The Woody Browns Project
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The Woody Browns Project

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, United States | SELF
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"The Woody Browns Project at OYETD"

The Woody Browns Project at OYETD
February 3, 2011 - By MATTHEW PARRISH
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BLOOMSBURG - Wilkes-Barre-based band The Woody Browns Project (WBP) will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at Open Your Eyes to Dream (OYETD), 143 W. Main St.

The group is a self-described "funky jazz ensemble" that has performed together since the summer of 2006, featuring Jay Stefanski on drums; Fares Houssein on piano and organ; Jesse Rupert on lead guitar; Alex Santini on bass guitar; Bob Scorey on percussion; Travis Davis on tenor saxophone; and Mike Dougherty on rhythm guitar.

The guys got their band name from a restaurant in their hometown.

"The name derives from a soul food restaurant in Wilkes-Barre that was near where we practice," Stefanski said. "It was called 'Woody Browns BBQ.' We used to go there a lot and get something to eat and became friends with the owners."

The members knew they had something special after only playing together for a short time.

"We had played in various groups together and were working with bassist Alex Santini for just a few weeks and just knew it was destined to be," Stefanski said.

After two months of creating songs and rehearsing them, the band felt ready to play some gigs.

"Our first one actually was opening for drumming great Poogie Bell and his band at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Wilkes-Barre," Stefanski said.

All the members are from Wilkes-Barre except for Davis, who is originally from Baltimore and is a student at Wilkes University.

Stefanski said Wilkes-Barre does a good job of nurturing local music.

"People are pretty supportive of live music in Wilkes-Barre," Stefanski said. "There are a lot a bands that are in the area doing a variety of different styles. 102.3 The Mountain plays local original music regularly on its airwaves and people are always out seeing live bands and all - so its a pretty good scene."

The group landed the show at OYETD one night after a show at the River Street Jazz Cafe.

"Some cat came up to us and gave us Eric Shurmatis' business card for OYETD," Stefanski said. "He told us to check the place out, saying they had a hip crowd and we would fit right in there. So, that's what we did and we've been going back the last three years."

The WBP also has performed at the Bloomsburg Block Party in '06 and '07.

The group has yet to perform in Williamsport but hopes to eventually play at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St., or at Kimball's Pub, 972 Second St.

The band plays funk because "funk brings the party all the time," Stefanski said. "It makes the crowd move as well as making us move as we play it."

WBP released its self-titled album, which was recorded at The Recording Room Studio, Scranton, and released in 2009. The lyrics are mainly written by Ruppert and the music is made by the whole group.

The band hopes to begin playing larger festivals soon and "create a scene."

"If that happens, then great, but if not, we are enjoying the time spent trying," Stefanski said.

For the show at OYETD, music lovers can expect "shoulder to shoulder crowds bumpin' and swayin' all night to some funky, soulful medicine for their eardrums," according to Stefanski.

- Matthew Parrish From the Sun Gazzette

"Im With the Band"

I'm With the Band
By Sarah Stachura

Whether it's a common house plant or a sprawling forest, vegetation needs certain conditions to not only survive but thrive. Cultivating the proper soil, and allowing adequate amounts of sun and water are the basic, common-sense components to this process. It is interesting to discover that developing an environment where music can prosper is not so different from growing your favorite plant.

This past Friday at the River Street Jazz Café, it was obvious that the Plains club is devoted to nursing musicians to their fullest potential. The Woody Browns Project, a new local fivesome of longtime friends who specialize in a multi-faceted jazz-funk-fusion style, and Gravity Theory, a jiving jam band hailing from the Lehigh Valley, made a playful combo as they cavorted through the hotspot's rich greenhouse of sound and light with four sets of addictive tunes.

Darkened tables, a well-stocked bar, substantial house sound and light boards, and, of course, the colorful sidewall mural (a cheery, familiar sight for everyone who's a regular patron of the place), were right and proper enrichments for the club's prize blossom: a straightaway, low-slung stage area. The medium-sized, mellow crowd immediately warmed up to Gravity Theory's floating melodies and bass man Steve Rosati's prominent jams. Guitarists Andrei Maurer and Marc Gallo made a guitar-bass-guitar triangle with Rosati, and the three bounced off each other well, listening to stock jam-band changes and switching rhythm gears when they thought the time was right. Drummer Dan Andree held his own, sewing the pieces together and carrying the boys through their rather elaborate blanket of songs. Gravity Theory spread its outlook of joy throughout "The Jazz" (as it's affectionately known), setting heads a-swaying and a few bewitched dancers out onto the floor. Toward the end of this opening band's set, Woody Browns keyboardist Fares Houssein sat in on a tune or two, turning up the funk and serving the crowd a small taste of what was to come during the second half of the evening.

The crowd thickened during the in-between-band break, forming a tight semicircle around the stage. The Woody Browns Project is a band that was conceived at the Jazz Café and a great many late-coming supporters buzzed around the bar, waiting for the music to kick into gear.

When the boys began their first set to whistles from the audience and a booming intro by Café manager Tom Moran, it was with originality and initiative: lead guitarist Jesse Rupert accompanied his strong-on-their-own vocals with a talk box pedal that he manipulated with aptitude, and double percussionists Jay Stefanski (drum kit) and Bob Scorey (congas and tambourine) were a unique, strong blend that melted together surprisingly well. Bassist Alex Santini looked cozy in flannel pants and a T-shirt, occasionally swapping his guitar for an impressively sleek electric stand-up bass. Double-decker electric piano and jazz organ player Houssein sat at his candy-apple-red Nord 2 as if it were a shiny new toy, tweaking the instrument's multitude of dials and switches with glee. "The thing's super-light, like 17 pounds or so," said Houssein during a post-show chat. "But, man, it packs a punch!"

The band's influences were made transparent after an impressive Les Claypool-penned song called "Awakening" that showcased Santini's superlative command of all things bass. During this single percussion-and-bass duet, Houssein and Rupert nestled themselves into the crowd, slapping a throng of their front-row buddies on the back and egging on their bandmates. After a few stomping, funk-painted original tunes, the band reached into its seemingly endless bag of tricks and pulled out a pearl: a version of a 1960s groove classic, Archie Bell and the Drell's "Tighten Up." With Houssein on vocals and the boys encouraging the crowd to shout "Do the tighten up!" the dance floor gradually filled with frolickers like summer bugs to a lit lamp. The floor remained full for the remainder of the evening, with dancers weaving, spinning and shouting decorously after each song was finished.

Friday night's show was a clear-cut example of what can happen with sonorous acoustics, expert attention to detail, and the right bunch of people in charge. Hopefully, The Woody Browns Project's passionate attitude will help pollinate the local scene with ripe and ready combos willing to take root and prosper.
- Sarah Stachura

"Funky Band Celebrates Debut Album"

Funky band celebrates debut album

by Michael Lello
Weekender Editor

It’s natural to assume that Woody Brown is one of the seven guys in the band The Woody Browns Project. But he’s not. In fact, Woody Brown isn’t even a person — he’s a bird.

When the band was picking its name, it decided on the name of a former soul food/chicken joint it frequented in Wilkes-Barre’s Heights section called Woody Brown’s. And Woody, organist Fares Houssein and drummer Jay Stefanki said, was the name of a pet bird owned by the restaurant owner’s wife.

The name fit the band, Houssein said, “because their food’s mad funky and soulful.”

Anyone that’s seen the band perform or hears its brand new self-titled debut album can attest to that comparison. The Woody Browns Project has been bringing its music, which blends jam-band feels with classic soul, r&b and jazz, to audiences in Northeastern Pa. and beyond since it formed three years ago. It band began work on the album last October, saving money it made playing shows and using it to by time at the Recording Room in Scranton. The musicians produced the album themselves, with Cliff Evans doing the recording.

“We knew what kind of sound we wanted to do,” Houssein said.

That sound is tight and clean, and it serves the material well. For example, the first three tracks — a smooth, jazzy instrumental called “A to End,” the vocally driven “Misunderstanding” and the slinky and horn-peppered “Missed It By a Minute” — are diverse, but they share some common sonic qualities, thanks in part to the production, that help the songs work within the context of the album.

One piece on the album not recorded at the Recording Room is “Swank,” a lengthy live track from a show at the River Street Jazz Caf? early this year. It’s an important track in the band’s history for two reasons: it was the first time The Woody Browns Project played a show with its horn section, and it was at the venue where The Woody Browns Project has made a name for itself. The band will play its CD-release show at the Jazz Caf? on Nov. 7. Deciding where to do the show was a no-brainer.

“Hell, yeah, that’s our home!” Houssein said.

Houssein and Stefanski said they’ll welcome some guests to the stage Saturday, including Justin Mazer, the guitarist from JMMD and Misty Mountain.

The band is comprised of Jesse Ruppert (guitar), Bob Scorey (percussion), Stefanski, Houssein, Alex Santini (bass) and the newest members, Travis Davis (tenor sax) and Bobby Bottger (trumpet). The Woody Browns Project, like Cabinet, Mike Mizwinski and some other notable area artists, honed its skills at the Jazz Caf?, drawing bigger and bigger crowds as word of mouth spread. Now, Houssein and Stefanski said, the band is doing well in markets a little outside of the area, like Bloomsburg, with fans there also making the drive to Wilkes-Barre for shows.

The core of the band went to GAR High School together, besides Santini, who went to Coughlin. After a sax player joined and left, The Woody Browns Project decided its music definitely needed horns.

“I took a poster down to Wilkes, because we knew they had a good music program, and we got two calls,” said Stefanski. That resulted in Davis, a Baltimore native who attends Wilkes, and Bobby B., a Wilkes-Barre resident also studying at the university, joining the fold in January.

“It opened up another door with our music that we didn’t even think was really possible,” Stefanski said. “We always pictured ourselves as being a band with horns, but there aren’t really too many around this area.”

With its first album out and a big show this weekend at its home venue, The Woody Browns Project is geared up for bigger things, like possibly a tour and summer festivals. But the band is happy to just have made it this far.

“Just to get people out there into good music and getting them dancing is satisfaction enough,” Houssein said.


The Woody Browns Project CD-release show, Saturday, Nov. 7, 10 p.m. River Street Jazz Caf? (665 N. River St., Plains Twp.). Cover: $5. CD for sale at show. Info: 570.822.2992,

- The Weekender by Mike Lello


Self titled album release November 2009
Track 3 titled "Missed it by a Minuet can be heard on
102.3 fm The Mountain and 89.9 fm WVIA Wilkes-Barre Pa
First place winners of the Mohegan Sun Casino 2010 Battle Of the Bands



To find something funkier than the Woody Browns Project in Wilkes-Barre, you'd probably need to be working as a housing inspector. With deep grooves, propellant bass and danceable melodies, the band has made a name for itself with a distinct blend of classic soul and r&b, but with a fresh flavor"Mike Lello The Weekender "-
The Woody Browns Project was formed in the summer of '06 by four longtime friends who shared the same vision of gettin' down and creating music. Jay Stefanski (drums), Fares Houssein (Organ/Bass Keys), Jesse Rupert (Guitar) , & Bob Scorey (Percussion) built a solid foundation before adding a full time horn section,Carl Krupa (tenor saxophone) and Tim Jackson (trumpet). The Woody Browns Project is evolving into a band that can get the crowd bumpin'and swayin' on the dance floor with funky, soulful beats fused together with some blues, rock and a whole lotta jazz! WBP's mission:Keep it Real Keep it Funky