Unjammed on the jam bands


— I was going to turn over a new leaf. For the month of July, I vowed that I would not write about any jam bands.

Colorado has such affection for the genre that the market is bubbling over with bands whose songs dribble on and on in the name of "the jam," and my attention span just isn't long enough. July, I vowed, would be free of long-winded guitar monologues.

Alas, it was only 15 minutes into my new resolution that Global Funk Council's CD, "Keep on Pushin'," arrived on my desk.

Keyboard player Anthony Smith drew me in on the first song.

Smith's playing drives the band with a foundation of solid jazz chops that break free from the standards somewhere along the way toward R&B and funk. Smith has a kind of Earth, Wind and Fire sound that kept me listening even after I realized the CD was heading fast into jam band-land.

When guitar player Josh Suhrheinrich called for an interview, the question in the back of my mind was, "Are you becoming a jam band on purpose?"

Yes. They are.

With a few exceptions, I've always likened jam bands to the kind of people who monologue at parties and don't mind if their conversation partner is drowning in boredom because the interchange is completely one-sided.

Suhrheinrich assured me that there is more to it.

"As a band, we want to focus on spontaneity. This kind of music is about the interaction between the band and the audience," he said. "With improvisation, it's about what's happening in the moment. You can hear the exact same song but it will be a totally different performance. People respond well to something that's being created in the given moment instead of something that's been prepared ahead of time."

Global Funk Council is a relatively new band formed last year after Smith left Carlos Washington and the Amazing Giant People to follow his own musical direction.

Smith began studying piano as a child and got his degree in jazz performance.

Smith wrote a lot of material during his time with Giant People, Suhrheinrich said.

In October 2001, Smith left Giant People and hooked up with Eric Bolivar (Karl Denson's drummer) to form Global Funk Council.

"The lineup has changed quite a bit since the beginning of the project," Suhrheinrich said. "And the band's focus has started shifting to more of an experimental, improvisational element in the last 10 months."

Jonathan Stoyanoff joined the band in February 2002, and Suhrheinrich joined the band in August. The two men, along with Smith, have a "tight bond musically" and all three write music.

"We have a lot of ambitious musical ideas," Suhrheinrich said. "Between the three of us, we are heading in the same direction and have created this unified sound."

The Global Funk Council chose to head in the jam band direction for several reasons, he said.

"There is an outlet for really good song writing in the jam band scene," Suhrheinrich said. "That genre is growing a lot right now and that is exciting for us, too. There is such an energetic crowd for this kind of music.

"A lot of energy is in our playing right now because we're playing exactly the music we want to play. It's a pretty magical time for the band and for the music we're creating. I think that comes across in our shows."


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