For me, the DREAD RESISTORS is a dream come true, the culmination of a lifetime spent striving to actualize my musical visions. This reggae and world fusion dance band started in 2015 when my old band mate Jared Carrozza introduced me to George Kuubetesuri, a drummer, singer, and professional dancer from Ghana.
Now the band consists of trombone wizard Dave Paul, Jared on bass, George on drums, me on guitar, harmonica, and pedal steel, and two of George's friends from Ghana -- Charles Norbi, a keyboard player, guitarist, and extraordinary singer, and Michael "TT" Thompson, a spectacular percussionist. We all sing except Jared, who merely smiles.
We play original songs and instrumentals with Jamaican, African, Caribbean, Latin, and other world fusion musical flavors. In keeping with our band name, most of our songs have politically charged lyrics. We also play some popular reggae and Highlife cover tunes. With six very different solo instruments, five singers, and a magnetically funky and syncopated rhythm section, we could make a room full of dead people dance!
What do I mean by a dream come true? Let me tell you the "back story" -- this dream is more than forty years old...
My friend Arthur Rostoker turned me on to Bob Marley and the Wailers in 1973. Then Milford Graves, my mentor, introduced me to music by Fela, Olatunji, and Manu DiBango in 1977 when I first started studying with him. And I had grown up listening to blues, jazz, and r&b as well as folk and rock.
Gradually in the late seventies I developed a vision -- for fifteen years I had been gigging with rock, folk, and country bands. Yet half my musical roots were in so-called "black music." I was playing country and bluegrass gigs for money, yet in my innermost heart I wanted to be in a funky dance band with horns and intense percussion, playing political reggae, Afropop, and percussive world music! That was the vision...
First (about 1980) I started sitting in with Derrik Jordan's seminal worldbeat band Cayenne, which included the drummer I have recorded with ever since, Johnny Yuma. Then Jared Shapiro and I put together a dance band called Bloodroot, when reggae drummer Mwoli first moved to North Bennington. This gradually morphed into Cosmos, which included Jared Shapiro, Derrik Jordan, and a drummer I had played with in the BirdsEye Band back in the early seventies, Geoff Locklin. (During this period I also had Mwoli playing drums in Larry Clayton's country and western band, a sociological juxtaposition which turned quite a few heads, and even started some fistfights, in southern Vermont!)
Then in 1984 I moved from Vermont to San Francisco and started Speak No Evil, a worldbeat band which featured Arthur Rostoker on rhythm guitar and my older brother Laurence on trumpet. (This was the first band where I was band leader and composer/arranger.) Next I joined Ann Earthling and The Planets, a all-originals worldbeat band based in the East Bay. We played some well-reviewed high-profile big city shows. Later I borrowed the Colombian percussionist from that band, added my brother Laurence on trumpet again, and had a short-lived (I moved back to the east coast) Latin-esque worldbeat band with a wonderful drummer from Puerto Rico.
After I got re-established in Vermont in late 1988, I formed the King Happy Dance Band, with Jared Shapiro on bass, which lasted maybe one or two gigs. Mwoli and I played a gig with a reggae band from Amherst, Mass, and then Mwoli and I borrowed their guitar player and did a few gigs as Mwoli and the Ruff Kutz. The Music for Peace Band included Jared, Derrik, and Mwoli, and raised a lot of money for the Bennington Peace Resource Center. Then I joined Simba, a jazzy worldbeat band based in Putney, Vermont, and gigged with them for five years. Simba included Johnny Yuma on drums (and Charlie Schneeweis, the trumpet player who later played on my Spice of Life cd), and sometimes Derrik Jordan too. Next, starting in the local coffeehouse about 1999, was Barry Hyman and Friends, a world fusion band that played quite a few gigs and released a live cd which featured Bruce Williamson as guest sax player. (This was my third attempt at being "band leader.") Then in 2004 I released my studio cd More Than Halfway Home, which included Jared Shapiro on bass, Derrik Jordan on keyboard and percussion, Johnny Yuma on drums, and my brother Laurence on flugelhorn. We played a few live gigs as the Halfway Home Band, one of which included Charlie Schneeweis.
Then I started Zuela, an experiment at molding a group of my young students into a professional world music dance band. Zuela included Lucas Sconzo on guitar, Lyle Somers on drums, and, for a while, Jared Carrozza on bass. We released two studio cds (which both featured Nick Hetko as guest keyboard player) and played regular gigs (some of which included Bruce Williamson) for almost ten years until Lyle and Lucas went off to college. Now Zuela only gets together to play reunion gigs when all of us are in town.
And it was at such a reunion, in September 2015, when bass player Jared Carrozza, knowing that Lucas was off to China and Lyle was going back to his funk band in Syracuse, said to me, "We've got to form a new band. I want to introduce you to a trumpet player and drummer I know in Albany, NY."
And that's how my dream came true! As my fifteenth attempt at realizing this musical vision, the Dread Resistors is the most nearly perfect band I have ever played in. The music I have heard in my head for forty years is now being played, out loud, in the real world! I'm singing the songs I have been writing and sitting on for decades, while I searched for the right band. My dream is coming true -- the Dread Resistors play it just the way I hear it in my dreams. Monster percussion, a sizzling horn player, bass solid as polished diamond, incredible keyboard parts,and I get to sing and solo on top? That's heaven! So now you can finally enjoy the music that had been locked in my head. This is Joyous! Help me celebrate!
HILL HOLLOW plays bluegrass and acoustic rock covers. The band consists of Marty Satalino on fiddle and mandolin, Terry Lamphere on bass, Jeff Dooley on banjo, dobro, and accordion, Wayne Lane on rhythm guitar, Chris Lane on acoustic lead guitar, Josh Greenberg on alto sax and flute, Nora Lamphere on vocals and percussion, and me on pedal steel and electric guitar. They are all great pickers and wonderful singers, with strong clear voices and impeccable harmonies. Most of these guys have been playing together for decades, and we achieve thatideal combination of really tight and delightfully loose at the same time, with enough energy to melt down your containment vessel! HILL HOLLOW is the perfect group to hire if you want the barn rafters to lift right up and float away!
NATURAL HISTORY plays experimental improvisational music, mostly acoustic, with influences from all over the globe and from every period in human history and evolution. These are the guys I have been playing with since 1973, Jared Shapiro and Derrik Jordan. A typical NATURAL HISTORY concert might include Jared on cello, alto recorder, balafon, percussion, and oud, Derrik on five-string electric violin, percussion, mbira, and cuica, and me on 12-string guitar, sitar, banjo, gourd trumpet, pedal steel, udu drum, and tamboura. We all improvise with our voices at the same time that we improvise with our instruments, weaving an endlessly varied and complex tapestry of exotic, magical, and otherworldly sounds. This is the band to hire for your healing ceremony, art party, seance, or New Age ritualistic wedding; we specialize in telepathy, astral projection, possession states, and other supernatural musical manifestations. A lot of other bands do world fusion nowadays, but we started in 1973! And we go further “out” than anybody except maybe Sun Ra! Definitely the most unusual band your friends will have ever heard!
The JOHN DAVIS DUO consists of me backing up the powerful country singer John Davis Jr. He sings a good mix of modern and traditional country, and plays solid rhythm guitar. I add pedal steel, harmonica, electric guitar, and some background vocals. We also have a larger act that includes two additional sensational country singers, John Davis Sr. and Mike "Dino" Keough. Both the duo and the quartet deliver real old-school outlaw country music, not this watered-down rock that passes for country nowadays. No wonder we have become the top country act in Southern Vermont!
I also book solo gigs, playing an endlessly varied mix of reggae, blues, folk, Celtic, jazz, ragas, salsa, Andean, bluegrass, classic rock, funk, Afropop, and more. And I mix in modal improvs that sound like the Gypsy Kings one minute and the Muslim call to prayer the next, or that start out reminding you of classical music and end up sounding like the Grateful Dead! I usually play guitar or pedal steel, and sometimes I sing or add banjo or harmonica, but I never do the same thing twice. I can stir up a rowdy bar, but I also like to make nice unobtrusive background music for weddings, art openings, dinner parties, etc.