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Published: 2002/04/22
by Brad Weiner

Shine – Hanuman


Every jamband needs its own specific descriptor for its music. In the case
Hanuman, I would probably call it acousti-funk-grass. That title would leave
out some of the more obvious possibilities of Hanuman, like their tribal
rhythms and sultry saxophones. So maybe I could call it
acousti-worldgrass-funk. Nah. That would be too difficult to pronounce.
just call it good music and go get drunk, eh?

Hanuman first caught my attention as one of the bands set to land at Yonder Mountain String Band's Northwest String Summit in Oregon this summer. Yonder surely wouldn't have picked performers that didn't jive with their roots-to-the-road approach and Hanuman fits the bill perfectly along with other artists. Hanuman has a little of everything in their music and I think the easiest comparison would be that they sound the way String Cheese would have if they never went electric.

Shine is a remarkable cross-section of their abilities, since all of
tracks are live and seven of the eight were culled from the same performance
opening for the Mickey Hart Band in the summer of 2000.

"Savannah" is an eight minutes and change congressional
filibuster. The instrumentalists work together in producing a choppy and
lugubrious funk song with soaring acoustic interludes. What separates
from a number of other bands that try the same stunt is that their changes
tight and their funk is solid. Saxophonist Damien Atkin, who only plays on a
few tracks, lays down fluid riffs bursting with energy. He never drifts too
far into a Coltranean wonderland and makes sure that his horn is as
down-to-earth as the other acoustic instruments in the combo.

Mandolinist/guitarist Scott Law starts off track two with a wonderful mode that seamlessly drifts from a minor key Gypsy feel into a regularly grooving bluegrass jam. Law is an accomplished mandolinist who works perfectly alongside guitarist Paul Benoit. They often team up for double leads that I frequently associate with the Allmans,.

Percussionist Jarrod Kaplan uses a djembe most of the time and can
really crank out loud shots in the center. Kaplan's beats are the most
expendable instrument in the group since Law and bassist Tige DeCoster
are so adept at keeping the general flow of the song deep in the pocket.
Kaplan gives the band plenty of room to explore the richly flavored
although his beats never become exceedingly interesting.

"Baba Blues" is a downward sliding scale built on crisp
rhythmic work that leaves every head in the room bopping in a slowly
developing arthritic ballet. The guitar work on the tune is phenomenal
its fully funky development is played the way Scott Joplin said it should
be: slowly. Aitken goes to town on a fleshed-out solo that wanders from
Cannonball to porn and back again.

Hanuman could easily be the next band in line to pull out some interesting stunts in the acoustic jamband world. They are respectable musicians and have a solid base of music that could appeal to festivarians, jazz fans and groovemeisters alike. The ultimate compliment I have for Hanuman is that I think that even my Dad would like it. If they manage to keep the music honest and avoid electricity (except for their EKG of course) they are capable of generating a devout following among people who like to sit close and listen hard, as well as those who endlessly spin their bodies in the grassy fields at the back.

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