sesshin with James McLaughlin
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sesshin with James McLaughlin


Band Jazz Funk


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"McLaughlin's all star Sesshin spans musical genres"

"Enlisting a who's who from a wide range of genres from traditional jazz to bluegrass to roots rock to funk, McLaughlin opened his Mountainside studio to create "Sesshin," a new album that blends a creative twist of styles and offers a time capsule concoction of Central Virginia's home grown music scene."
Jedd Ferris, Daily Progress


Since moving to town three years ago, local drummer, producer and engineer James McLaughlin has had a chance to play with some of Charlottesville's best musicians, so earlier this year, he decided to get them all under one roof to record a super jam session.
Enlisting a who's who from a wide range of genres from traditional jazz to bluegrass to roots rock to funk, McLaughlin opened his Mountainside studio to create "Sesshin," a new album that blends a creative twist of styles and offers a time capsule concoction of Central Virginia's home grown music scene.
"I wanted to get the best possible people and give them a chance to do something different that they might not normally do," says McLaughlin
"The idea musically was to combine the instrumental jazz background that I have with some of the more acoustic, folk flavors of the area in Charlottesville."
The nine tracks for the album started with the foundation of McLaughlin on drums along with Old School Freight Train's Darrell Muller on bass and Jesse Harper making a rare showcase of electric guitar.
Flavors were then added from different ends of the spectrum; the brass highlights of longstanding legend John D'earth on trumpet and J.C. Kuhl, formerly of Agents of Good Roots, on saxophone, the range of keyboard gadabout Daniel Clarke and the string touches of another Freight Train member, Ben Krakauer, on banjo, alongside award-winning picker Andy Thacker on mandolin and skilled fiddler Anne-Marie Calhoun.
The entire cast of the "Sesshin" record will perform at a CD release party at the Gravity Lounge on Thursday night.
"Everybody that is on the album is working with some other band, so this might be the only time I get this actual cast together," McLaughlin said.
"Gigs in the future will most likely just be pieces of it, but with the name Sesshin it can be flexible with a lot of the musicians from around town. I think we can make this a regular thing."
While the album tracks are developed in mellow jazz arrangements, enough string surprises jump out to create a sweet cacophony (often in individual songs) that lands somewhere between dark lounge style, sonic improvisation and newgrass expansiveness.
"I'll Remember You Love" and "Talk About Suffering" are old traditionals rearranged by McLaughlin into instrumentally pensive tone poems. "Sans Humanite" is a steel-pan calypso standard that was turned into an impressive solo vehicle.
Three of the tracks, including the cool trancy lullaby "Wabi" and the melodically uplifting "Be My Neighbor," were written by Harper.
Also, despite supporting an all-star entourage of virtuosos, the record refreshingly never becomes an indulgent uber-note showcase. The humble interaction gives the "Sesshin" debut a grounded cohesiveness and represents the local music scene as McLaughlin sees it.
"Ever since I moved to town I've been out watching these musicians, so I knew who I wanted to be a part of it," he says.
"The great thing about Charlottesville for me has been that willingness for people to play with everybody else. In a lot of towns, bands are all about being better than the other bands.
Here, there might be some healthy competitiveness, but the older guys that have been here for a while, like D'earth, are willing to get together with some of the newer folks, and that's great for music transition. It's also great for a person like me that's trying get involved with a lot of different styles."
Around town, McLaughlin has earned a reputation as a versatile local drummer, studying under renowned University of Virginia jazz professor Robert Jospe.
In just three years around town, he has sat behind the kit with Ezra Hamilton, Wisher, local jam band Cannonball Coming, in a duo project with Chapman Stick master Greg Howard and most lately in singer-songwriter Peyton Tochterman's band with D'earth and Thacker.
He is also becoming a well-known engineer and producer out of Mountainside, where he has done two albums with Old School Freight Train for the CMH Records "Pickin' On" series.
He's also working on live releases by Andy Waldeck, Man Mountain Jr. and Small Town Workers.
The show on Thursday additionally will be a coming-out party for a new release by Tochterman's bluegrass project with Thacker and Muller, dubbed Fair Weather Bums. This record also was engineered by McLaughlin at Mountainside.
All of this cross-pollination may start to get confusing, but it's also a testament that Charlottesville's finest are working hard on a diverse variety of projects.
"We're all friends and we all work on each other's stuff," McLaughlin said. - Daily Progress

"The postman brings a winner"

"Sesshin is pure down-tempo ecstacy."
Damani Harrison, The Hook


"The first disk I stumbled upon is a magical offering I feel privileged to be one of the first to hear. Sesshin is pure down-tempo ecstasy. Produced entirely by James McLaughlin at his Mountainside Studios, Sesshin is the best takes from endless jam sessions there.
While Sesshin is smooth, and it is jazz, I hesitate to call it "smooth jazz," the overproduced, reverb-heavy, synthetic drumming garbage played late at night on most public radio stations. Sesshin is smooth in the classic, dark-speakeasy, cigarette-in-mouth, too-cool-for-school way.
McLaughlin plays the drums, laying down the backbeat for some of the town's finest youngsters and veterans. Jesse Harper (guitar), Darrell Muller (bass), and Daniel Clarke (keyboards) are the backbone. Guests include JC Kuhl on sax and John D'earth on trumpet. Special kudos to Andy Thacker, who shows how to work a mandolin into the music the one and only way it should be done.
- Damani Harrison
- The Hook

"Turn the Beat Around"

", instrumental jazz style reminiscent of Soulive, John Scofield, and Medeski et. al."

Spencer Lathrop, C-Ville Weekly



sesshin (2005)
1. Boru-bi-doo
2. Sans Humanite
3. Wabi
4. Kuhl Funk
5. Talk About Suffering
6. Be My Neighbor
7. I'll Remember You Love
8. Meditation #2
9. Soul Scenario



Combining instrumental jazz with some of Virginia's best acoustic musicians, sesshin melds musical elements of Jazz, Funk, Latin and Folk. Bringing a Jam-Band energy to the Jazz aesthetic, sesshin features Charlottesville based drummer James McLaughlin teaming up with John D’earth, members of Old School Freight Train, Agents of Good Roots, Modern Groove Syndicate and Fair Weather Bums. James is honored to release the debut self-titled album, which he engineered and produced at his studio, Mountainside. In addition to the stellar line up of musicians, Chapman Stick master Greg Howard contributed his talents to mixing and mastering the album. sesshin performs regularly as a quartet as well as in various line-ups for clubs, festivals, and private events in the mid-Atlantic and beyond.