Look here, Daytona Beach and anybody in striking distance: you need to change your plans for Friday AND Saturday nights. Seriously. Make plans right now to head to The Roof, because DAMN!
Thursday night (June 2nd), the Joe Marcinek Band played two sets of music that were, in my parlance, as good as it gets. Seriously. They blew up the Dunedin Brewery last night after several Georgia shows and two Florida dates. It all came together last night.
If all I had been able to hear was the first song of both sets, I would have been satisfied (dayenu). They were that good. But these two glorious sets — and more than three hours of music — had everyone there lit up.
The first set started just a bit behind schedule with a Marcinek original, “Both Sides.” It was really jazzy, and Juanjamon (St. Petersburg) took a great first solo on tenor saxophone. Marcinek is known for putting together amazing all-star ensembles, and this was my fourth time seeing him, but this band was special. It was immediately obvious why he had selected Chicago gents Marvin Little (bass) and Rick King (drums). They were huge all night long.
Little made his mark immediately, followed by a great electric piano solo from Holly Bowling, who had just flown in from San Francisco. She is the one who often performs Phish sets and had played with Marcinek on his April tour which included the Wanee Music Festival. Marcinek then delivered a thoughtful guitar solo, followed by the same from Little, and I use ‘thoughtful’ in the very best sense possible: full of substance, not flash.
And we were off! A nice “Franklin’s Tower” followed, and then Marcinek turned vocal duties over to King for Albert King’s “I’ll Play the Blues for You.” Did they ever! Bowling was featured next on “Sand,” a Phish tune. She opened with acoustic piano (one of her keyboards set to that sound), which was beautiful. Marcinek sang before an enormous jam exploded, Little’s bass climbing up and down relentlessly, before Bowling took it home.
The opening strains of “Scarlet Begonias” were met with great excitement, and the transition to “Fire On the Mountain” was sublime. In the middle of “Fire,” Juanjamon had an extended reggae rap, and the blues rhythm section immediately went to Jamaica. When they returned to “Fire,” King went into beast mode on kit. Time for a breather! Somehow, 85 minutes just melted away.
Marcinek shared his delight about the amazing power of this edition in his all-star series. The two Chicago boys, for instance, are less well known that some others Marcinek has conscripted before, but none have been better. And Juanjamon had joined him on every Florida tour.
I thought the first set began brilliantly, but set two topped it. Marcinek had introduced his composition “George Washington” when he played the brewery in January, but this was ridiculous, stupid, [insert your own superlative or buzzword here]. Juan again took the first solo, followed by Bowling on organ, Marcinek, Bowling on clavinet, then Little rapping while Bowling continued to explore the lower register of the clavinet. The whole thing was stunning.
When they moved immediately into “The Mighty Quinn,” I was a bit let down — very briefly and very mistakenly — but that gave way immediately to another superb jam. Bowling started on acoustic piano. As Juanjamon blew a great solo, Bowling went to clavinet and then organ. There was a tempo change, after which Bowling went back to piano, and that segued into a monster jam, then back to the head. And everybody in the crowd was singing along again.
A number of people had been calling for “Tweezer” during the first set, and Marcinek teased us about it before those opening notes. There were no vocals, Bowling filling in the gaps on piano and organ. Out of the jam, Marcinek teased “Hey Jude” and more. Little and King were simply stratospheric. Bowling and Marcinek both got very jazzy, her hands a blur on the keyboards at the end of the tune.
R.J. Howson from Sarasota was invited to sit in on guitar, and my favorite surprise of the night emerged as King sang a lovely version of Gil Scott-Heron’s “Lady Day and John Coltrane.” Juan, Howson and Marcinek all had great jazz solos. As the band vamped, King said:
“If you wake up with the blues, put on John Coltrane and Billie Holiday (Lady Day). It will free your mind, and your ass will follow!” George Clinton would approve: the kingdom of heaven is within!
A very bouncy “Shakedown Street” was next, and it ended with “Hey Jude,” Juanjamon singing the vocalese chorus. Three players were invited up next: Brad Elliott, drums; Jose Pasquini, guitar; and Detroit Dan from Buffalo Strange on bass. They played a magnificent Grant Green song, “Jan Jan.” There was a huge section of trading fours, and lots of fun themes popped up briefly, including “Smoke On the Water,” “Shakedown Street,” and some TV show. (Don’t know Grant Green Sr.? Check him out. Start with Feelin’ the Spirit.) Elliott had a monster drum solo.
Marcinek called his rhythm section back up for one more song, and King took the mic again for a slinky, sexy “If You Want Me to Stay” that included a brief “Family Affair” tease at the end. Juanjamon also twisted his solo into Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny.” Apparently, we DID want them to stay and wouldn’t take NO for an answer. In return, we got a very “Funky Bitch!” Howson returned to solo, followed by the Phish queen on organ and piano and a final quick romp from Marcinek before they closed out the long second set.
Your destination: Daytona Beach. The Roof. Friday. And Saturday.
You’ll thank me later.
Kudos to Michael Lyn Bryant for continuing to invite Marcinek back and to Jon Tucker (Serotonic) for an excellent job as sound engineer!
[SET ONE: Both Sides, Franklin’s Tower, I’ll Play the Blues for You, Sand, Scarlet Begonias > Fire On the Mountain > Juanjamon Rap > Fire On the Mountain; SET TWO: George Washington, The Mighty Quinn, Tweezer > Hey Jude > Tweezer, Shakedown Street > Hey Jude (reprise), Jan Jan; E1: If You Want Me to Stay; E2: Funky Bitch]
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