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"A Tasty Treat: Licorice at the Blue Note (January 2006)"

In the early seventies, Miles Davis caused controversy within the jazz world: deconstructing traditional jazz by deemphasizing solos in favor of ensemble group play. On albums like Bitches Brew and On The Corner, Davis adventurously took jazz into new territories experimenting with different sounds and techniques. Davis' spirit of adventure and ability to harness the spirit of a band into one unified purpose lives on in the music and spirit of Licorice. This past Saturday night, at New York City's legendary Blue Note jazz club, Licorice, comprised of David Lott (guitar), Matt Epstein (bass), Chad Dinzes (keyboards) and Josh Bloom (drums), expertly embodied Davis' philosophy. Throughout the evening, Licorice jammed in unison, with nary a member of the quartet taking the opportunity to sit back and let the others carry their weight. At all times, everyone on stage was doing something meriting attention. In lesser hands, the result could be auditory chaos. In Licorice's hands, an exciting concoction of jazz, avant-garde, funk and rock evolves.

The core trio of the band formed through friendships with bassist Matt Epstein. While students at the University of Michigan, Lott and Epstein played together in Meropoix, an instrumental funk jamband before forming a trio with Epstein's childhood friend Josh Bloom. In 2003, rehearsals with keyboardist Chad Dinzes bore fruit, or in this case, Licorice. The band, which skillfully fuses different but compatible music, derived their name from one of Jerry Garcia's explanations of the Grateful Dead's fans. When asked about the Dead's fan base, Garcia responded, "Deadheads are kinda like people who like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but people who like licorice, really like licorice." Relix Magazine's honoring the band as the "New Groove of the Month" last October shows that audiences are quickly developing a taste for Licorice.

Licorice's late night set marked a return to the Blue Note where they have participated in the jazz club's weekend Late Night Groove Series since its inception in 2004. The performance marked not only their first show of 2006 but also served as a joint birthday celebration for Epstein and Lott. Coming on stage just after 1:00 a.m., Licorice ran through a tight set which touched on staples like "Scarab" and "Swisher," a couple newer compositions and a seriously powerful instrumental version of the Police classic "Walking On The Moon."

Dinzes gives Licorice a tasty flavor, interjecting a traditional piano sound into the mix. On "What’s Your Status In London?," Dinzes deftly keeps up with the song's tight tempo changes, moving from the stark avant-garde intro into flowing jazzy piano rolls and funky jam-based grooves. A versatile drummer, Bloom pushes the band along through upbeat stretches while also proving capable of working the snare and cymbals for the jazzier excursions. Where Dinzes and Bloom bring the jazz, Epstein and Lott bring the funk. Lott slid comfortably into a couple different roles throughout the night. At times Lott fronted the band, laying down guitar licks as a traditional lead guitarist, during others he mellifluously complemented Dinzes' keys and Epstein’s energetic bass with a solid rhythm guitar.

Despite Licorice's jazz leanings, they have failed to adopt the dour, serious demeanor stereotypical of jazz musicians. Like most jambands, Licorice possesses a sense of humor. In adapting Blink 182's "All The Small Things" into their tongue-in-cheek "Say It (Your Mom's A Vegetarian)," Licorice invented the wonderfully surreal insult, "your mother, she eats tofu." Licorice is also fond of covering "La Isla Bonita," converting Madonna's Caribbean-tinged dance classic into a scorching keyboard odyssey. However, the weighty confines of the Blue Note do not inspire whimsy and Licorice played it relatively straight within its staid surroundings.

In accepting a lifetime Jammy award on behalf of the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir spoke eloquently about the improvisational spirit of jazz and its influence, not only on his own music, but on that of the entire jamband ethos. In an acknowledgment to the jazz influence described by Weir, the Blue Note, through their Late Night Groove Series has opened their stage to allow prospering groove-based bands a cozy, intimate and historical venue to showcase a different style of improvisational music. Just in case the connection between the jazz world and the jamband world escaped the Blue Note audience that evening, Licorice dove into "Satin Retreat," the band's adaptation of Davis' On The Corner track "Black Satin." Incorporating Davis' rhythms into their music, just like Davis incorporated rock and funk beats into his music more than three decades ago, the quartet adeptly bridged the gap between genres, offering a generous sample of the wonderful taste of Licorice. -, By: David Schultz

"Licorice: A Million Grains of Sand (Sept 2008)"

Licorice is a band from NYC who describes themselves as a roots-rock-jazz quartet...intrigued? As was I, so I sat down and gave it a listen. On their newest EP A Million Grains of Sand the band starts off with the light hearted, atmospheric title track and I’m instantly pulled into this album. My headphones begin to pump out familiar yet NEW sounds, I can’t see where the curves in the road are coming from or when they’re coming. Instantly I’m wizzing through this music, and I’m brought to the next track “Freeze.” Again, I’m rolling through twists and turns in the music, the sweet guitar lines bring us to the top of the mountain at the end of this track and I can’t help but smile. Though just as quickly as the flowers and spinning hippies begin to flock, the music turns dark with the sing a long anthem of “What’s Your Status in London?” In this track they definately do a great job mixing the darkness with some light by bringing the reggae vibe in. As the disc plays on, I find myself really enjoying how Licorice mixes a funky, jazzy sound with good songs and catchy lyrics, they dare me to not sing along, they beg me to forget that funky ass bass line that’s now repeating in my head. Though “Name” falls a bit short of grabbing hold of me as much as the rest of the disc, it’s a cool bluesy track which brings out the emotion of someone just asking for a little respect, and truthfully, can’t we all use a bit. As the disc winds down, I think they’ve successfully inspired me to hear more, as, clocking in at only around 30 minutes, it’s clearly not long enough, I guess that just means I’ll have to go out and see them live and I suggest YOU do the same. - DH - Healthy Hippie Magazine

"New Groove of the Month (October 2005)"

Licorice is available in many different flavors. One of Brooklyn’s best kept secrets, Licorice is the rare band---these days---that embraces the term jam as a compliment and a sign of its ability to shift between styles with ease. Offering a loose mix of rock, jazz, funk, soul and trance, often within a single improvisational segment, Licorice has quickly made a name for itself in the greater New York-area through a series of high profile club appearances and is poised to brand itself in other regions of the country in the coming months.

Though Licorice’s current lineup is barely two years old, the group’s roots date back to the late 1980s when guitarist David Lott first met drummer Joshua Bloom while attending summer camp in the foothills of the Poconos. A few years later, Lott found himself studying at the University of Michigan where, along with bassist Matthew Epstein, he formed the popular Ann Arbor band Meropoix. Returning to New York after graduation, Lott and Epstein began gigging in various incarnations before forming their own jazz/soul flavored trio with Bloom. Taking its name from a famous Jerry Garcia quote (“Our audience is like people who like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice REALLY like licorice”), Licorice began playing gigs throughout the tri-state area, also scoring a spot at Telluride’s annual Jazz Fest in August of 2002. While in Telluride, famed jazz/fusion guitarist Larry Coryell heard Licorice and later joined the trio for the majority of its set. He has remained something of a mentor to the burrowing group ever since.

In August of 2003, a serious of chance coincidences and mutual friends put Licorice in touch with keyboardist Chad Dinzes, completing the group’s current lineup. Dinzes, fresh off an experience in a more pop/rock oriented Washington D.C project, quickly gelled with the trio and helped expand the group’s palette, which by this time included elements of rock, jazz, funk, soul and trance. While holding down day jobs, the newly minted quartet continued to perform throughout the New York-area also returning to Telluride for another series of Jazz Fest appearances. During one particularly memorable show, veteran personality Mike Dillon joined Licorice as a second percussionist for a complete performance.

Back home, Licorice dug a bit deeper into its jazz roots, scoring the first of several sold-out gigs at Greenwich Village’s famed Blue Note. Part of the venue’s new Late Night groove series, Licorice’s set stretched until 3 AM and featured two-sets stuffed with original material. At the group’s most recent Blue Note performance, the quartet rearranged a number of its songs as acoustic compositions with Dinzes playing the venue’s famed piano. In addition to presenting the group’s three-part harmonies in a more audible form, this acoustic configuration also showcased the group’s strengthened songwriting.

“Nobody is going to deny that we’re a jamband because that’s the truth,” Lott admits. “But, we also have a certain affinity for structure. I think that’s what separates us from just being just another jamband.”

2005 has been a banner year for the longtime friends. In February, Licorice played a two-night stand at Burlington’s famed Nectar’s and used the opportunity to build a mini-tour around the northeast. Upon returning to New York, the group landed a spot opening for a rare reunion of Deep Banana Blackout’s original lineup at the popular lower east side watering hole The Bowery Ballroom. “After that we had enough of our own material and we were really improvising in our own way,” Lott says. “Part of developing a sound in this community is taking a little bit from everyone and making it their own. Like, I saw Phish in ’97 and they played ‘wah wah’ funk and we danced for 17 hours but that’s not necessarily what we want to do. But there is an element of that we’ve incorporated into our sound.”

Other standout gigs in the New York area have found Licorice supporting Bernie Worrell, performing a surprise Halloween set at the Bitter End and playing CMJ as part of Relix’s annual new music showcase. In August, the quartet was featured in Relix Magazine where, by chance, Licorice’s On the Verge profile appeared just pages away from the Garcia quote which inspired its moniker. “[Since February] everybody has been making our sound their own,” Epstein says. “A year prior to that we were all a little more hesitant to venture outside the box. Now, everyone is willing to take more chances”

In the middle of August, the group also returned to Telluride for another appearance at the resort town’s Jazz Festival where it performed an unprecedented 5 shows in 3 days. All four band members describe one particular outdoor gig as the best show the Licorice ever played. “It was an unexpected show, on the main drag, right before the main late night gig,” Bloom says. “I think we really stepped it up in terms of both our energy and our performance.” At one point a truck full of bikers even showed up and let down their guard on the street’s open dance floor.

Covers continue to showcase both Licorice’s eclectic tastes and its playfulness. Since its inception, Madonna’s “La Isla Bonita” has been among the group’s most requested jam vehicles. “I think our jamming abilities really come out in some of the covers we do” Epstein says. “It forces us to really take a song in a new direction---it is really a great template to try something new and fresh.” Lott continues: “Some of our most original music has happened in that segue moment between two covers.”

Over the past few months, Licorice has also continued to develop its own catalogue of original material. While Lott remains the group’s primary songwriter, each band member continues to flesh out their own part. Two instrumentals in particular “Scarab” and “Freeze” have recently developed into signature tunes. Licorice is also working on a multi-angle camera DVD project documenting a recent performance at Tribeca Rock Club. In the near future, the group also hopes to enter the studio and continue to tour outside its New York.

“We always start every rehearsal with a jam but we tend to practice improvising less than our songs,” Dinzes says. “When we get onstage we really want to be able to hone in on our material but make our jams fresh.”

Candy puns aside, Licorice has truly found its flavor.
-, Mike Greenhaus

"On the Verge (August 2005)"

Licorice comes in many different flavors—jazz, funk, rock, trance and, or course, jam. But, like the best jambands, this quartet tastes best when it twists each style into its own unique blend. “We love to dance and throw a party,” says guitarist David Lott. “We thrive off of connection and we strive to provide it.” Licorice’s current lineup solidified when longtime friends Lott, Joshua Bloom (drums) and Matt Epstein (bass) relocated to New York in 2003. Keyboardist Chad Dinzes—who doubles as a house organist at Madison Square Garden—completed the puzzle after receiving simultaneous offers from Bloom and Epstein. Barnstorming the New York club circuit, Licorice established a home base in downtown joints like the Blue Note. The group has also appeared at the Telluride Jazz Celebration, where Lott attracted the attention of axe legend Larry Coryell, who now offers the guitarist private tutorials. Licorice still hopes to adapt its live sound to the studio. “Like any jam act you can’t capture the live experience on tape,” Lott says. “But you can capture the best elements in a more controlled setting.” - Relix Magazine, Mike Greenhaus


A Million Grains of Sand - EP



Whether in the heart of New York’s downtown music scene, or throughout the US, the rock-fusion quartet Licorice is a true musical juggernaut.

Featuring Josh Bloom on drums and vocals, Matt Epstein on bass, Dave Lott on lead vocals and guitar, and Chad Dinzes on vocals and keyboards, the Licorice sound starts in rock but always propels into an amalgamation of genres. At home in NYC the band can be seen regularly deployed to sold-out crowds at venues like The Blue Note and The Knitting Factory. At the same time the band continues to make strides throughout the country: including 5 consecutive performances at The Telluride Jazz Fest in CO, a performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and multiple appearances throughout the festival circuit. The band has shared the stage with the likes of Roy Hargrove, Larry Coryell, Mike Dillon, and Adam Deitch. The quartet released their first EP A Million Grains of Sand in the spring of 2008 to high acclaim.