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Get Zapped! - The Anti-Jazz Raygun

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When one thinks of organ trios, visions of Jimmy Smith, George Benson and Ben Dixon usually come to mind.  The trio lineup reached a zenith during the 1960s and the cool grooving accessible sounds were largely responsible for a sharp increase in jazz popularity during that era.  Since the organ trio heyday, the sounds of 1960s have been revitalized through local acts such as Soulive and Ron Levy's Wild Kingdom as well as  England's James Taylor Quartet. 

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Much of this revival has been exactly that - a revisit to the lost sounds of yore.  Too many listeners, it has been a great walk down nostalgia avenue.  To others, they like the traditional format but they are yearning for a new sound.  Well, look no further than Boston's Anti-Jazz Raygun.  Consisting of Dan Berkson (organ, moog), John Dempsey (drums), and Brandon Seabrook (guitar), the Anti-Jazz Raygun has built upon the traditional lineup and taken it for one far out ride. 

The band came together in 1998.  Brandon and John were students at the New England Conservatory while Dan was playing locally in groups such as  Daddy’s and The Rockett Band. The trio had humble beginnings as they gathered together for informal summer afternoon jam sessions. After discovering that they meshed together well, the trio decided to take their jam sessions a step further.  The Ant-Jazz Raygun began its days under the name "The Count" and they played traditional hard bopping soul jazz.   Under the guidance of Seabrook's truly unique guitar technique and their collective desire to create original improvised music, "the Count" soon changed to the Anti-Jazz Raygun. The band quickly moved away from the influences of Art Blakey, Herbie Hancock and Jackie McClean and looked towards the sounds of TV themes, Miles Davis, klezmer, John McLaughlin, surf music and Medeski, Martin and Wood. The idea was to avoid being pigeon holed and the Anti-Jazz Raygun has successfully done so.

Although often labeled as an "organ trio", let this in no way suggest that a Raygun performance is "Hammond B3-anza", for the Anti-Jazz Raygun is the sum of three equally talented musicians.  The trio effortlessly works from deep grooves into avant-garde breakdowns and back into a new grooves  without a missing a beat.   While many would compare Berkson to Jimmy Smith or Jack McDuff, he has a much more Larry Young flare to his playing.  Just like Young, Berson looks beyond the soloing capabilities of the Hammond B-3 and explores the texturalization possibilities of the instrument.  While organ trios have been famous for producing legendary fluid guitarists like Grant Green and George Benson, Seabrook treats his axe as a tool for dispensing angular lines, dissonant notes and percussive beats.  Seabrook seems to aim to keep the listener guessing of what is about to come next and he does so with mastery.  While drumming has always been associated with timekeeping, Dempsey takes the instrument  further by  propelling the band in new directions and always charting innovative routes for the Raygun's sonic explorations.

During a course of an Anti-Jazz Raygun performance, the band assumes funky grooves a la Medeski, Martin and Wood;  collective fusion improvisation in the tradition of Bitches Brew and experimental free-for-alls that hark to the New York City experimental scene.  Their repertoire is a fine blend of originals and popular covers (Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin) and their shows are a journey through a diversity of moods, tempos and grooves.  You can check them out Lilli's in Somerville every Tuesday night and if you are a fan of original improvised music, than you should not be missing these guys.  "Since we started playing at Lilli’s almost 80% has been completely improvised. It used to be all tunes but now we are searching for some new stuff using the improvisations as a vehicle, " Dempsey adds, "Only time will tell how it all pans out. We are definitely a work in progress".

The Ant-Jazz Raygun has already laid down the groundwork for their debut album.  During the summer of 2000, the three traveled to musical rich community of Woodstock, New York - the location of the 1970s-1980s communal music academy, the Creative Musicians Studio as well as the home for great jazz musicians such as Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette, and  David "Fathead" Newman.  On top of that, the band's weekly adventures at Lilli's have been captured on tape.  With the combination of these studio and live recordings, we are all eagerly anticipating the release.

 

For more info, contact the band at Johnsticks@aol.com, jamecono@yahoo.com or dberkson@tiac.net