Jennifer Hartswick Band, Lion’s Den, NYC- 9/20
As Jennifer Hartswick and her band took the stage at the Lion's Den Saturday
night, the crowd erupted. This applause demonstrated the heights to which Jen has risen as a result of her steadily increasing and popular role in the Trey
Anastasio Band. She has used her name recognition well, in forming a band
and releasing a well-received album. Fuse features a stellar lineup, including
TAB alums Ray Paczkowski, Dave Grippo, Andy Moroz and and Russ Lawton, however the roster was slightly different- at the Lion's Den, for instance, PacMan was absent, replaced
by Marco Benevento on keys, who would nearly steal the show with his masterful work.
On "What if I?", one of the albums strongest numbers, Jen quickly
established herself as the leader of the group, which consisted of bass, drums,
keys and guitar, as well as four horn players besides herself, and an
additional backup singer. Calling out solos and changes, as well as making
up lead horn lines on the spot with Moroz, Jen seemed perfectly content
at the front of the band, and this was no more apparent than on the
fantastic cover of Bill Withers' "Use Me". Her sulty voice commands
attention, as she sings with both a conviction and a force. Unfortunately
for the band on this particular night, the sound in the Lion's Den was not optimal,
and both the bass and bass drum were nearly inaudible from where I was
standing (directly in front of the stage), which hindered the band in the softer,
quieter spots, when the bass would be one of only two instruments playing.
Sure you could hear it, but the bottom just wasn't there, notably on "Perfect", one
of the most upbeat songs on the album.
In the end, Jen's set was quite enjoyable, even with the sound problems. The band
is incredibly tight, however at times I felt the band suffered from having too many horn players (and I idea I suggested to some TAB fans although I was later told this was "Blasphemy". It is worth mentioning that the full
horn section was quite effective at times, for instance on "25 or 6 to 4" which came out of
"Level Headed", a jam that drove the crowd nuts. But I stand by my
thoughts as having one or even two less horn players at the beginning would give the remaining members time to feel each other out, and get acquainted with the material in the live
setting. Then, as the band grows and plays bigger rooms, more horns can
be added. Hell, if Jen gets up to Roseland/Electric Factory/Fillmore size,
she can add a cowbell if that's what she wants.
Dan always votes for more cowbell