The main message the band Jatoba brings to their audience, according to Jason Scaggs, is “just to have a good time."

Scaggs describes the lineup of the local string band and the way he and his two fellow musicians, John Jamison and Jeff Richardson, create their sound. "I play guitars and banjo. John plays the mandolin, guitar, and the sitar, which is a classical Indian instrument,” Scaggs says.

“Jeff plays the upright,” Scaggs continues. “As a trio we definitely strive to provide a very full sound. Both John and I have effects that we play through so we can stack melodies and sounds on top of what we are already playing, which is extremely rhythmic and percussive."

Scaggs, who does the booking, says Jatoba averages eight to ten bookings a month, "and believe it or not, most of those are out of town."

"We're kind of mini-celebrities in New York right now because we've been playing there a lot lately,” Scaggs says. “We've done Rochester, Oswego, Syracuse, Oneonta, Utica, [and] we're doing Buffalo.”

“We obviously pay a lot of attention to our home state, Vermont, and New Hampshire,” he says, “but this past winter we've just kinda been going in that direction."

One big asset for Jatoba: the connections they have made.

"We're meeting some really awesome people that want to help us out,” Scaggs says, including "a friend of ours named Herby One, who runs a publication called Upstate LIVE, and he knows a lot of people in New York."

"Our good friend Selena runs the Groove Link magazine based out of New York as well," Scaggs adds. "She's on our team, too, and it's just the graciousness of them putting out their energy for us."

This summer, Jatoba also plans to play in a few music festivals, which, Scaggs says, are all organized by the same company, Sterling Stage Presents.

"They put on three big festivals a summer,” Scaggs says: the folk fest on Labor Day; a string band festival called String Fling on July 4, and in the fall a last-days-of-summer festival, “which is always a good time.”

“But they get a lot of regional acts and we're lucky to be starting to hop up on the bills with some bigger names," Scaggs says. Those bands include Donna Jean, the Ryan Montbleau Band, Zach Deputy, and the Jazz Mandolin Project.
A decade of collaboration

Jason Scaggs and John Jamison have been playing together for a decade now.

“The most interesting thing I bring to the band is playing the sitar, because when I lived in Colorado a few years ago I got to study with a sitar master, Roshan Jamal Bhartiya,” Jamison says. “It kind of hurts to play, and it's pretty hard to play, but it's got a really cool sound."

Jamison sees Jatoba as a meeting of musical minds. "I love bringing in all of our influences to it. Jeff is trained in classical and jazz. I like bringing tinges of middle eastern stuff. I've just always wanted to blend that in with the music that I'm playing, and I think that Jatoba does a pretty good job of blending all of our musical influences and upbringings."

Jeff Richardson, Jatoba's bass player, is the newest member of the group, having joined last year. However, he has played with Scaggs and Jamison off and on for the past few years.

Richardson, who says he’s "currently finishing up a degree in music theory and composition," says he is really pleased with Jatoba's recent progress as a band.

"Over the past year we've really found exactly what we want to do with this, and even in the past couple months I think we've really fallen into a groove and figured out what the three of us are all about as musicians. Incorporating all of our diverse backgrounds into one coherent entity.

“So it's really interesting. it's really fun,” Richardson says. “We're always moving in another direction, whether we know it or not." - Common News


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

"This sound is evidence of their own language in the making. Guitars, one for each ear, speak clearly in voices within mystic whispers. The Double Bass brings tones from the underground, collectively creating lyrics from language's transmitting like train rails and smoke signals, canyon echoes and signals through telegraph wires. Their poetic formations fly from Colorado to the North east." (Michael Shurtz, Billboard Magazine's former Editorial Cartoonists/Poster Artists for Bill Graham Presents)

Incorporating a unique blend of three extraordinary acoustic musicians, Jatoba redefines their sound through collective songwriting and extreme rhythmic improvisations. Through the Double Bass, Acoustic Guitars, Baritone Guitar, Mandolin, Sitar and harmonizing vocals, Jatoba displays a very eclectic arrangement of acoustic instrumentation. Jatoba is Jason Scaggs, John Jamison and Jeff Richardson.

The three members of Jatoba first came to play music together in a band based out of Keene, Hew Hampshire and since then have progressed individually and as a whole to create a truly unique style of music. Collectively the members of Jatoba have shared stages/bills with musicians and bands such as Rusted Root, Max Creek, Keller Williams, David Grisman, Sage Francis, members of Dispatch, Lotus, RAQ, The Breakfast, The Ordinary Way and Deadwood Revival just to name a few.

The roots that Jatoba have planted will hold fast and continue to expand well beyond the aspirations that were founded in the beginning of Jatoba's life. Jatoba is a new beginning with no end in sight. Their music has and will continue to be praised by fans and musicians from all around the nation. With a strong start many people are on board to support an acoustic evolution which will hopefully bring Jatoba's music to the forefront of everyone's forehead.