This show, featuring two of my favorite bands, had been on the calendar for ages. Shortly before the date, I read that Josh Formanek, guitar player for Infinite Groove Orchestra, had stepped back from the band and that Jordan Garno, Serotonic’s guitarist, would pull double duty. I had no doubt that Garno was up to it, but I knew I would miss Formanak, a superb player and real presence on the scene.
So who was the very first person I saw walking into the New World Brewery in Ybor? Why, Josh Formanek, of course. And I knew right there and then that everything was cool. No worries, as they say Down Under.
What I am learning (a little slow on the uptake) is that all of these musicians are truly brothers (not the fighting kind!), and they all “get it.” They are so into the music and each other that they see the big picture, the collective good that develops when they all work together toward a common goal.
You can hear it in every single note. Every one.
This was the first gig with Garno in the guitar slot for IGO. You would never have known it. They were tight! Jon Shea was blasting this bass that reminded me of Herbie’s “Ostinato” (very favorably!) as I arrived. At the conclusion, Shea moved to his synthesizer (bass and then some). Apparently, it was Dan’s birthday. You know, Dan! Well, I didn’t, but I do now!
They had written a new tune for Dan, entitled… “Dan!” I lost track of the changes. It dipped, it soared, it roared, it bopped along. Adam Volpe was killing it on drums. And Garno fit in perfectly, on a number of occasions in great syncopation with John Richardson’s keyboards and synthesizers.
And then. And then. Volpe announced it was time for a holiday tune. Out came the most wonderfully demented “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” ever, and that segued several times into some nasty, nasty P-Funk grooves. It was massive! Formanek and I were sitting together during the set, and we were both wearing these huge grins. Man, it was a blast!
After a quick set change, it was Serotonic time. Because I am a geek with a database, I can declare that this was my 20th Serotonic show, and I have loved every one. But there was something different this night. Maybe a little deeper, perhaps a bit more mature. Just plain awesome.
For one thing, Garno is singing more, and his confidence behind the mike shows as his vocals mature. That was evident on the first song, “Move So Well” and “Getting’ It,” which followed. The cover of the Black Seeds tune “Fire” interestingly featured three-part harmony, with drummer Andrew Kilmartin on lead vocal and Garno and alto sax player Jon Tucker full up in the mix.
Then Kilmartin started hollering for a trombone, and up popped Jordan Craig, who took a great solo on “Move On Up,” the Curtis Mayfield smash, and another on Cannonball’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” which also featured a great drum sit-in from Tom Gavin.
This was a precision machine in perfect sync. Bryan Lewis was having a magical night on the keyboards, a little piano here, some synthesizer there, always just right.
Next, they demanded, nay, insisted that Formanek join them. Garno insisted that Formanek plays Serotonic’s “Molly Jane” better than he does. Formanek delivered a wonderful solo in response. What a great night it was! And Christian Ryan strolled in (it was a light day – he only had three gigs) to see all of his brothers.
It got better! Andrew called the tune “Rhinobelly,” saying that it was for me. I was truly honored, and Robert Sanger BLEW IT UP on bass underneath Garno’s rocking solo. They closed with another romping tune, “Cinotores.” This one featured Tucker on alto sax. He had been excellent all night, and this one showcased a new pedal giving him the electric sax effect. Tres cool! (By the way, if you ever tried to tie Tucker down, he would explode!)
I keep thinking I am going to wake up out of a dream. Have I really been so fortunate to have seen so many great shows?
The answer is: YES YES YES YES YES.
On top of everything else, the bands sounded great. A competent sound man can make all the difference, and Joey Going at NWB is a consummate professional, getting perfect sound from both bands this night. It’s a team effort, that’s for certain!
Formanek, incidentally, has a new project in the works and some songs written, waiting to be unleashed. I’m certainly looking forward to that!
[Serotonic: Move So Well, Getting’ It, Fire, Move On Up, Big Dirtsky, Jelly, Bruabba, Molly Jane, Rhinobelly, Cinotores]