Stir Fried
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Stir Fried

Teaneck, New Jersey, United States | INDIE

Teaneck, New Jersey, United States | INDIE
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The best kept secret in music

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"Stir Fried"

Lissen to this disk, chillen, and tell me if John Markowski ain't a chip off the old funky block - his dad being the r&b desperado, Thomas Jefferson Kaye. You remember that rubber-legged boy, the renegade Greek Indian from Minnesota, world champion liar and legendary fuck-up? Yeah, ya do. The cat who used to play gitt-ar in the bathtub, wrote every damn tune you ever heard and told tales that you knew were true 'cause, like Tee-jay would say "I'd have to be a genius to make this stuff up." That dude. Well this is his son, Johnny Markowski. He's the spitting image of his old man (poor guy!) and carrying on the grand old tradition with Stir Fried, playing that swamp-chile, Delta corrugated, syncopated, psychedelic, the South-as-a-state-of-mind moonshine music. Lissen to Johnny's explanation of how that space bug percussion jam got in there-- the one between "Smack" and "Collection Box" --and tell me if it ain't vintage Tee-jay: "We're recording at Toad Hall, a mile or so in the woods on this pond. Walk outside, summer evening, frogs croaking, dogs barking". I'm high, and -- y'know how crickets get into a rhythm? Damn if they aren't in a pocket, man, they're doin' this North African pattern thing which y'know I gotta have on the record. So I run back in the studio and tell the others 'Hey, dudes, get out here, we gotta tape this thing. It's mystical 'n' funky and just plain out there! Their reaction is "You're sick!' and I must admit it came out pretty psychotic but this is what they're really doin' out there in the cosmos and that's what we want to plug into. Awright! Tap directly into nature, baby, creep in those drums and get out the gris-gris and the grits. Bayou gumbo, me-oh-my-o fused onto Haighteist noospheric noodling. Stir it up! Stir Fried funkadelic! A tasty mix of Chris Lakinack's New Orleans shuffle drumming, James Harrison's cobra-headed funk bass, Buddy Cage's psychedelic pedal steel (you remember him from the New Riders?), Jan London's Dead-saturated lead guitar licks, Vinny Lorenzo's congas, Joanne Lediger's flanged, trebly vocals and Johnny Markowski keepin the river flowin' on rhythm guitar. And they produced it themselves, bugs and all. This is genu-wine American free-wheelin' no-boundaries groove and like good old Jack Daniels himself, it's all in the blend. That's what Stir Fried is: bottled spirits that make you see fireflies and rusty shot-up road signs and hear neon singing in the night. Lissen to Johnny's explanation of how that space bug percussion jam got in there-- the one between "Smack" and "Collection Box" --and tell me if it ain't vintage Tee-jay: "We're recording at Toad Hall, a mile or so in the woods on this pond. Walk outside, summer evening, frogs croaking, dogs barking". I'm high, and -- y'know how crickets get into a rhythm? Damn if they aren't in a pocket, man, they're doin' this North African pattern thing which y'know I gotta have on the record. So I run back in the studio and tell the others 'Hey, dudes, get out here, we gotta tape this thing. It's mystical 'n' funky and just plain out there! Their reaction is "You're sick!' and I must admit it came out pretty psychotic but this is what they're really doin' out there in the cosmos and that's what we want to plug into. Awright! Tap directly into nature, baby, creep in those drums and get out the gris-gris and the grits. Bayou gumbo, me-oh-my-o fused onto Haighteist noospheric noodling. Stir it up! Stir Fried funkadelic! A tasty mix of Chris Lakinack's New Orleans shuffle drumming, James Harrison's cobra-headed funk bass, Buddy Cage's psychedelic pedal steel (you remember him from the New Riders?), Jan London's Dead-saturated lead guitar licks, Vinny Lorenzo's congas, Joanne Lediger's flanged, trebly vocals and Johnny Markowski keepin the river flowin' on rhythm guitar. And they produced it themselves, bugs and all. This is genu-wine American free-wheelin' no-boundaries groove and like good old Jack Daniels himself, it's all in the blend. That's what Stir Fried is: bottled spirits that make you see fireflies and rusty shot-up road signs and hear neon singing in the night.

- David Dalton Co-Author of Living With The Dead,


"Stir Fried"

What do you get when you combine a fiery singer-songwriter with roots in the San Francisco bay area with two renowned veterans on Fiddle and Steel Guitar? Wait, don't answer yet. Throw in an original, improvisational lead guitarist and a solid rhythm section. Now add a soulfully moving female vocalist and a couple of guys to fire it up on trumpet and sax. A one night jam session, perhaps? A music festival waiting to happen? Stir Fried is all of that and a sack of chips. Needless to say, a lineup featuring the likes of John Markowski (songwriter, vocals/guitar), Buddy Cage from New Riders of the Purple Sage on Pedal Steel, and the legendary bluegrass fiddle master Vassar Clements is going to create some original, jam-based music. What really makes Stir Fried fun is the versatility of the whole ensemble - all ten of them. Their new CD release Electrafried documents their live performances well. The album was the product of a two-night stand at the Images Club in Pearl River, N.Y. on October 4th and 5th of 1996. Electrafried contains four tracks that were written by Markowski and band as well as several carefully selected covers that match the spontaneous, flowing style of the group. It is impressive how the band can skip from one genre of music to another as seamlessly as they do. They manage to play some New Orleans jive, groovy Memphis funk, a Rolling Stones cover, and even the longtime Grateful Dead-fan favorite "Turn On Your Lovelight" all on one live CD. Running Bear, the house PA, beckons the crowd to "Fire up those woks," and sure enough, the band stirs it up with "Summer," a Markowski orignal. Joanne Lediger provides airy, day-dreamish vocals to help set up the festive feel for the night. As an additional touch, the band chose to include the first 3 songs on track 1 as a medley, with the Funky Meter's "Hey Pocky Way" sandwiched in between another Markowski tune, "Jones." Listening to the first half of the album is like being at the show since you can't jump tracks on the CD without missing the last three segments of the jam. The texture of the initial 25 minutes of Electrafried is rich with interplay first between the Jan London and Clements. As the segue progresses, the fiddle sinks underneath the jam a bit and Don and Bill Harris step to the forefront with powerful horn contributions. Overall, the experience of Stir Fried's members comes through in the give-and-take of each jam so that no one player is overshadowed. The folk and bluegrass roots of the band are prominent in a very interesting cover of the Mick Jagger and Keith Richards song "Dead Flowers." Clements and Cage dance circles around the sharp and gritty vocals with what sounds like effortless precision. Much like the author of their next cover song, Rufus Thomas' "Walkin' the Dog," the band makes it pretty clear that they are all about having a good time while they play. There's nothing too profound about the song choice individually; it just seems to fit in perfectly with the other songs on the album, giving fans a chance to get up and groove down to the beat.The next two tracks give the percussion and bass a chance to shine. James Alvin Harrison drops some thick bass lines in "Get the Money," while Chris Lacinak and Vincent Lorenzo take a rythmic, tribal turn for track 5, "Steel Cage Serenade," a drum solo which segues into a space jam near the end. Anyone who has ever enjoyed a drums/space segment at a Grateful Dead show won't be able to resist shakin' his or her bones to this one. The CD ends, appropriately enough, with a stirring rendition of "Turn On Your Love Light." Stir Fried gives this Dead standard quite a workout, with everybody chipping in their two licks worth. The most honest reaction I had while listening to Stir Fried's Electrafried was that I couldn't believe I hadn't heard them before. This should not be a problem for a lot of folks in the future. Stir Fried is about to go on a cross-country tour from New York to the deep South and then out West. Better catch these guys soon, at the rate they're fryin', small club venues might not be able to take the heat.





- Chip Schramm


"Stir Fried"

When your band already features a musician who has so much experience, and has played with some of the greatest musicians of this century, a real life version of the "Jimmy the Lips" character from Roddy Doyle's excellent book The Commitments, what do you do? How about bringing in another equally well-traveled and experienced musician, to help put out a live album. Sounds like a pretty superb recipe to me. The in-band member I am referring to is Buddy Cage, a pedal steel player who can count Sly Stone, Rick James, Jerry Garcia and a certain Bob Dylan among his previous collaborators. He played on "Blood on the Tracks", a feat that if there were any justice would guarantee free beer in any Pub, Bar or Tavern in the civilized world. The guest musician is Vassar Clements, a 71 year old fiddle virtuoso, who has been in the business some 50 years, has 5 Grammy nominations and has over 2000 recorded performances to his name. He can name Paul McCartney and Grateful Dead amongst the long list of musicians he has shared studio and stage time with. Add to these two a whole plethora of talented musicians, a horn section, an excellent songwriting talent in John Markowski, dueling male and female vocalists, and a couple of really interesting covers and you have the makings of a fine album. I shall avoid the obvious Grateful Dead comparisons, Stir Fried are talented enough to deserve a lot more than that. Certainly though the music will appeal to similar audiences, that said Stir Fried are a lot more accessible than references to the Dead, and steel pedal guitars and violins may suggest. They are first and foremost a many legged groove machine, sambaing and sauntering around a collection of feel-good tunes. The kind of music that works well in small intimate hot clubs, but even better in open field festivals as the sun shines and the wine pores. A particularly strong point of the band is the inter-play between the voices of John Markowski and Joanne Lediger. Too few bands realize what you can achieve having two singers to share the load, especially when they combine as well as these too. On both "Get the Money", an original composition, and the delightful cover of the Jagger/Richards tune "Dead Flowers" their voices mesh, contrast and then come back to each other, like quarrelsome lovers. Worth the price of admission on its own, as someone more original than me once said. The rest of the album is equally pleasing, one of the best live recordings of a smaller band it has ever been my pleasure to listen to. It starts with a 25-minute mix-and-match between several songs, something they manage without seeming self-indulgent. They also pull out the old favorite, "Walkin' the Dog", giving it just enough of a spin to keep it fresh. Throughout Vassar's fiddle pulls it one way and then another, accompanied by innovative percussion, sprightly guitars and some sweet horn playing. Musically you can be in absolutely no doubt that these people are having a ball up there. A well constructed live album that balances the experimental with the familiar, to produce a CD that should find its way into the collections of a lot of people who love music. Very much recommended.
- Limeygit from indiemonkey.com


"Last of the Blue Diamond Miners"

It's as difficult to describe the music of Stir Fried as it is to find an appropriate place on the music store shelf for their albums. Their music truly is stir-fried: eclectic and spicy, full of flavor, peppered with such an amazing array of colors and textures that it is almost an embarrassment of riches. The second studio effort (and third album overall) from the collective is all of those things, but with the heat increased even a few more notches. Last of the Blue Diamond Miners is freewheeling and playful, organic and rollicking, loose-limbed but tight. The number of elements that are seamlessly incorporated into the music — bluegrass, funk, boogie-woogie, psychedelia, blues, country, world beat — is only matched by the serious level of musicianship, which makes the songwriting sound improvisational and the improvisations sound like more than out-and-out jamming. The album and band is the baby of John Markowski, and he uses it not only as a forum for his own stellar songs, but also as a way to honor the undervalued music of his cult songwriting father, the late Thomas Jefferson Kaye. Even more so, it is a way to assemble some of the greatest instrumentalists that popular music has ever born. The fluctuating procession of guest artists includes such monumental names as Vassar Clements, Tony Trischka, Dr. John, and Bernie Worrell, while pedal steel great Buddy Cage is the band's second feature player, turning his instrument into a lead voice on songs like the Cajun-smoked "Nothing to Do" and the Booker T. & the M.G.'s groove of "Blood Brother." A different member of the band, though, stands out on every cut. On "West of the Mississippi," a wonderful balancing act between honky-tonk country, Western swing, and bluegrass, it is Trischka's expert banjo. On "Quagmire" it is the electrifying Hammond runs of Worrell and Markowski's incendiary guitar work. And fiddle legend Clements steals the hayseed jam that breaks out a third of the way into "Black Dress," despite near equal performances from Cage and Trischka. Markowski fronts Stir Fried more than ably. There's a little bit of Dr. John's funky Delta bravado in his voice, as well as some of the whiskey-soaked rasp of Gregg Allman, but it is more often a dead ringer for the great Richard Manuel. But in spite of the virtuosity of its members, Stir Fried is a true band, and the sensitivity and respect that the players show one another throughout the album is as inspiring as the band's extraordinarily distinctive blend of ingredients. The bluesy rhythms and slow, lurching voodoo guitar of "Vanessa" creates the perfect backdrop for Dr. John's inimitable singing, as well as a framework for the swaggering, sweaty interplay of the band. The breezy travelogue "Road Trip to Marist" is downright infectious (with a pedal steel solo from Cage that must be heard to be believed), but it resists any sort of label, especially pop, just as the entire album does. And on the epic ballad title track, the band arrives at a narrative tale that seems to bottle nostalgic impulses of long-gone, wide-open spaces. For musicianship alone, Last of the Blue Diamond Miners merits the highest rating available to it, but it also comes packing a wealth of precious gems in its 11 songs.
- Stanton Swihart(allmusic.com)


Discography

Stir Fried (Self titled debut)
Electrifried (live recording)
Last of the Blue Diamond Miners

Photos

Bio

STIR FRIED is the brain-child of singer/songwriter/drummer Johnny Markowski. The son of the brilliant writer, producer and recording artist Thomas Jefferson (Tommy) Kaye, Johnny boasts a strong musical pedigree. Clearly blessed with the talents of his father, Markowski with STIR FRIED is poised to claim his rock,'n' roll birthright.
Many legendary musicians have gravitated towards Stir Fried's original yet old school sound. The band has recorded and performed with the likes of Dr. John, Vassar Clements, Buddy Cage, Derek Trucks, Bernie Worrell, Tony Trischka, Commander Cody, and Jo Jo Herman to name a few.