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The back cover of Renaissance Man—the first studio album by the sensational septet

Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band—includes a brief dictionary description of the phrase: “a person

whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas.” For more than

four decades countless millions have been wowed by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

inductee Jaimoe’s drumming expertise with the mighty Allman Brothers Band but now,

with the release of Renaissance Man, several new dimensions of this iconic musician’s

supersized talent emerge for the first time.

And that’s just the way Jaimoe likes it. “No one thing determines what I am or who I

am,” says the world-class artist originally known to Allmans fans as Jai Johanny

Johanson before changing it legally to Jaimoe. “Why stick yourself in one little hole?

After awhile you get tired of it. When I go onstage, it’s like the first time I’ve picked up a

pair of drumsticks—there must be that challenge. When I don’t feel like that anymore,

it’s time to find something else to do.”

Renaissance Man exposes multiple new avenues of expression for the iconic sticksman

that tie together his numerous musical interests. Its 10 tracks run the gamut from classic

soul and blues to the sizzling Southern Rock that the Allman Brothers Band put on the

map to the jazz referred to so cryptically in the band’s name (historians will note that jazz

was originally spelled jass in its infancy). Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band consists of —in addition

to Jaimoe on drums— the incredible Junior Mack on vocals, guitars and Dobro; David

Stoltz on bass; Reggie Pittman on trumpet and flugelhorn; Paul Lieberman playing tenor

and alto saxophone and flute; Kris Jensen on tenor, baritone and soprano saxes; and

Bruce Katz working the Hammond B3 organ and piano. The band came together after

Jaimoe was introduced to Mack at one of the ABB’s legendary shows at New York’s

Beacon Theater.

“Gregg Allman’s assistant was telling me one night that ‘Junior Mack is a hell of a guitar

player and singer,’” Jaimoe recalls, “but I’d never heard of him. I asked Junior if he had

anything I could listen to and he handed me a CD. One day I called him and asked if he’d

like to get together and play a gig, and I asked the guy who was doing the sound to record

it.” Jaimoe was so impressed with the results that he later released the set as a CD, Live at

the Double Down Grill 1/28/06. Although the initial lineup was somewhat different than

the horn-heavy band of today, the Jasssz Band’s chemistry was already apparent on tunes

ranging from the Meters’ “Cissy Strut” to Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia” to a

stunning reworking of the Allmans’ “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” A second live

release, Ed Blackwell Memorial Concert 2/27/2008, continued to chart the band’s

progress as they burned through everything from John Coltrane’s “Impressions” to Sam

Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”

But Renaissance Man takes Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band to a whole other level. Recorded in

Hoboken, N.J.’s Water Music studio, the album features more well-chosen covers—this

time Sleepy John Estes’ blues staple “Leaving Trunk” and Tony Joe White’s great soul

ballad “A Rainy Night in Georgia”—but also showcases the songwriting skills of the

Jasssz Band’s members. Mack is responsible for no less than four of the album’s songs,

including the paint-peeling opener “Dilemma,” while keyboardist Katz, bassist Stoltz and

hornman Pittman each contribute a track. Allmans loyalists will also be stunned by the

new arrangement that the Jasssz Band has given to the ABB’s touchstone hit “Melissa.”

Says Jaimoe, “We wanted to do as much original music as possible but at the same time

we wanted to do a few things to reach out and grab people, and Junior does that tune as a

bossa nova. That’s why I wanted to do it. It’s got a good groove. Music is about getting

an idea and seeing how many different things you can do with it.”

For Jaimoe, that sentiment pretty well sums up his entire career. Born in Mississippi in

1944, Jaimoe came up, as did so many Southern musicians at the time, playing the soul

music circuit. One of his first big breaks—and one of his most treasured recollections—

was touring behind the legendary R&B trailblazer Otis Redding. “I learned so much from

Otis,” Jaimoe says now.

In 1969, a few years after his experiences with Redding, Jaimoe found himself in Macon,

Georgia, where he was introduced to a young hotshot guitarist named Duane Allman by

record execs Phil Walden and Jerry Wexler. “I guess they figured that a long-haired

hippie and a strange-ass drummer would be good together,” Jaimoe says. Along with

Duane’s younger brother Gregg on keyboards, second guitarist Dickey Betts, and an

exceptional rhythm section that included bassist Berry Oakley and Jaimoe’s 40-plus-year

drum partner Butch Trucks, the Allman Brothers Band was soon on its way to

immortality.

The Allmans’ place in rock history is set in stone—in fact they will receive a special

merit award from the Grammys this winter—but at the moment Jaimoe’s excitement is

directed toward the Jasssz Band. “We’re not gonna guide it this way or that way,” he

says. “We’re gonna let it go and we’re gonna tag along for the ride. It’s improvised music

and it’s American music. That’s why it’s Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band, because improvised

American music is jazz.”


http://www.jaimoe.com