Saxophone Icon Skerik Tours on New Live Record with Bandalabra

:: Aggie Theatre :: September 20 ::
:: Cervantes’ Other Side :: September 21 ::
:: The Lazy Dog ::September 22 ::

By Ben Waligoske

One of the greatest challenges a musician faces is being able to stay nimble within their craft — being able to recognize new opportunities while staying committed to their established projects, and knowing when the time is right to take interesting new ideas to the next level.  Seattle-based saxophonist and composer Skerik and his new group, Bandalabra, who will embark on their first nationwide tour in September, are an excellent example of a band that has risen to that challenge.

The group’s leader — whose resume includes helping to found Critters Buggin’, Garage a Trois, and The Dead Kenny G’s, along with tours and appearances with the likes of Les Claypool, Roger Waters, The Headhunters, and more — is particularly high on his latest endeavor. Bandalabra represents a bit of a departure from his past projects, as Skerik explained in a recent interview with The Marquee. “I’m super excited to be writing and playing this kind of music, with these great people,” he said. “I’m very happy with where the music is at already, and where I think it can go.”

Considering the improvisational flavors and extended forms that Bandalabra produces – plus Skerik’s own admitted affection for the work of venerable musician/composers Fela Kuti and Steve Reich — he was also quick to note that the music is capable of going to some very interesting places, especially rhythmically.

“I am or have been involved in a lot of more traditional rock settings — song-oriented groups, with little structures, etc. —and that stuff is awesome. But I found myself wanting to have another outlet that was more open-ended, danceable, and funky,” Skerik said. “So I came up with this idea to have an improvising, Fela Kuti-inspired, groove oriented thing. I’ve always liked different instrument voices playing in different meters, and things like that. It’s basically live improvisation but we’re trying to create in a way that sounds like written music, and it all starts with the rhythm.”

Despite how loose that sounds, listeners would be remiss to assume that the spontaneous nature of Bandalabra’s output translates from a careless or haphazard approach to their music. “The way I look at it is improvisation is composition sped up, and composition is improvisation slowed down  — so basically for us it’s all the same thing, but we’re just approaching it from different angles. It’s like two sides of the same vibe. Sometimes I’ll bring in riffs to start an idea, but then what I really want to hear is what the band does with it, how we can shape it together, and it turns out different from night to night. I guess you could call it the Folgers Concept — you just always keep the ideas percolating,” said Skerik.

The group’s rhythmic, heavy-groove sound is captured live in their debut release Live At The Royal Room, which they’ll be supporting on their September tour. The album was recorded at a new club in Seattle of the same name on a night that was not only one of the first public performances for the group, but according to Skerik, a notably hot performance. “That was just one of those nights. Everything was clicking and coming together, and when I got to listen to it, I knew we needed to release it. I did a quick mix in the studio, then checked with the rest of the band and they were into it too, so we started a little Kickstarter program to fund the release. The response to that was really moving, too — I still can’t get over how cool the support and generosity we received from people was — and so we finished mixing it and put it out,” he said.

While the group’s live performance aesthetic is captured in Live At The Royal Room, Skerik said that he’d also like to see what the band is capable of in a studio setting. “Hopefully we can get Bandalabra into the studio soon too — I’d like to write a whole record for this band,” he said. “Everything would be composed all the way through — but I want to take the time to do it right and that can be a really delicate process.”

:: Skerik’s Bandalabra ::

:: Aggie Theatre :: September 20 ::

:: Cervantes’ Other Side :: September 21 ::

:: The Lazy Dog ::September 22 ::


Recommended if you Like:

• Fela Kuti

• Garage A Trois

• Medeski Martin & Wood



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