Addison Groove Project, John Brown’s Body, Higher Ground, Winooski, VT, 4/20</b.
Yo-ji ni-jip-pun. Translation: It’s 4:20.
To start off a momentous holiday, many Burlington residents were violently
awoken by an earthquake measuring 5.1, originating just across lake
Champlain. While most of the ground in Burlington stopped shaking shortly
after the 6:50 am quake, the Higher Ground was just getting warmed up.
After a long day of music on the UVM campus and some healthy holiday
celebration, Addison Groove Project, joined by some very special guests,
brought the energy to a head during their epic set at Higher Ground.
Opening the evening, John Brown's Body displayed their genuine roots reggae
beats to reinforce the mood for the evening. The seven members of the
band are students of authentic 1970's reggae and masters of the dub
beats. During the set, to the left of the swaying crowd, DJ Logic was
seen up on the VIP area adjacent to the stage. He had made his way
from the spring event on the UVM campus where he opened for Vida Blue
earlier that day.
Before John Brown's Body left the stage, they invited AGP alto saxophonist
Dave Adams up to jam on "The Original". As the chorus busted out "Each day
is a nice day," the audience cheered in agreement.
Addison Groove Project then took the stage and during the band's second song,
not only DJ Logic, but Charlie Hunter's entire five-piece band joined AGP on stage for
25 minutes of rustic funk. Hunter's band had played an early how that night at Burlington's
AGP's drummer Andrew Keith took control of the beats on Wayne Shorter's
"Mahjong," while Hunter led the funk wah-wah guitar riffs. Hunter
adjusted Brendan McGinn's guitar to his signature tone in a matter of
seconds while Brendan switched to his trumpet. Although this is his
secondary instrument, Brendan had no problem letting such an impressive
guitar player pour a little sweat over his instrument.
Next, the 10 person mass of motive funk agreed on "Windjammer"
to shake the Ground for the second time that day. While no
one person dominated the jam, Hunter kept solid eye contact with John
Hall on bass to carefully guide and massage the amazingly tight rhythm
section while the raging horns tore the roof off the sucker. As the jam
progressed, the tune took the shape of a Headhunters tune from the Manchild
days. Characterized by the clavinet rhythms pouring out of AGP's Rob
Marscher and rectified by Charlie Hunter's chromatic harmonica player,
Gregoire Maret, the feel was reminiscent of the days when Stevie Wonder
joined Herbie Hancock for some genuine '70's fusion funk. In this case you
might consider it sharp Vermont funk.
As the solos worked their way around stage, the song segued into James
Brown's "Give It Up or Turn It Loose." Leading the pack through
several chord changes, Hunter displayed his unusual style of plucking the
lower end strings with his thumb and the combination pluck-swipe he employs
on the upper strings. His unique style resembles the movements of a banjo
player when viewed from afar. However, when it came to his solo near the
segue way back into "Windjammer," there was nothing banjo-like about
the searing Hendrix quotes he rocked in and out of the horn refrain led by
AGP's Ben Groppe on tenor.
Meanwhile, DJ Logic spun it up on the side with his delicate fluttering
scratch rhythms. He would find one appropriate sample to layer his
intricate scratch rhythms over. Then, as he was soloing, the sample would
play out for a few seconds until he reached a key change on which the rest
of the monstrous ensemble would follow.
For such a spontaneous combination of musicians from two different
jazz-rooted genres, the arrangement was remarkably well orchestrated. It
was obvious that Charlie was having a good time letting loose and enjoyed
the chance to go off on a six string guitar. When the two bands were
backstage before the show trying to set the agenda, Hunter had simply
said, "You guys do your thing and we'll just flow in."
During the free-for-all, there were a few points of relative confusion
regarding who would solo next, but overall there was no problem flowing from
one featured musician to another throughout the 25+ minute jam. The only
question was, how would the song end? Donald Edwards took care of that with
an extended drum solo that brought the song nicely to a close.
After the guests left the stage, AGP debuted a few songs featured on their
new album, Allophone. "But Still" followed by "Marinate" offered
a nice contrast to the fierce pace set early in the night. However, just as the revelers got a chance to get a drink of water and recover from
the Charlie Groove Logic Project the insane intensity returned
with a Hancock favorite, "Hang Up Your Hang Ups."
"There was so much energy, I'd even say an overflow of energy. It felt like
the big game going into it and then when everyone [Charlie Hunter and DJ
Logic] showed up it just took it up and over the top," recalled keys player
A long day of music, the crisp northern air of Burlington and high spirits
served as the theme for the day. While many were disappointed early in the
day by the blanket of police over the UVM spring festivities, all was
forgiven at the Higher Ground. Boston's Addison Groove Project remained as
the only aftershock felt in Vermont that day, as they sealed an appropriate
end to a lively holiday.