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New Groove

Published: 2004/12/31
by Mark Pantsari

Delta Nove

Calling Long Beach, California six-piece band Delta Nove Nov-ay) new' is somewhat misleading. The band's West Coast lineage stretches back nearly six years and covers a lot of musical ground to have gotten to the present, where the band's website deems the music an Afro-Samba World Funk Experience.'

With four albums under its belt, the bandBobby Easton (guitar, vocals, percussion), Heath Bennett (vibraphone, steel drums, congas, percussion), Rob Covacevich (saxophone, clarinet, flute, percussion), John Harrington (trumpet, vocals, percussion), Echo Marrufo (drums, percussion), and Matt Welch (bass, acoustic guitar, percussion)is beginning to break out of its West Coast niche where the constant factor in the band has been the evolution of its sound. With the all-encompassing umbrella of the term jam band' continuing to become more expansive (i.e. Wilco and Doc Watson at Bonnaroo), Delta Nove seem poised to accept its position both in and out of the scene.

"The word jamband' kind of came about after we'd already formed," says Delta Nove's Heath Bennett. "It's gotten a little ambiguous and I think a lot of things will continue to change, and I think the next couple of years are going to be defining for the jam scene. The audience that typically listens to jamband music is very open to live music. It's an audience that wants to experience music in the moment and experience it, for lack of a better word, on the communal levelthe audience experiences what the bands experience and vice versa and it's communicated through the music and the dance. That part of it, I think is a thing that we really enjoy, because we've studied music and the art of improvisation."

Bennett was also quick to note that Delta Nove's shows don't just take place in front of crowds of twirling hippies.
"In L.A. we appeal to the dressed up crowd as much as we do to the heads. We've played all black clubs. We've played to total college crowdsall in Izod shirts and that whole sceneand they dug on it as much as we did. We've gotten some really positive responses from people who have no idea who we are. Most of them are just there drinking their beer and by the end of the night they're dancing wall to wall."

From roots as a college band to formative years of juggling day jobs and nighttime shows to today where the band is beginning to tour the country on a full time basis, Delta Nove's sense of purpose has been to do whatever it takes to avoid rotting on the vine, and just go for it.' Much of the band's recent growth comes about from the inclusion of Brazilian Samba music into the fold.

"Nove is nine in Portuguese," Bennett said. "And Delta 9 has several different definitions (Google Delta 9 and check it out yourself) but we've found it to come to mean a metamorphosis of change within one's mind when music is introduced. In college we were studying music from all over the world, and a lot of bands in L.A. at the time were doing the Latin thing and the Afro-Cuban thing, but we were really into the Brazilian thing. Our guitar player, Bobby, started traveling down there a lot and that's when we started hearing a lot of Brazilian rock and got turned on by the swing and the sound and the way the drums just kick in."

The Brazilian influence carries over into the live setting where all six members of Delta Nove have been known to frequently drop their respective instruments and indulge in a group percussion jam a la Brazil's Carnivale.

"Everyone in our band plays percussion," Bennett said. "Everyone in our band was forced to learn how to play the drums. Our horn players even get props from other percussionistsbut that's the only way our band would sound right. The shows almost become a tribal drum circle type of vibe, because it becomes six guys jamming on drums, but it has that real primal edge that I think is intrinsic in a lot of people. The big Brazilian drums we play are called surdo,' and that means deaf' in Portuguese because def people can feel the drums because the tones are so low. And when they are mixed in with modern American instruments and sounds we just found out that it all fits much nicer than we ever thought it would."
Mark Pantsari is a freelance writer living in Folly Beach, South Carolina.

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