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Band Jazz Jam


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"Jazz jams to flow on James Street"

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Guitarist Benjamin Karp claims Friday's visit to Legends James Street Tavern will bring "the most original music" heard by frequenters of the North Side club.

"There are elements of electronica, Jimi Hendrix and classic jazz," he says of the band MJ Project, which will make its Pittsburgh debut.

Karp looks at the band as a group that operates in the jam band philosophy taught by musicians such as guitarist Charlie Hunter

Karp, a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland, appeared at the North Side club with his band Karpal Tunnel Syndrome in July. He says that band is in a "hiatus" as three of its musicians concentrate on their studies at other Pittsburgh-area schools.

That makes MJ Project his main focus.

The band is made up of Karp; drummer Ajinkya Joglekar, who attended the University of Pittsburgh; keyboardist Ian McGuire; and bassist Paul Weinstein.

While the group is on the road trying to establish itself through this gig and one Saturday in Erie or Oct. 1 at Club Cafe on the South Side.

Music begin 8 p.m. Admission is free.

Details: 412-231-1333.

-- Bob Karlovits - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

"Student Foursome is Poised to Graduate, MJ Project Looks to Take the Next Step"

Karl Stark Philadelphia Inquirer Published: Friday, November 19, 2004

For the MJ Project, the band is almost family. Keyboardist Ian McGuire and guitarist Ben Karp first met back in preschool. They started jamming before high school with drummer Ajinkya Joglekar and bassist Paul Weinstein, and have never really stopped. Now seniors in college, the four - with their ardent mix of jazz, funk and groove - are poised to see if their harmonic convergence can turn them into a working band, with two shows in Philadelphia next week. And while they've been playing steadily since eighth grade at Cedarbrook Elementary School in Cheltenham, the group took a leap artistically after a concert about six years ago by the artful groovemeisters Medeski Martin & Wood. "They were just playing, feeding off each other with that telepathy we have," said Weinstein, a Pennsylvania State University senior. "I knew it as soon as we came home, we needed to play, and it was definitely different." MJ's five-minute tunes suddenly expanded. So did the depth of their improvisation. For such a young band (Weinstein is 22, the rest are 21), the MJ Project already has a sizable following. The band blasts e-mails to 385 people, and packed Chris' Jazz Cafe on Sansom Street over the summer. The other musicians have spent the last few years in school, gigging over the breaks. McGuire will be collecting a degree in jazz composition and piano from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, a famed hothouse for young jazz talent. The opportunity has enabled him to learn from the likes of pianist Danilo P?rez, the famed Panamanian maverick. "His whole goal is for me to find my own sound," McGuire said. "All the exercises he gives me are to liberate me of the mentality that 'this is how you do this.' "
Karp, meanwhile, has been steeped in physics and music at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Last week, he was preparing for a hip-hop gig at Crawford Grill on the Square, a revival of the steel city's most famous jazz club. His roommate, Joglekar, is soaking up jazz lore at the University of Pittsburgh, which enabled him to play recently with saxophonist Joe Lovano. Last summer he traveled to southern Ghana to take in the mysteries of African drumming. But the band is still a focal point for the foursome. "Playing with them is like coming home," Joglekar said. "It's always comfortable.” - Philadelphia Inquirer

"On Our Radar"

On Our Radar in RSS On Our Radar in RSS NFT Editor Daily Picks
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
MJ Project

Posted by: Caren Beilin

I owe these guys an apology. Back in high school, I was part of the misfit crew who stuffed the Battle of the Bands ballot box against them in favor of the now announced TBA Quartet. Without my hormonally-charged antics, MJ probably would have won (sorry TBA), and sometimes I wonder if they’re still bitter. They shouldn’t be, since lately they’re winning the battle of the bands out in the real world. After re-converging from separate collegiate stints, including the Berkelee School of Music, these guys are wiser, jazzier, spacier, freakier, and deeper. What might have started as a Phish fixation in the glory days of Suburb High has since fermented into a jam-jazz-odyssey worthy of Philadelphia’s attention. They recently hung out with my favorite Philadelphian, J. Michael Harrison at his radio show The Bridge, and can be seen live at the likes of North Star Bar and Chris’ Jazz Café. Guys, I’m sorry about before. Let’s just say this is my attempt at stuffing the ballot box back to you.
- NFT: Not For Tourists

"Jam to offer musical variety"

If you're growing tired of the State College music scene, this weekend's Kettle Jam could be a welcome change of pace.

Four bands -- 722, Charles Ramsey, The Man and MJ Project -- will be playing in Centre Hall this weekend. The bands offer variety from the typical local music scene and from each other.

Charles Ramsey, who finished his master's degree in music theory and history from Penn State in 2003, is the show's only solo act, but said he may try to get a full band to play with him. Kettle Jam is the only local show on Ramsey's schedule right now, and he said he is excited to play at his former school.

Ramsey, who has over 10 years of classical piano training and was previously a trombone major, plays guitar-based indie pop much like the style of John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, among others. He said he was impressed with the local music scene.

"It's not hard to find some really talented original shows around here, if you look hard enough," he said. "You have to seek it out. Most of it is covers."

Benjamin Rothbart, the self-taught bassist for State College-based The Man, doesn't share the same sentiments about the local music scene.

"If someone wants to go to a bar and drink and listen to Bon Jovi covers, that's their prerogative," he said. "I like to give people an alternative."

Rothbart said his instrumental band was a "heavily funk-influenced, fusion" group, but also said listeners should draw their own conclusions about the band's sound.

"Music is not meant to be talked about," he said. "It's meant to be listened to."

Nero Catalano is the guitarist and one of the singers for the Philadelphia-based 722.

"Everyone but the drummer sings," he said. "We all bring a different character to the floor."

Catalano said 722 plays guitar-driven rock and is a band that sounds like "a theater cast and a rock band, joined forces."

Paul Weinstein, class of 2005 and a former Collegian reporter, plays guitar for the headlining MJ Project, another instrumental band. He said the fact that the band has been playing together since "ninth grade or earlier" has helped its music greatly.

"We got the bad stuff out of the way when no one was listening," he said. "Now, we're more mature, and we practice harder. You don't have to worry about guys going off in crazy directions. You can take risks and know they'll work."

After high school, the band members went their separate ways to various universities, but tried to keep playing together when they met up on various breaks and vacations.

The year prior to their senior year of college, they decided they would pursue the band as a professional, eventually full-time goal.

Weinstein said he was never in a band while at Penn State, but looks forward to playing in State College and may end up doing it often.

"We play a lot in Philly, Pittsburgh and Erie," he said. "So having a central hub like State College would be great."

Weinstein said the outdoor atmosphere would be a good experience for anyone who wants to come out even "if people just want to hang out."

Catalano said that -- indoors or outdoors -- the crowd can help make it a more enjoyable show.

"If everyone is there to have a good time, that's the best atmosphere," he said.

- The Daily Collegian (Penn State University)

"Music This Week: MJ Project"

MJ Project: Groove-oriented Philly quartet follows up a November residency on the World Cafe's upstairs stage with their first headlining gig in the main room. Besides showing off their prog-jazz chops, the band's been known to whip out the rock covers as well (including a beginning-to-end performance of Led Zep's "Houses of the Holy"), and with some members pulling double-duty with opening act Pet Cemetery, hipster jam fanatics should get quite a workout. World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St., 8 tonight, $12, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com. - Philadelphia Daily News

"Ten Questions (that turned into 12) with MJ Project"

Mike Caggeso
tangent editor

Philly-based jazz-funk act MJ Project uses the term “telepathic tightness” to describe its improvisation tendencies. A fitting choice of words considering its four members — drummer Ajinkya “Jinx” Joglekar, guitarist Ben Karp, keyboardist Ian McGuire and bassist Paul Weinstein — have been jamming together since high school seven years ago.

The band is crossing the state (braving that friggin’ annoying turnpike) to play its second Erie March 10 at Docksider. Weinstein, well-versed in American History and eight-bit Nintendo jargon, chatted (a lot) with tangent before packing up the van:

the lowdown
what: MJ Project and you, gettin' down
when: 10 p.m. March 10
where: at Docksider, 1015 State St.
details: opening bands TBA. Check out www.mjproject.net and www.myspace.com/mjproject
Mike: So, MJ Project is returning to Erie. What event in U.S. history would you compare that to? ?

Paul: I would compare it to Grover Cleveland’s second nonconsecutive term as president. There was some time in between there, and things changed, but you know, ultimately the big man returned to the big seat. And that’s kind of like what’s happening, except it’s big men, and we’re returning to a moderately sized bar.

M: How does a Philly-based band branch out to the other side of the state? It seems to be a lot more leg work than show up, play, leave.

P: It is. As a matter of fact, we got a speeding ticket on our first trip to Erie, which made it even more difficult. But it’s basically something you have to do to get your name out there. We have a decent base in Pittsburgh because our guitarist and drummer went to school there, and we’ve done some shows in Ohio that were well-received, so we try to use those connections to draw some attention and have people come to our “western” gigs. Also, the first time we played Erie, we played a show at Docksider’s with our good friends, Flowdown, and then played in Pittsburgh with them the next night also. So sharing with other bands that are already somewhat established is a good way to make new fans and show clubs that you mean business. Also, we had heard Docksider’s had a good, open-minded, walk-in crowd, which it certainly did. Especially on a Friday night with a really good drinking special, and that is another way to make it worthwhile.

M: I hate asking this, but I gotta: Describe MJ’s sound.

P: Well, I’ve recently made a decision about that personally. I’m no longer going to use the word “jazz” as the first word to describe us. Long story short, it is difficult for me to want to be confined to a genre that is filled with a lot of snobbery and closed-mindedness, especially when it’s probably supposed to be the most open-minded genre of all and was founded heavily on improvisational freedom. That being said, I’d be ignorant to say we weren’t jazz. It’s just not all that we are. It’s very groovy, very funky, can definitely rock at times, can definitely get very spacy at times, but it can swing sometimes, it can be very “traditional” at times with the old jazz head-solos-head format, and there’s a lot of improv. Progressive, but not like Styx.

M: How has it evolved in the seven years you guys have been together?

P: That question could be a whole interview itself. But I guess in the big picture, we’ve gone from playing basic but weird rock covers — we used to play shit like They Might Be Giants and Phish, and not very well — that were never very solid to focusing on our own compositions and being more picky and specific when we do choose covers. We practice a lot more than we used to. We used to play maybe twice a week, if we were lucky, and usually it would just be learning and tightening five songs for the next gig. Nowadays, we practice like three or four days a week for hours each time, and we’ll do everything from exercises and jamming “games” to looping two measures of a James Brown groove for 20 minutes, over and over, to practicing really old songs we haven’t done in a while, to learning new songs we’re continuously writing. But even though we didn’t used to practice so often, there was always this gradual growth or evolution for each of us as individuals. We’ve all become better musicians at our own pace, and the result is we’ve all grown together as well, and that allowed us to really know each other. It makes it really easy to be in a band that improvises and feeds off each member when you can basically predict what the other guys are going to do, or at least not be 100 percent surprised when they do it. But not in a stale way. In a way that keeps you on your toes and forces you to be interesting as well.

M:What the hell is a jamming game? And who in the band wins the most?

P: They aren’t exactly competitive games. They are actually very difficult to describe without an instrument in my hand, but essentially it’s strengthening exercises that are more fun and allow us to laugh while getting better and tighter at the same time. One game involves each of us taking turns with a set tempo singing a rhythm that we then follow by playing the same rhythm on our instruments. It’s good for listening and reacting, and when we screw it up, it is hilarious. If there were a winner, however, I’d say it’s probably me, because I’m the most likely to throw in some kind of recognizable stupid classic rock riff rhythm. It’s fun to try and throw each other off with something tough, but I prefer to get my band to play back the riff from “Paradise City.”

M: If you could go back and time and write a soundtrack for an old-school Nintendo game, what game would it be and why?

P: I always wished I had written the soundtrack for “Super Dodgeball” because you travel and play teams from all over the world, and each country has a borderline offensively stereotyped theme song. But I think it’s cleverer than it is offensive. You get all different types of styles in there. It was very influential at a young age, especially England’s theme music, which was a gloriously bastardized mix of “Get Back” and “Hard Day’s Night” but just different enough to not cause any legal problems. But I think I would have had Jinx collaborate with me to write the song for India, since he’s Indian. That team was always really tough to beat, by the way.

M: What do you think the inside of George Clinton’s mothership would look like?

P: It would either be super high-tech, or pretty crappy. I’m not sure if they really cared about the inside. It was more about getting out and getting down. But if there was an option for it, I’m pretty sure it came with the accessories package, which probably included an eight-track player and, no doubt, a lighter.

M: I never the got term “Get the funk out” because I’d rather be filled with funk than let it go. Am I wrong and/or completely unfunky?

P: Funk is contagious. If you put it out there, someone else will pick up on it, hopefully. You’re not wrong, you’re just looking at it the wrong way. Before you get the funk out, you’ve got the funk, for some period of time at least, and then it’s time to spread it. Funk, like all matter, can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only be shared. As a bassist, I try to spread the funk. Usually this is accomplished with a wah-wah pedal.

M: Any jam-band stereotypes you feel like breaking right now?

P: Hmmmm…

M: Or better asked: what makes you different than most jam bands?

P: This is hard without being offensive.

M: Or without looking like a jazz snob, huh?

P: Well, like I said, one thing we’ve tried to do I think is cut down on Phish covers and stuff like that. Phish will probably always be my favorite and most influential band, but people draw certain conclusions when all you do is emulate them. Similarly, I think we’ve made a conscious effort to cut out silly teases and gimmicks that have already been beaten to death. I used to always throw the riff from Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun” into our song “Octopus 3,” but eventually I decided the riff Ian wrote is better and prettier than getting cheap points for playing something some random hippie recognizes. However, I like making hippies laugh too. We’re currently working on a song called “Lemonade Stand Tycoon,” which is a name a friend suggested based on a computer game, I think. It fits the song pretty well, but I also like the fact that the initials “LST” is somewhat of an homage to “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds” on a more obnoxiously witty level.

M: Give three reasons why Erie should see MJ Project.

P: 1. In case we get another speeding ticket, we’re going to need some extra money to pay it off. 2. We’re a lot better than the Wonders. We’re also not a fake band from a movie. 3. I once dated a girl from Erie, and it ended in a horrible mess. It is now the duty of everyone in that town to make up for that and show me that Erie people really can be awesome. And if that girl happens to read this, I’m still available.
- Tangent


A New Space & Time (2005)
2006 Demo
MJ Project (2006)
Stoopid Dollars EP (2009)



MJ PROJECT - Philadelphia’s fastest growing groove!

MJ Project performs an instrumental, intelligent and funky mix of rock, progressive jazz, danceable grooves and spacy but melodic sounds. The Philadelphia-based band's mix of talent, telepathic tightness and fearless appreciation of improv adds up to a rock-solid groove and impeccable sound that works on many levels.

With more than 10 years of practicing and tightening their sound under their belts, the members of MJ Project — Ajinkya Joglekar (drums), Benjamin Karp (guitar), Ian McGuire (keyboards) and Paul Weinstein (bass) — have been drawing scores of eager fans at venues across Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York and more. The band has performed at many established venues, including Philadelphia’s Theatre of Living Arts, several sold-out shows at the World Cafe Live, and packed gigs at Chris’s Jazz Café and the North Star Bar. MJ Project has also appeared at Tritone, Doc Watson’s, Mill Creek Tavern and more, not to mention regional venues such as New York’s Knitting Factory, Piano’s, Mercury Lounge and Bowery Poetry Club, Pittsburgh’s Mr. Small’s Theatre and Club Cafe, Baltimore's 8x10 Club, and Nectar's in Burlington, Vermont, to name a few.

In the words of digphilly.com reporter John Davidson, "Basically, MJ Project is jazz for cool kids; catchy enough to appeal to the masses and smart enough to impress the music snobs. Catch them in Philly when you can, these kids are busy."

MJ Project has earned coveted spots sharing the stage with numerous well known artists, including The Benevento Russo Duo, Lake Trout, members of Lotus and Brothers Past (who have actually sat in with the group), The Brakes, Pnuma Trio, Future Rock, The Bridge, Grimace Federation, Orchard Lounge, Indobox, Codename, and many more. The group has performed at several festivals, including the 2009 Starscape Festival in Baltimore (main stage), 2008 All Good Music festival in West Virginia (a gig it earned by beating out more than 300 other bands in a SonicBids competition), the 2006 Dancing Wu Li Festival and more. The group also won a spot at WXPN's All About the Music Festival in 2006. Members of the MJ Project have been involved in projects featuring Kanye West, The Yellowjackets, Pnuma Trio, Biodiesel and more.

Although members of the MJ Project have been playing together since the seventh grade, the group spent most of its high school years practicing, listening to jam masters such as Phish and Medeski Martin and Wood, and performing in the Philadelphia area. As a result of their constant desire to find new influences and ability to play together without any pressure, the members of MJ Project grew together at their own comfortable but rapid pace before they started college. The group now communicates so well that its music often sounds far advanced for such young musicians.

MJ released its brand-new four-song EP, “Stoopid Dollars,” in 2009. Recorded at two renowned Philly-area music studios, the disc features four of the group’s finest newer compositions, including the infectious, vocoder-driven “Hit Song.”

With an ever-growing fan base (the group's email list boasts more than 1500 names — not to mention its thriving Facebook and Myspace pages), MJ’s commitment to its music and work ethic will continue to expand its following! The band is bringing its refined sound to a broader venue every day.