Fletcher’s All-Stars (another journey into make believe)
We’ve seen “All-Star bands”…either live or on television. Not sure about you, but for me, it usually doesn’t work out. Not sure if it’s too much pressure to do something epic, musical unfamiliarity with each other or what, but you usually end up with too many people on stage and a version of a song that, while unique, usually falls a distant second to a bad version of the same tune by the original band.
I saw the Everyone Orchestra once in Atlanta, a gathering of southern-based jam, rock and jazz guys, mostly spinning outward from the Col. Bruce Hampton/Aquarium Rescue Unit circle. I think it was around Thanksgiving, mid-90’s. The stage was fun to look at, a constant blur of musicians moving on and off stage, which mirrored the marathon songs that swayed from genre to genre. Hey, cool idea…but sounded rough and unpracticed (which, of course, it was). We left early. Ever heard Trey’s “Surrender to the Air” album? Another good idea…to lock a bunch of NYC jam/jazz studs in a studio…I tried to like it because I thought I was supposed to, like how I tried turnips again the other day. Umm…yeah, not for me.
Usually works better when one artist joins an existing band, like The Band’s “The Last Waltz.” Clapton has pulled off the All-Star thing before, see “The Concert for George (Harrison),” though again, that was different stars taking turns sitting in with a static house band.
I figure I can put out my own All-Star band, and you can as well….One that might actually sound good together. Not just the best guitarist with the best drummer with the best this and that. That approach is hit or miss. We’ve been over that.
Frontman: Chris Robinson (The Black Crowes)
-Commanding stage presence. Mick Jagger-ish center stage moves and attitude. Can handle blues, rock, soul, country, gospel, hard, soft, slow and fast. Big lungs, big voice…which he’ll need to sound out over:
Lead Guitar: Derek Trucks (Derek Trucks Band, Eric Clapton)
-Powerful and fluid with the slide, heavy jazz and blues influence. Globally-regarded in multiple musical circles as a historic talent. His genre-crossing curiosity allows him to blend in with, and soar out and over, the rest of the band. He’ll be the centerpiece of this outfit.
Second Guitar: Steve Kimock (Zero, KVHW)
-Kimock was strong alongside Trey Anastasio during the Phil & Friends shows at The Warfield ’99. He’s heavily influenced by Garcia, we all know this, but has enough of his own signature tones and stylings to stand far away from the guys simply covering Garcia. Kimock should be an expert in complementing Trucks and picking his places to stand up and shred when Derek turns down. The extended jams with these two should be intricate and intresting, an addictive blend of left coast and dirty south.
Bass: Mike Gordon (Phish)
-Wanted to go Claypool, Oteil Burbidge or George Porter Jr. here. I’m worried that Claypool wouldn’t mesh perfectly with the rest of the lineup and Burbidge and Trucks are old friends who have played together often. We’re looking for something new here. We all know how talented Mike is from Phish, but here he gets a chance to stand with some other music giants and create.
Drums: Stanton Moore (Galactic, Stanton Moore Trio)
-Can play anything with anybody. Exciting possibilities on the jazz/jam front with he and Trucks. Not sure there’s a better all-around kit drummer for my taste…
Keys: John Medeski (Medeski, Martin and Wood)
-He’s a perfect fit for Moore, Trucks, Ortiz and the horn guys below. Can funk it up, may want to drift too far “out” (abstract jazz) at times…but keeps things slightly more traditional for this all-star one off gig.
Percussion: Domingo “Sunny” Ortiz (Widespread Panic)
-Sunny lives where percussionists are supposed to reside…in the back…adding subtle accents to driving rhythms, until he eventually surfaces from the depths to lead a latin-fuzed, West-African neck-numbing drum expedition, eventually here joined by Moore, before dropping the band and crowd back into the set.
Horns: Karl Denson (sax/ The Greyboy Allstars, Tiny Universe), Kermit Ruffins (trumpet), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet/ The Trey Anastasio Band)
-Denson is the king of “west coast boogaloo” and has already sat in with about everyone on this list and any other. This will be old hat for him. Ruffins is the charismatic New Orleans bandleader who should meld easily with Moore and bring a needed dash of Delta brass into this mix. Hartswick brings her skilled horn and big voice to the party.
Backing Vocals: Grace Potter, Susan Tedeschi and Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band)
-Three of the strongest and most soulful voices out there. Big-time harmonies to support Robinson.
There you have it. I’m not sure what to call the band…and am wondering what the setlist should be. Any requests?