Jazzam
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Jazzam

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
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"JAZZAM: It's About Time (Creative Life Support Records)"

By: Mark Burnell

Jazzam are a Pittsburgh based funk outfit, this is their debut album and it’s pretty darned good.

Most debut platters display the band’s influences a little too much to the fore , and in general
groups have a tendency to rush into the studio a little too quickly – I guess it’s easier to sell a
professional looking studio album on the merch table than a ‘home made’ live disc – but
Jazzam have been playing in and around the lively Pittsburgh scene for a couple of years now,
and the many hours spent onstage have apparently paid dividends. Anyone who has
experienced a Jazzam live show will not be disappointed, and purely on its own merits, this disc
should definitely garner new fans.

Opener Early This Morning sets the tone well : a funky drumbeat, some skittering percussion,
an elastic bassline, a crunchy rhythm guitar line and finally some soulful vocals. Some sweet
and delicate jazzy guitar licks on the break followed by some full on wah-wah pedal madness
at the close, and you have a perfect introduction to Jazzam. After a quick fake radio skit (there
are several ‘tweener’ snippets scattered across the album in between songs – some work,
some don’t) comes Dreams, which sounds a little like something Stevie Wonder might have
made around 1974, all high falsetto vocals and clavier riffs, and then brief moody instrumental
Librium leads straight to High Times, a slow burner of a song that features some excellent sax
playing from guest George Krasidis. Funk #2 , despite the title, is actually the smoothest song
here, but the sweet tones of guest vocalist Liz Berlin mix really well with the lead vocals of
Clinton Clegg and the result never veers into bland territory. New Love has a late period
Funkadelic edge to it, while Mine probably has the catchiest chorus on the record , a really
fine lead vocal and an unexpected but effective clarinet solo.

Next up is the song that really sold me these guys, an instrumental called Time Flies.
Most bands find a style they’re comfortable with and work within that framework, but here
Jazzam step outside the box and prove that there’s more in their future than just high quality
funk workouts : it starts sounding somewhat like New Order circa 1980 - all chiming guitars and
a driving new wave backbeat - then switches to a break that wouldn’t be out of place in a
Starsky and Hutch episode from 1975 before switching again to a tight neo prog segment
complete with a soaring fake choir in the background and finally finishing with a brief but ear-
popping Eddie Hazel-esque guitar wigout finish. I know it sounds like an all-over-the-place
mess on paper, but trust me it’s simply brilliant ; it’s the sound of a band really stretching to
see what theyre capable of, a rare thing for such a young band. Finishing out the album are
The Note (a slinky Latin number with some great piano and clarinet), and Homesick Holiday
(an earnest soul ballad that doesn’t quite work and really is a little anticlimactic after what has
come before).

Clegg’s vocals are really excellent throughout – never underestimate the value of a lead
singer who can actually sing - and his is tone reminds me of a more gravelly Jamiroquai ;
guitarist Glenn Strother proves equally adept at delicate jazz runs and funkier leads ; and the
rhythm section of Marc Sterling (bass) and John Riley (drums), abetted by Jake Miller on
percussion, provide a very solid base (though Sterling really shines on the slightly misnamed 2
Minutes With Marc, a three minute bass vamp). All in all an excellent debut disc that promises
even better things in the future. Highly recommended. - Jammed Online


"Say the magic word: Jazzam!"




The 6-piece Pittsburgh-based band — which includes Erie’s John Riley — has built a buzz the past 2 years.

PREVIEW by Dave Richards Staff writer Dave Richards can be reached at 870-1703 or by e-mail at dave.richards@timesnews.com.



If you’re dying to hear a rising jam band that melds funk, jazz, soulful vocals, a shot of electronics, and world-music flavoring with super-tight grooves, just say the magic word: Jazzam!

Then wait two days. Jazzam will appear at Docksider on Saturday. This six-piece Pittsburgh-based band — which includes Erie native John Riley on drums — has built a buzz the past two years with their organic, expansive sound and improv-heavy live shows. They arrive in Erie after opening several shows for Rusted Root, whose Liz Berlin appears on their latest CD, “It’s About Time.”

Jazzam says its following is growing — much like Pittsburgh’s fertile jam-band scene.

“Every time we see more new faces in the audience,” said Riley, phoning from Albany, N.Y. “A whole bunch of new bands are coming out of Pittsburgh. Borderless Puzzle, you know about in Erie, but they just broke up. They’re done. “But there’s Boogie Hustlers, Mega Love. The whole scene is getting better. There’s some great music coming out. The scene is taking off, and people are taking notice.”

Through Berlin, a major supporter of the band, Jazzam has opened for plenty of national acts at Mr. Small’s Theatre, which she co-owns with her husband.

“We’ve been able to do well with selling tickets and bringing people out to the place, so we’ve gotten the opportunity to open for some smaller national acts,” said Jazzam guitarist George Strother. “Now we’re kind of the go-to band. If we’re not on the road, and they need someone to come in and open, we get the call.”

They’ve opened for Lotus, ekoostik hookah, Keller Williams, and a couple of their heroes.

“The two that we as musicians looked up to, like, ‘Wow, we can’t believe we’re going to play with these guys,’ were the Headhunters and Project / Object,” Strother said.

“George Porter Jr. was on bass with the Headhunters. He’s from the Meters, and we’re all huge fans of the Meters.

“Project / Object had the guys from Frank Zappa’s old band. The keyboard player and I are heavyduty Zappa fans. So that was awesome.”

JAZZAM WAS BASED IN DELAware for a time, but regrouped in Pittsburgh two years ago after finding that fans responded to them so well. Most the band members are from the Pittsburgh area anyway, including Riley, now a junior at the University of Pittsburgh.

He didn’t play out in Erie much, though he played for fun in a band with his father, Dave Riley, a frequent Quad cycling winner.

John Riley fell into Jazzam by accident.

“Glenn and the keyboard player [Jeremy McDonough] were sitting outside, just passing out fliers for a show. I walked up and introduced myself and told them I was a drummer and asked if they wanted someone to play with,” Riley said.

“They invited me over to play. When they lost a drummer, they asked if I’d take over.”

Jazzam also features bassist Marc Sterling, who started the band with Strother; percussion player Jake Miller; and bluesy singer Clinton Clegg. The band released its first CD, “It’s About Time,” in 2006 and got a boost when the Homegrown Music Network opted to distribute it nationally.

Berlin sings with Clegg on “Funk No. 2,” which earned radio airplay in the Pittsburgh area. The funk-laden “The Roof” — not included on the CD — is another crowd favorite. Albany ate it up Monday night.

“The hook of the song is, ‘The roof is coming down / the roof / the roof is coming down.’ It’s so easy,” Strother said. “Last night we played before 1,000 people who never saw us before. But we started playing that song, and halfway through, even though they didn’t know it, they started singing it.”

As if by magic.

Jazzam will perform Saturday at 10 p.m. at Docksider, 1015 State St. Admission is $3. Visit myspace.com / jazzam. - Erie Times-News Feb 15, 2007; Pg15S


"Local jam band Jazzam steps onto the big stage"

BY AARON JENTZEN

Call it luck or circumstances, but every once in a while, a new band hits a string of breaks that sends an electric charge through both the group and its audience -- the thrill of doors opening for a new talent. Lately, local jam band Jazzam seems to be riding just such a wave. The band has become a regular fixture at Mr. Small's Theatre, opening for national acts like Ekoostik Hookah and The Headhunters, and will be joining Rusted Root for several February tour dates in the Northeast. And Jazzam's recent release, It's About Time, is now being distributed internationally by the Homegrown Music Network.

"All the festival-goers, all the people who are interested in jam-band music, that's basically where they shop," says Jazzam bassist and co-founder Marc Sterling. "It's almost like a status thing." But really reaching those fans is "all about bringing your sound together as a group," says Sterling. "And I've seen a growth -- as we've gotten tighter as a band, our audience has definitely started to grow, and people are starting to take notice."

But back in 2004, Sterling was living outside of Ocean City, Md., working as "a freelance jazz musician." Guitarist Glenn Strother, originally from the Pittsburgh area, had just left the Air Force and was living in Dover, Del., also playing casual sessions. The two met and hit it off at a jazz gig at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware.
"We were looking to kinda get out of our area -- it's kinda stagnant down there," says Sterling. "[Glenn] was just like, 'Hey, I can get us some shows in Pittsburgh, if you wanna do that.'"

Jazzam really got started in 2005, when Sterling moved to Pittsburgh and eventually assembled the group's current lineup. Helping to create Jazzam's ever-shifting kaleidoscope of funk, jazz, electronic and rock flavors are percussionist Jake Miller, drummer and Pitt student John Riley, and Jeremy McDonough on keyboards. IUP student Clinton Clegg eventually became the rambunctious, bluesy voice of the band. Strother now works at Mr. Small's, doing promotions and booking, while Sterling is a stay-at-home dad. "I'm lucky that I've got a wife, and she supports what I do," he says, "so we make it work."

What has fostered Jazzam's growth has been a sense of community within Pittsburgh's loosely defined jam scene. This includes bands such as the Boogie Hustlers, The Poogie Bell Band and Omega Love, and clubs such as the Pittsburgh Café and Lawrenceville's Thunderbird Café ("a cool-ass place," Sterling notes.) Jazzam's found its own niche by favoring a more chaotic, no-holds-barred approach to live improvisation. "As far as that scene, and I don't really mean to sound bad about this, but when you leave Pittsburgh, it just seems like the quality of the bands goes down," Sterling says. "We're kinda spoiled here."

The main alliance that Jazzam has formed, though, has been with Mr. Small's. The band is now a go-to local opener for national acts, and the venue's Creative.Life.Support Records released Jazzam's debut, It's About Time. "Liz Berlin from Rusted Root has been a big part of that," Sterling says. Berlin assisted with production and appears on several of the album's tracks, including fan-favorite "Funk #2." She also made arrangements for the group to open on Rusted Root's upcoming tour dates in Albany, N.Y., Hartford, Conn., and Burlington, Vt.. "You can't complain about getting in front of over 3,000 people within the span of three days," Sterling says.

But if the band has reason to be optimistic about its own future, it is also confident in the future of the jam-band scene, which over the years has remained remarkably unaffected by the manic trends of the entertainment industry. "There will always be people who don't play music, but who are looking for music [that is] not sacrificed for radio edits or for what would be good as a pop song," Sterling says. He notes that the jam scene offers quite a variety: Caribbean music, electronica, funk, folk and bluegrass, for starters. "'Jam band' is not a style," he says. "I believe 'jam band' is a group of fans, a group of people who want to hear that kind of music. As long as those people exist, bands like us are going to be around."

Jazzam with Fourth River and Bohemian Bottom Orchestra. 8 p.m. Thu., Feb. 8 (doors at 7 p.m.). Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $9. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com
- Pittsburgh City Paper FEBRUARY 8, 2007


"Homegrown Music Network CD REVIEW- It's About Time"

It's About Time everyone heard this fantastic new band from Pennsylvania! Jazzam creates a remarkably unique groove that ventures into soul, rock, R&B, jazz, and world music. Their latest album, It's About Time, was recorded live and brings you a taste of the band's super-tight show. Equally impressive vocally or musically, Jazzam has something for everyone in their splendid sound. Rollicking bass lines, spirited guitar, keyboard, and horn solos, and intense vocals are just some of the building blocks of their texturally diverse music.

Bryan Rodgers - Leeway's HGMN - Leeway's Homegrown Music Network Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Discography

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Bio

Throughout the years, Jazzam evolved through many different band members and instrumentations, but the core has always remained the same. Jazzam was founded by Glenn Strother and Marc Sterling in 2002 as a soul jazz trio playing covers and eventually originals. As the original music evolved, more members were added to the line-up to grow the band's sound. It was during this time that Jazzam's signature sound emerged.

The Jazzam sound is impossible to categorize, but can best be described as danceable hard-groove music with doses of electronica. Jazzam fuses modern with vintage sounds with influences ranging from: old-school breakbeat funk, modern house jazz, dub-step, R&B/urban vocals, and many more diverse, global stylings. Jazzam has shared the stage with an impressive array of national professional artists including: Steve Kimock & Bernie Worrell, Papadosio, BoomBox, The Headhunters, Keller Williams, George Clinton, Soulive, The Brothers Past, Lotus, Project Object w/ Napoleon Murphy Brock & Ike Willis, Rusted Root, Toots & The Maytals, and The Derek Trucks Band, to name just a few.

On NYE '09/'10 Jazzam performed a "farewell for now" show at the Rex Theater in their hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. Today, 11 years since the band's founding, Jazzam is rejuvenated after a short hiatus. With the original core members still in place and a fresh line-up, Jazzam is back to creating the cutting-edge music they're known for.