Just Try It:
Experimenting with Skerik’s Bandalabra
Words by Audra Tracy — Seattle
Skerik is a wild card. A renegade. An artist born to test the limits of musical experimentation, and to stick it to the stigmas of conventional instrumentals.
The Seattle-based saxophone slinger peddles music like that ‘adventurous’ friend of yours who brings you exotic drugs, casually encouraging you to “just try it”. And like your friend’s stash, Skerik’s sounds will take you places you’ve probably never been before.
On the heels of his East Coast tour, Skerik schooled us on the inner workings of his newest project, Bandalabra, and why jazz is a dirty, dirty word.
Skerik’s history playing with the likes of Les Claypool, Marco Benevento, and Mike Dillon has proven he’s adaptable to all types of musical tastes. And his latest incarnation, Bandalabra, takes dead aim at your two dancin’ feet.
“I wanted to have like a bump band, for lack of a better term”, he says of Bandalabra. “I’ve been listening to a lot of Steve Reich and James Brown, and Fela Kuti, a lot of rhythmic, African music. It’s in its early stages, we are still writing for it”, he adds.
Fans can get a preview of the shows to come with Live at the Royal Room, the four piece’s debut album, available now via Royal Potato Family. Featuring Skerik on sax, Andy Coe on electric guitar, Evan Flory Barnes on upright bass and Dvonne Lewis on drums, the record showcases a fearless flow of impromptu grooves recorded at their very first gig.
The quartet may experiment with minimalist instrumentals, but, please, please don’t call it jazz. Especially not to Skerik’s face.
“We don’t like to use the word jazz when talking about Bandlabra at all”, he explains. “The connotations for the word jazz”, he goes on, “it’s unfortunately, really bad. People associate that as a dead music, where musicians are playing at the people…we don’t want to do that. We want to play with people and for people, and have a real two-way communication with our music.”
That’s the beauty of Bandalabra – this isn’t a band that plays with dollar signs in their eyes. They aren’t touring because it’s a lucrative business move – they perform because they can’t fight the funk percolating up inside them. And like their fans, they can’t wait to see what happens onstage each night.
Lucky for Skerik, there’s a whole underground scene of fans who are happy to support artists like him. Fans that crave the unpredictable nature of a living, breathing, evolving live show.
“I’m thankful that there’s a community of people who are open minded to improvisational music”, he admits. “I think the Grateful Dead did a lot to open people’s minds…that’s a real blessing, because otherwise, we’d be playing for 5 people in little jazz clubs.”
Bandalabra is gettin’ busy funking up the East Coast this fall, and they’re booked in Brooklyn this Tuesday, September 11th at Cameo Gallery. “We’re going to have some special guests with us, but we’re gonna keep it a surprise”, Skerik teases.
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