The Schematics
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Band Jazz Funk

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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


"Funky Jazz: The Schematics"

When novice listeners think of jazz they often think of the two most popular forms: the avant-garde sounds of Coltrane and Monk or the elevator smooth sounds of Kenny G and Grover Washington Jr. But in reality jazz has as many categories as rock music. In addition to avant-garde and smooth jazz there are such diverse subdivisions as fusion, post bop, acid jazz and funk jazz. Falling somewhere between fusion and funk is where you'll find the Tacoma-based The The Schematics. Formed last summer out of a common love for jazz, funk, and soul, Brett Cummings (sax), Alex Dunn (bass), Sam Esecson (percussion), Nigel Finley (keys), Colby "Hot Sauce" Sander (guitar), Graham Shackelford (8-string bass), and Alex Westcoat (drums) began impromptu jam sessions that led to playing house parties around the area. They have four funk-drenched tunes available to sample on MySpace that will leave you craving to hear more. Of the four, my personal favorite is "The Snatcher." Recorded live, it features some amazing guitar work, slappin' bass lines, a killer sax solo and a steady groove that is as smooth as a baby's butt.
-- Tony Engelhart - Weekly Volcano


"Tacoma group brings funky fresh flows to the show"


By John Larson
Staff Writer
jlarson@tacomaweekly.com

An old Pink Floyd record plays while the members of The Schematics greet me in the large house they share near the University of Puget Sound (UPS) campus. One of their roommates works at High Voltage Records on Sixth Avenue, and brings home a lot of vinyl.

While the band is a funk outfit, one can tell there are elements of jazz and rock in the mix, and spending 30 minutes with them makes it clear that they listen to wide range of music.

The band consists of Colby Sander on guitar, Sam Esecson on percussion, Alex Westcoat on drums, Alex Dunn on bass, Graham Shackelford on eight-string bass, Nigel Finley on keyboards and Brett Cummings on saxophone.

Sander graduated from UPS last year. The rest are current UPS students, except for Cummings.

Westcoat and Esecson were dorm-mates their freshman year.

Esecson said the musician community at UPS is fairly small and close-knit.

Sander has played guitar since childhood, and majored in music. “I figured it was the easy way to graduate,” he said with a laugh. Music theory classes were not too much of a challenge, “but music history just about killed me.”

The band came together last summer. Westcoat and Finley had been jamming, and he and Esecson had been playing at house parties near campus. Everyone was working on various projects, and eventually they decided they wanted a full-fledged band.

“We have an open relationship,” Dunn commented.

“Like swingers!” Westcoat joked.

The band name came after discarding many other suggestions. The Schematics was basically the one everyone could tolerate. “It is a safe name. It has no real meaning,” Dunn admitted.

Westcoat recalls watching a comedian on television doing a routine involving schematic diagrams. “It has no real meaning, which is telling in itself,” he observed.

The band’s funk direction stems in part from the social necessities of the college scene. “Funk is good music for dancing,” Sander pointed out. “When we play house parties, everyone wants to dance,” Westcoat added.

They mix covers with originals in their sets. “The more comfortable we get, the more off-the-cuff we get,” Westcoat commented. “Each crowd and each venue is different. We can customize the set to fit the situation.”

Most of their originals begin with Sander coming up with ideas on acoustic guitar. Finley and Cummins also do some writing. Others add some ideas, and they begin recording the practice. Coming up with something seven people like can be challenging, Sander said.

Westcoat said a teacher in high school advised him to listen to jazz. As if on cue, Sander put on a track from The Headhunters, a jazz/fusion group formed by Herbie Hancock in the early 1970s. “Instead of going for layers of sound, we come up with linear elements,” Westcoat said, pointing out the technique in the Headhunters’ song.

Finley said the music is bound to have a somewhat eclectic nature, “as we come from such different backgrounds.”

Westcoat noted there are not a whole lot of funk bands out there. He recalled playing a show in Bremerton “where they didn’t know what to think of us,” he said. He feels they have the ability to bring in people unaccustomed to the genre. “I want emo kids to be into us. I don’t think that is too far-fetched.”

The Schematics record all their practices, and make demo CDs they hand out to friends. They plan to hit a record studio in June to begin working on an album.

Most of the guys have another year before they graduate, and they have already signed a lease on the house for the 2007-08 school year. Westcoat said they realize they need to expand beyond their UPS fan base. They have begun playing gigs in Seattle, and want to start playing Portland and Eastern Washington.

The Schematics play Jazzbones in Tacoma at 8 p.m. March 31, The Swiss in Tacoma at 9 p.m. April 19, and a Relay For Life event at Pacific Lutheran University April 20. For more information, go to www.myspace.com/schematicstacoma. - Tacoma Weekly


Discography

Basement Sessions Vol. 1
Live at Jazzbones (February 8, 2007)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

In the summer of 2006, a bunch of musicians, sharing a common love for funk/soul/jazz music, moved into a nasty old house in Tacoma, WA. Like many other college students out on break, these musicians initially spent their summer working day jobs and casually passing the time. It wasn't long before TV lost out to impromptu jam sessions in their dank-ass basement. Eventually, outside friends/artists/musicians caught wind of what was going down, causing more people to cram into that tiny space (each eager to contribute to the open, creative, and very experimental vibes that this situation had somehow fostered). As time went on, loose jams evolved into halfway decent songs containing an infectious, groove-oriented quality. At this point the band began to reach out, playing college house parties in the surrounding area. This movement has since been accredited with sparking the recent revitalization of Tacoma college parties (more booty-shaking, pelvic thrusting, heavy petting, etc.). In response, the crew took on a collective identity known as 'THE SCHEMATICS'. Today, The Schematics can be seen playing all around the Pacific Northwest's booming music scene...or that is...except on Wednesdays..…on this day of the week they insist on "keeping it real," jamming in that dank-ass basement where it all began, carefully laying the foundation for all "garage funk" groups to come.
The Schematics' influences include Soulive, Roy Hargrove, Grant Green, Medeski Martin & Wood, Aphrodesia, Karl Denson, John Scofield, Mike Stern, and so many more, it's absurd, really.