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Athens, Ohio, United States | SELF

Athens, Ohio, United States | SELF
Band Hip Hop Funk


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"Festival Season Comes Early at Frazzle Town"

At Buckeye Music Magazine we are always up for a road trip; so when promoter Zack Szabo and host band SassafraZ invited us to the Bluegrass state for a show called Frazzle Town at the historic Madison Theater in Covington, KY we were all in. There were plenty of reasons to get excited about this event; in addition to SassafraZ the night featured music from Magic Jackson, Aliver Hall, Hell Naw, and LZRPNY. As soon as we walked into the venue I knew we were in for something special. There were vendors, live painters, and live performances by Illumination Hoop Troupe; the Madison Theater was transformed and the place had a great festival atmosphere. The front of the stage was lined with flowers that added to the great vibe that was created by Szabo and his crew. Hell in front of the soundboard we even had a little electric campfire going; it was awesome!...

...After three great sets it was time for our hosts to take to the stage; or should I say stormed the stage. The energy level at the Madison was already insane SassafraZ took the intensity at Frazzle Town to an entirely new altitude. Eric Turner (Guitar, Vocals) is the mastermind behind the band that had fans clamoring for the dance floor. Turner has assembled an ensemble of musicians and vocalist that are second to none starting with Singer/Rapper Emerson B. This guy can work the crowd into a frenzy with his wild and unpredictable antics on stage and that’s just what he did. I think I would break in half if I tried those dance moves; what a performer! Of course the rest of the band are top-notch performers as well.

Bassist Jon Lattier is a wild man and one hell of a Bassist; this guy is a lot of fun to watch, you have to check him out. The multitalented Zach Pontzer works double duty playing Guitar and Trumpet while Jack Gould rips a smooth Saxophone. Rounding out this 6 six-piece funk machine and holding down the beat is Drummer Jeff Mellott. Joining the band on this night was Singer extraordinaire Eden Lee and Rapper Ryan "Schwartz" Schwartzoff as well. These guys are awesome and put on an incredible show; a definite must see. - Buckeye Music Magazine

"Frazzle Town: A One Night Winter Music Festival"

These cold ass days in Ohio can grow old fast, that’s why we are always looking for ways to warm our buns here at Buckeye Music Magazine. Well this Friday, January 25 we have our chance and so do you when SassafraZ and The Madison Theater present Frazzle Town: A One Night Winter Music Festival. This one night throw down features music from LZRPNY, Aliver Hall, Hellnaw, Magic Jackson, and host band SassafraZ.

SassafraZ has stormed onto the Ohio music scene and in a short period of time have turned a lot of heads in the process. The sextet is the brainchild of Eric Turner whose earlier work with the band The First Street Heat caught my ear quite some time ago. I caught the guys at this year’s Werk Out and recently the band wowed the crowd at The Werks New Year’s bash at The Newport Music Hall with their unpredictable live show. The band has some extra special things in store for their performance at Frazzle Town including for the first time ever, SUPER SASSAFRAZ featuring Sharell, Eden Lee, The Dysfunktional Family, and many more to be announced. This Friday SassafraZ teams up with the Madison Theater for what promises to be a great night of music and art.

Joining SassafraZ is Dayton’s favorite funk Quartet Magic Jackson, the two piece rhythm team from Athens Hellnaw brings their brand of "Eclectic Grit-Funk" to the party. Akron’s Aliver Hall comes to the Madison Theater armed with their patented Progressive Rock sound and the Cincinnati Blues/Rock band LZRPNY will be there as well. Frazzle Town also offers festival goers live art performances by Evan Amerine, Vincent Michael Krivda, Jr., Mara Frage, Kaiti Deddens as well as performances by Illumination Hoop Troupe.

Frazzle Town is an ALL AGES event with doors opening at 7PM where there will be plenty of vendors on hand like; Tony Tipps, Jami Barefoot McGee, Hempsations, The Cherryfoot Traveling Boutique, Prismatic Fabric Tie-Dye & Batik, and The Cupboard. Tickets are $10 and are ON SALE NOW at or at the Madison Theater Box Office. So get your tickets TODAY for Frazzle Town and be prepared to melt away those Winter blues. - Buckeye Music Magazine

"SassafraZ to bring funky rhythms to Werk Out Fest"

Emerson "B" Bartlett of local funk and soul band SassafraZ said he was ecstatic when he heard the news.

"It's pretty cool that we won a spot," he said. "There were a bunch of different bands that were in the running to get that spot at The Werk Out Fest."

Rapper and Sassafraz front man Emerson B is referring to the thousands of music-lovers who are headed to Legend Valley near Columbus this weekend to attend the third annual Werk Out Music and Arts Festival. And thanks to SassafraZ's dedicated followers, friends and families, Emerson B and his funk- and soul-loving bandmates will not only be attending, but performing.

"It was a one-week competition on Facebook where people could vote, and within that week we were down maybe the first couple days but then stayed 8-15 people ahead of other bands the rest of the time," Bartlett said about the Vote for the Werk Out Fest 2012 online competition.

SassafraZ bassist Jon Lattier said he was touched by the support SassafraZ received.

"To win the contest is really great, but what really felt good was that our fans reached out and tried to get us there," he said.

Rob Chafin is a Werk Out Fest promoter and drummer for Ohio-based band The Werks, who are in charge of presenting the festival. He said he's excited to see SassafraZ and Ohio University attendees at the four-day event.

"OU better be reppin' hard this year," he said. "Usually there's a huge OU camp site at The Werk Out Fest, and I expect it to be like that this year, too."

Chafin says this year should be the "biggest" Werk Out Fest to date.

"This year it's going to be out of control," he predicted. "We have something for everyone. We have everything from bluegrass to funk. We have bands coming in from Athens and from all over. People won't know what to expect."

The Werk Out takes place in Thornville, Ohio from Sept. today (Thursday) through Sunday and will be featuring The Werks, Lotus, EOTO, Papadosio, SassafraZ and many more. For tickets and information visit - The Athens News

"Concert Preview: Sassafraz/ May 12th/ The Union"

This Saturday, a group of six immensely talented musicians will be rocking out at The Union. Sassafraz is a relatively recent band, only having formed in December of 2011. In the last few months, the band has come together, composed a whole repertoire of original songs and have performed extensively in Athens and Cincinnati.

Composer/singer/guitarist, Eric Turner is the leading force behind the band. He, Jack Gould and Zach Pontzer are full-time students at Ohio University. They have performed together before in The First Street Heat, but the three musicians decided they wanted to expand and came upon Jeff Mellot and Jon Lattier at the College Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati.

With Mellot on drums and Lattier rocking out on bass, the band was nearly complete. And then they found Emerson B. The final addition to the band, Emerson is an incredible singer and rapper, known for his impressive freestyle skills.

The band performed their first show in early January. Since then, Sassafraz has played half of their shows in Cincinnati and the other half in Athens at venues such as The Union, Casa Nueva and Jackie O’s. The band really seems to enjoy playing in a fun, casual setting such as a college campus.

“Every place we have performed has been at a bar near a college. We like to perform for people who are looking to have a lot of fun and dance like crazy,” said Pontzer.

If the sextet wasn’t already busy enough with the band, they have other side projects that they work on. Gould and Pontzer occasionally sit in for a steel drum band. Turner and Pontzer have a side band called The Rat Face Bastards. [Sassafraz has] a couple shows lined up with Snarky Puppy, a band from Brooklyn.

In addition, Sassafraz already has plans for their debut album after they release a demo CD. Finished with tracking, the demo is expected to be released very soon. According to Gould, the demo is going great so far, with some "really great" artists featured throughout. Sassafraz is hoping to receive their big break this August when they record at a prestigious Atlanta studio.

“We are going to Atlanta, hoping to take it to a professional level. This studio has had so many amazing musicians record, plus its the greenest studio in the world!” said Gould.

While recording their album, Sassafraz plans on touring as well. They are taking a trip to Philadelphia in the summer and working the East Coast from there. After Turner, Gould and Pontzer graduate at the end of the quarter, the band hopes to find a legitimate booking agent and management.

“We are trying to jump to that level as quickly as possible,” said Gould.

As far as their music goes, Sassafraz is incredibly diverse. With drums and bass, they have a guitar player who sings, another guitar player who plays trumpet and a rapper. The band has a range of instruments for only six members, and they are trying to get even more.

“We have a lot of vocals, and stuff with a hip hop flavor. We are trying to blend things together but make it cohesive,” said Gould.

According to Gould, the band has performed for a range of audiences, from college kids to older partisans. The music was well received by both groups.

“We have versatile people, so we can mold the show based on the setting. We try to do a new experience every night by improvising and changing up the songs,” said Gould.

This Saturday at The Union, Gould guarantees that the show will be memorable. They will be collaborating on stage with Elemental Groove Theory, another versatile band.

“Saturday is going to be great, because we play with each other all the time. We’re looking forward to it especially since its Cinco de Mayo and Mom’s Weekend. We should have a really great turnout,” said Gould.

Sassafraz will be playing a setlist of original songs and covers, as well as four new songs they have never played before. So if you do not already have plans for Saturday bring your moms to enjoy a fun and exci - ACRN Rock Lobster

"School of Music groups combine varied genres with traditional jazz"

By Will Hoffman
Editor’s note: This is the third in a weekly series exploring the diverse music scenes in Athens.
When people think jazz, they tend to think back to the ’20s when big bands and swing jazz dominated the music scene with iconic artists such as Louis Armstrong. Little thought is given, however, to the new style of modern jazz.
“It comes back to the argument of what is jazz,” said Matt Urminski, bassist for Elemental Groove Theory. “To many people, jazz is the sort of thing where they hear it and know that’s jazz or that’s not jazz, but it’s a very subjective thing.”
The Ohio University School of Music has four jazz groups where students perform the standards of the genre or take classes pertaining to the history or theory of jazz.
The school also tries to collaborate with high schools, the Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium and Uptown bars with events such as Jazz Fest in order to better connect with the community.
“We do a lot with a little as far as the jazz program here,” said Matt James, director of jazz ensembles for OU. “We don’t have a lot of faculty to teach it but there are a lot of programs for students to take advantage of.”
However, there tends to be a disagreement between the classical jazz performed by the school and the groups that play Uptown on weekends.
Jack Gould, saxophonist for Sassafraz, said that this debate has been ongoing between the older traditionalists who want to bring jazz back to what it used to be, and a new generation that is more progressive.
“They say we need to go back and keep playing old jazz, but they are not into pushing forward,” Gould said. “The younger people are trying to push the boundaries, saying ‘I don’t want to play what John Coltrane or (Charlie Parker) Bird played; I want to be Bird.’ ”
The modern style of jazz is a mixture of all kinds of genres. Sassafraz fuses in rap and funk, Elemental Groove Theory mixes in rock, and The Paul Elisha Band and Mojoflo have a soulful style, but all these bands play up the jazz.
“If I don’t hear that traditional jazz sound, it’s hard to distinguish it as jazz,” said Paul Elisha, lead singer of The Paul Elisha Band.
He said that none of the bands who regularly play Uptown — including his — are not true jazz and that they would all probably admit to that. The scene in Athens is rather a modern take on jazz-funk and other incarnations of the genre.
Elisha also added that Athens does remarkably well in the jazz scene given the size of the town, and it’s hard to compare Athens to a big city like New York that has the capacity for traditional jazz groups.
But Urminski said that all you need for music to be jazz is a lot of improvisation and artists playing off each other.
“There is a certain amount of planned chaos that happens,” Urminski said. “No one knows exactly where it’s going to go, but good musicians can find the path to get there.” - The Post


Time Will Tell: May 2013



SassafraZ is the brainchild of composer/singer/guitarist Eric Turner. The band is all about stretching out, getting creative, and pushing boundaries. In the musical world of Sassafraz, heavy funk grooves can quickly change into psychedelic guitar solos; freestyle rap verses might lead into jazz horn battles, or they might go somewhere completely different—that’s the beauty and excitement of Eric Turner’s compositions.

Eric needed to find knowledgeable musicians to play such dynamic and varied music, so he turned to his frequent collaborators, Jack Gould and Zach Pontzer. Then they sought out the best bassist and drummer they could find. This led them to the College Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati where they met Jeff Mellot and Jon Lattier. Holy shit can those guys groove out. Jeff, who has been referred to by some as a "White Questlove", and Jon, a student of the Marcus Miller school of funk, make pockets so deep that you can't help but fall inside and get warm by their funky fire.

They then added the final piece of the puzzle with the addition of Emerson B. a singer, rapper, and freestyle extraordinaire who is one hell of a performer. Emerson effortlessly works the crowd and dances like his clothes are on fire. After tearing it up in Philly and New York for years, Emerson made his way back home to Ohio, met up with Sassafraz, and decided to stay. Members of Sassafraz have shared the stage with Victor Wooten, Wynton Marsalis, ?uestlove, Soulive, Lettuce, Papadosio, Less Than Jake, Badfish, and more. For as young as they are, these guys have been around the proverbial block a few times.

This rock solid 6-piece group has the ability to play any song, in any style, at any time. Their diverse skill set and improvisational approach, mixed with extremely danceable beats, catchy hooks, and funky vocals makes Sassafraz a band that everyone will enjoy! This summer they’re looking to break onto the festival scene with a bang and record their first album. They also hope to sell sassa-fries out their bus. Check them out in a (probably Ohio) city near you!