Jazz Punks

Jazz Punks


#1 on the CMJ Jazz Top 40! Combining hard-bop chops and garage rocks defiant attitude, Jazz Punks shreds the jazz canon and pieces it back together with themes and riffs lifted from iconic rock ‘n’ roll. The Punks crew has essentially created a new genre.


JAZZ PUNKS debut CD, "SMASHUPS" sits at #1 on the CMJ Jazz Top 40, holding a Top 4 position now for five solid weeks.

JAZZ PUNKS was literally born on the Fourth of July. Upright bassist Mike Polcino hosts a regular Independence Day party where musicians are urged to bring their axes. Drummer Hugh Elliott had relocated to LA just days before and came to the party invited by a friend who never even showed up. So, he wandered through Polcino’s place where he suddenly discovered a grand piano, upright bass and full drum kit.

“Next thing you know we were just smokin’ together. I was moved,” Elliott says. “It’s rare to come across people who blow you away like that - I truly sensed some unique magic there.” And as the fireworks blasted outside, the future Punks’ creative energy reached a critical mass inside. This serendipitous musical experiment ended up providing the key to the band’s new sound.

“That night we just organically evolved from playing standards we love to molding them in ways that turn them on their head,” says saxophonist Robby Elfman, who doubles-up as an in-demand film and classical composer. “The first time we happened upon one of these mashups it worked perfectly. It was the happiest accident, and it led to our sound and vision.”

Hugh Elliott arrived in New York City in the early 90s and quickly established himself as a first-call drummer around town, in demand from CBGB’s to international tours. Like his fellow Punks, he was tired of seeing jazz musicians making music mostly for each other, and realized that this gang was an ideal vehicle for busting out of the post-bop ghetto.

“We're trying to deliver the music in a way that awakens folks to jazz, especially those who never knew they liked it, or always thought they hated it,” says Elliott, a street-honed drummer from the Lower East Side of NYC. “The key is melding tunes in a way that doesn’t compromise what's important about both classic jazz and classic rock. I like to call it 'stadium jazz'.”

Kastner, a BMI and ASCAP award-winning composer and mischievous jazz savant, provides much of the intellectual heft that holds the arrangements together. Guitarist Sal Polcino adds heavy funk and R&B chops to the mix, built from strong stints with the Tower Rhythm Section, including notorious Tower of Power bassist Rocco Prestia.

Acoustic bassist Mike Polcino is a long-time veteran of the LA music world who blasted out of Seattle’s punk scene in the 1980s. His huge sound and rock solid time provide JAZZ PUNKS with a flexible foundation ideal for their far-flung stylistic flights. He first gained notice in the late 90's during a stint with Fishbone saxophonist Angelo Moore, which included a tour opening for Ice-T. He notes that much of the band’s material is the product of scrupulous trial and error.

“A lot of times we sit around at rehearsals throwing out ideas like musical curveballs from every angle imaginable, and very rarely do they end up in the final song,” Polcino says. “It’s very much a group effort. We try to stay as far as possible from just making more covers. A lot of jazz artists have done Beatles cover albums, for instance, and most of the time the playing is pretty schmaltzy. We’re never apologetic, and never try to fit the mold.”


SMASHUPS [debuted May 1, 2012 on the CMJ Jazz Top 40 at #4, and has remained in the Top 4 for five weeks. It is now at #1]