the Chad Fisher Group
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the Chad Fisher Group


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"Summer 2006"

Chad Fisher Group
I first saw Chad Fisher in either 2001 or 2002 at Ona’s Music Room. He was sitting on the side of the stage at Ona’s, slouched over his trombone, resting his chin on the instrument’s edge. Nobody I was with had seen him before and, at first, none of us paid much attention to the unassuming figure. I can’t remember exactly who was playing that night – probably either Bo Berry’s Jazz Workshop or Mark Avant’s Night Flight Big Band – but at one point the guys on stage ushered Fisher up to join them.
After that, it was impossible not to notice Chad Fisher. He could play like his hero, Fred Wesley. He could offer perfect renditions of the standards. He could come up with his own groove, a la Medeski, Martin & Wood. He could pretty much play any style suggested.
Fast forward to today and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for music fans across the Southeast to avoid Chad Fisher. The 28-year-old trombonist formed the Chad Fisher Group in early 2003 as a straight-ahead jazz ensemble. But Fisher’s interests – and abilities – expand much further than your father’s Herbie Hancock jazz. The CFG now plays anything from afro-beat to jazz fusion, and from classic country to jam-band jazz – along with the traditional jazz that always forms the group’s center.
Fisher calls it “Medeski, Martin and Wood with The Dirty Dozen Brass Band backing up Bob Marley doing instrumental Hank Williams covers.”
The ability to master such a wide array of styles can be attributed to Fisher’s judgment in selecting his bandmates. The CFG is comprised of musicians who all have their own projects going or play in other bands, too. Birmingham is lousy right now with young, up-and-coming, jazz-based musicians who have expanded the genre with dashes of rock, country and funk. It’s kind of a coalition of the edgy, of the wickedly youthful and talented. And each individual in the CFG brings their own unique flavor with them when they play with Fisher.
Saxophonist Gary Wheat and drummer Michael Glaser both play in Meteorite in their non-CFG time; keyboardist Matt DeVine and guitarist Steve Lewis front the funkcentric Downright duo; bassist Tim Carroll and trombone player Rob Alley play in so many different projects it would make your head ring like a cymbal crash.
Fisher, in return, plays in many of the other guys’ groups. He fronts the Damnittohell Horns that backs up Downright, for instance. The whole collaboration concept brings to mind a musical version of an actors’ co-op. By pushing the format and combining their respective sounds, these guys are breaking barriers at the same time they advance the quality of music in Birmingham. In a strange way, this younger generation of jazz-based musicians is simply expanding on the groundwork laid down by local jazz legends such as “Doc” Adams, Cleve Eaton, Bo Berry and Victor Atkins. And the new generation isn’t shy about showcasing its collective talent, either.
Go to Ona’s, or Marty’s, or danielgeorge, or 22nd Street, or The Station, or WorkPlay, or Bare Hands Gallery, or the Carver Theatre – you can find one of these guys playing somewhere every week. Meteorite, in fact, will actually play the Homegrown Stage on Sunday just before the Chad Fisher Group closes out the evening.
Fisher is not slowing down with City Stages, either. The CFG has released two outstanding albums in the past three years, and Fisher is hard at work on another set for release at the beginning of ‘07. He has done extensive touring outside the city, and he still satisfies his solo improv jones, too. Fisher still performs with the jazz locals at Ona’s, and he has had the opportunity to take the stage with legends of his that include Wesley, Wynton Marsalis and The Temptations.
Anyone who saw Fisher at the 2004 City Stages can attest to his love for live playing. At the ’04 City Stages, the hardworking musician somehow managed to get in seven performances on five different stages – a record that will likely not be matched anytime soon. For those outside-the-know, be sure to catch Fisher at this year’s festival. You won’t think of jazz – or your hometown’s jazz scene – the same as you did before.
– Phillip Jordan
Chad Fisher Group headlines the Homegrown Stage on Sunday night with an 8:50 p.m. set.

Sunday, June 18

Chad Fisher Group

Trombonist Chad Fisher is a busy man. At City Stages 2004 he played a record seven shows in various ensembles, and when he's not on the road with the Temptations or the Four Tops, he leads one of the more interesting local jazz bands. Fisher's septet includes such heavyweights as sax man Gary Wheat and drummer Michael Glaser, but the emphasis is on group improvisation and Fisher's unconventional yet accessible compositions, which are as likely to go in the direction of country/western, hip-hop, or reggae as they are bebop. Fisher also tends to tinker with jazz convention in the areas of form (deliberately vague mixing of improvisation and written parts, tunes without any soloing) and texture (especially in guitarist Steve Lewis' interesting role and pedal steel work). In other words, this is both a jazz band for those who think they might not be so inclined as well as those who are; both will find it intriguing. —Bart Grooms (8:50 p.m.)
- Birmingham Weekly and The Black and White City Paper

"Jazz That's Off the Hook"


It's an F sharp. Chad Fisher can hear it.
But he's probably the only one in the coffee shop with ears attuned to the hum of the soft-drink machine.
"I'm listening all the time," Fisher says. "It's kind of a curse. An occupational hazard."
It's also one of the reasons he has become such a promising jazz musician - and certainly the most popular trombone player in Birmingham.
Fisher, 28, works hard and thinks big, which means that he performs with various bands, teaches jazz students, sits in with nationally known artists and composes music for his own act, the Chad Fisher Group.
"It can be difficult when you pour everything into your art," he says. "But I have a passion for making this music. I feel like it's what I'm supposed to be doing."
At 6 feet, 6 inches, the Marbury native has legs that seem to stretch across the room and arms that can push a trombone slide as far as physics allows.
Fisher's reach is impressive, too, when you consider that his septet - which includes Rob Alley on trumpet, Gary Wheat on saxophones, Steve Lewis on guitars and banjo, Matthew Devine on keyboards, Michael Glaser on drums and Tim Carroll on bass - played this week in New York City at CB's 313 Gallery.
It's an art gallery and performance space linked to the legendary punk club CBGB, which sits at 315 Bowery on the city's lower East Side. Fisher and his group were booked there Tuesday night at 10 p.m., headlining a triple bill with Kristen Price and Anne One.
"I keep joking that I'm only going to play famous clubs in New York," he says.
Fisher will have a long way to go if he wants to beat the prestige of his two previous dates in Manhattan - a show with the Temptations, Four Tops and O'Jays at Radio City Music Hall in August 2003, and a concert with Ruben Studdard at the Beacon Theatre in April 2004.
"For somebody like me, who grew up on a dirt road in Marbury, Alabama, to get off the bus in New York is very cool," Fisher says.
CBGB has its own kind of panache - grittier but just as flashy as Radio City - and Fisher considers the gig a worthy addition to his Big Apple resume. The concert also serves as a convenient warm-up to the two performances he and his band will give tonight in Birmingham at Bare Hands Gallery.
These shows, at 8 and 11 p.m., are meant to trumpet the release of the Chad Fisher Group's new CD, "Dog Parade." The 14-track disc of Fisher originals was recorded at Bare Hands in April, following a tradition the group set in 2003 with its self-titled debut.
Fisher says that first album was a different animal in many ways, intended to sound like one of the old Blue Note recordings of the 1950s.
"This one is more of a fulfillment of a dream I have of making records," he says. "There was a list of things I wanted to do musically. I have a strange fascination with the insects you hear on summer evenings. I wanted to incorporate that into the music. There was a chorus of frogs I recorded on the river in South Alabama. A song called `The Creeps' has cicadas doing almost a percussion part with the band."
"Dog Parade" also leaves behind jazz purity in favor of a looser, crossover approach that ventures into funk and reggae. Some listeners might even consider the Chad Fisher Group a jam band, akin to Medeski, Martin & Wood or Galactic.
"There is a market out there for instrumental jazz," Fisher says. "I'd like to tap into it. As an artist, you have to figure out how to break that barrier and be accessible to more people."
Helping with that goal is Philip Foster, a City Stages organizer and jazz lover who has been known to use his talents in the recording studio. Foster engineered and produced both of the Chad Fisher Group's CDs.
"He has really great ears," Fisher says. "He's been a great critical voice for the making of this record."
The disc, available at Bare Hands, Laser's Edge and Charlemagne Record Exchange, also can be sampled on the Chad Fisher Group's Web site,, and on the CFG page at
Fisher believes a presence on MySpace - a site that allows users to create profiles, post blogs, network and share song downloads - will bring his music to a young audience that's unfortunately lacking in jazz knowledge.
And fame? Well, of course the Chad Fisher Group hopes for some of that.
"Everyone has that little rock star demon inside of them," Fisher says. "Sure, I would like to play more and be more financially successful. It's great to get compensated."
Mary Colurso covers pop music for The Birmingham News. E-mail her at

© 2005 The Birmingham News
© 2005 All Rights Reserved.
- The Birmingham News

"It Takes More Than Horns To Make Jazz"

But what the CFG plays is more than jazz - it's sweeter and swingier somehow, a little bit countrified and a whole lot languid. Fisher uses a trombone to command a combo of saxophone, keys, guitar, bass and percussion, all played by a crew of homegrown jazz masters, including Gary Wheat and Matt DeVine. The band's self-titled debut disc is full of rich and subtle instrumental jams, songs that create a fantasy landscape of night-bright city streets for the listener to wend along - sometimes racing and cruising slow. The Chad Fisher Group is already on sale at Charlemagne and Laser's Edge, and the official CD release party is this Friday at Bare Hands Gallery, with a jazz set at 8 PM and a funkier, improvised set at 11. We may not be able to see the Aurora Borealis from Birmingham, but this is music almost guaranteed to make you see some stars. Cover charge for the party is $6. Get more details at 324-2124 - The Birmingham Weekly

"Best Seller"

Top sellers for the week ending February 13th, 2005

1. The Chad Fisher Group / The Chad Fisher Group (local independent release)
2. Ray Lamontagne / Trouble (RCA 63459)
3. The Pierces / The Light Of The Moon (Universal 3707-02)
4. Michael Buble / It’s Time (Reprise 48946)
5. Wilco / A Ghost Is Born (Nonesuch 79809)
6. Ed Harcourt / Strangers (Astralwerks 60585)
7. Stewart-Mayfield Project / Enough To Let Go (local independent release)
8. Alison Krauss & Union Station / Lonely Runs Both Ways (Rounder 610525)
9. Ray Charles / Genius Loves Company (Concord 2248)
10. Damien Rice / O (Warner 48507)
11. Green Day / American Idiot (Reprise 48777)
12. The Phantom Of The Opera / soundtrack (Sony Classical 93521)
13. Wilco / Summer Teeth (Reprise 47282)
14. Hem / Rabbit Songs (Waveland 841-02)
15. Eliot Morris / Eliot Morris (local independent release)
16. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass / The Lonely Bull (Shout! 32771)
17. North Mississippi Allstars / Hill Country Revue (ATO 21529)
18. Cheryl Wheeler / Defying Gravity (Philo 711240)
19. Nanci Griffith / Hearts In Mind (Universal 3669-02)
20. New South Jazz Orchestra / New South Jazz Orchestra (local independent release)
21. Modest Mouse / Good News For People Who Love Bad News (Epic 87125)
22. Loretta Lynn / Van Lear Rose (Interscope 2513-02)
23. The Killers / Hot Fuss (Island 2468-02)
24. Ray / soundtrack (Rhino 76540)
25. Wilco / Being There (Reprise 46236)
26. Patty Larkin / Red = Luck (Vanguard 79727)
27. Mark Geary / Ghosts (Signature 1290)
28. Ani DiFranco / Knuckle Down (Righteous Babe 42)
29. Various Artists / New Orleans (Putumayo 232)
30. Andrew Bird / The Mysterious Production Of Eggs (Righteous Babe 43)
- Laser's Edge Compact Discs


The Chad Fisher Group (2004)
Dog Parade (2005)
Strange Waters (coming 2008)



Chances are, audiences have seen the seven young men who comprise The Chad Fisher Group without even realizing it. From Chad Fisher and Gary Wheat backing The Temptations at Radio City Music Hall, to guitarist Steve Lewis’ recent appearance on Late Night with Conan O‘Brien, to jamming alongside Wynton Marsalis at a small club in their native city, the various members of the CFG are perpetually in the spotlight and are likely to turn up in any musical context, no matter the genre. This is why it is truly an event when these musicians share the stage together as The Chad Fisher Group.
Fisher, an established freelance trombonist, began the group as a straight-ahead jazz project but it quickly evolved into a unique musical experience, combining pure improvisation with original compositions and arrangements guaranteed to move the feet as well as the soul. On any given night, the band may be found swinging through a jazz standard, or rolling through a reggae tune with horns sounding reminiscent of Ellington and Mingus, or vocals and a steel guitar conjuring up classic country. On the same set they may ride a groove in the spirit of bands like Medeski, Martin, and Wood or even the afro-beat of Fela Kuti. The only thing one can truly expect at a Chad Fisher Group show is the unexpected.
The band was recently awarded The BAMA award for “Best Jazz.” In November of 2004 the CFG released its first album, the Chad Fisher Group, to much critical acclaim. The band recently released its second full-length album, Dog Parade. With two records under its belt and a third coming in 2008, the Chad Fisher Group stands ready to hit the road and bring it to the ears of the masses.
Fisher has gained quite a reputation, touring often with classic bands like The Temptations, The O’Jays, The Four Tops, and American Ruben Studdard. He has also performed or recorded with artists like Gregg Allman, Rolling Stones keyboardist Chuck Leavell, Jason Isbell, Natalie Cole, Frankie Valli, Wayne Newton, Bonnie Bramblett, producer Peter Wolf, Mary Wilson of The Supremes, Bob Mintzer, Lew Soloff, Lou Marini, Wycliffe Gordon, The Bjorkestra, and a long list of others. In addition, his unending need to jam has found him on stage with the likes of Wynton Marsalis and personal hero, trombonist Fred Wesley.
In the summer of 2004, Fisher found himself playing a record seven performances on five stages during Birmingham’s City Stages Weekend. When he’s not traveling, Chad can be found with a number local and regional bands, ranging from soul to indie rock. His love of music has lead him ultimately to found the CFG to bring a whole new voice to the musical table.