The first time I saw Jatoba perform -- which feels like ages ago –- in January of 2010 at Flat Street Brewery in downtown Brattleboro, the first thing that took me by surprise was that the three gentlemen were performing barefoot. The airy expanse of Flat Street’s lower-level club (now closed due to Irene damage) was, that night, a cauldron, a tight bowl of sweat-soaked revelers who appeared to hone in on the trio in a ritualistic orb. There was not much separation between performer and attendee, and the fact that these musicians had kicked off their shoes to bounce about the stage and deliver their distinct brand of Tribe-Called-Quest-meets-Bela-Fleck, or “groove-grass,” was telling.

     The second surprising aspect, quite bluntly, was the fact that something this raucous was even going on in southern Vermont. I’d been a resident of the state for nearly two years at that point, and was used to covering classical and folk musicians –- the “sit and politely absorb” milieu. Brattleboro had yet to experience its renaissance in youthful entertainment that’s occurred since then.

     The third was their sheer sonic inventiveness: bluegrass covers of Michael Jackson, Stone Temple Pilots and Phish; humorous originals such as “You Freak Me Out.” Since then, Jatoba –- vocalist, mandolin and sitar player John Jamison; vocalist, guitarist and banjoist Jason Scaggs; and vocalist and bassist Jeff Richardson –- have become regional sensations. The uniqueness, the sense of community, and the all-out party of that winter show indeed had larger implications, and with the release of their debut CD in March, “Death, Fire and Picnic Tables,” Jatoba are forever emblazoned into the annals of Vermont’s music scene, whatever the future might hold.

     Jatoba, who formed in 2007, throw their first New Year’s Eve show on Saturday at the beautiful Stone Church, 210 Main St. in Brattleboro. The event begins at 8 p.m., features three sets, is 18-plus, and is BYOB with ID. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Find more information at www.jatobamusic.net.

Jatoba

By Melissa Brodeur

Vermont is certainly known for it's organic products - and now you can add the acoustic bluegrass trio, Jatoba, to that respected grocery list.   

How has living in VT influenced your music?


When you walk around every day in a large city, you may be stressed out, so that could reflect in your music and sound crass. When I first moved back to Vermont, I had alot of time and alot of silence to be able to reflect and write really soft songs. You could go to different gatherings in the woods and not feel like you have to compete with alot of other bands, or music or a "scene" to get a place to play.  We could write what we wanted as opposed to living in a large city where you have to write a hit song just get a gig. One thing I like is everything is so close, so we can play a show in Brattleboro and tell people we are playing the next gig in Burlington and chances are we will see them again at that show. 

What is one piece of advice about being in a band that will always stay with you?

Communication between band members is so important. Talk and be honest. 
 
What method has worked for you best in getting your music and name out to the people?

Playing live shows! We have a pretty righteous promotion team - we are constantly plugging Jatoba over the internet so people are seeing it more, and word of mouth.
 
What was it like to meet David Grisman?

It was cool to meet a legend.
 
What are some albums you like to listen to while traveling to gigs?

Radiohead, God Ween Satan, STP - Purple, and Mitch Hedburg
 
Can you tell us about each of your strengths and weakness's and how that benefits the band?

Our biggest strength is we are fully aware and recognize our weakness's. 
 
What are some of your hobbies other than music?

Being a Dad, frisbee golf, poetry. 
 
You play some really great covers in "Jatoba style." How do you choose them?

We choose the most non-recognizable towards bluegrass as possible.  We just listen to the songs and say " we can play this."  They are very spur of the moment ideas. We are actually looking for a Radiohead song to cover and are taking suggestions, except: Creep, Karma Police or Fake Plastic Trees, we love those songs, just don't want to play them. So send your suggestions to jatobamusic@gmail.com 

What was the last show you saw that you really enjoyed?

The Buddhahood of Groove 
 
Music is what % heart and what % skill? 

There is more involved then heart and skill like patience and thought, but Jatoba rides heavy on the heart

For more info see:  http://www.myspace.com/jatobamusic

Jatoba will be returning to Nectar’s this month to perform part of the afternoon/evening  line-up for Mardi Gras. They take the stage at 4 pm.

Photo Credit: Selena Hodom

The group is leading the way in a new genre of music that really defines a Vermont-inspired sound. It is a combination of bluegrass and newgrass; a style that they call groovegrass.

Band member John Jamison took some time to answer a few of my questions in anticipation of their upcoming show at Nectar’s. The group hails from Brattleboro and if you have a chance to see them this weekend at Nectars, you will experience something special.

Here’s what Michael Shurtz, Billboard Magazine’s former Editorial Cartoonist had to say about Jatoba:

“This sound is evidence of their own language in the making. Guitars, one for each ear, speak clearly in voices within mystic whispers. The Double Bass brings tones from the underground, collectively creating lyrics from language’s transmitting like train rails and smoke signals, canyon echoes and signals through telegraph wires. Their poetic formations fly from Colorado to the North east.”

The interview follows:

Could you discuss your musical background?

Well we all have very different yet very eclectic musical backgrounds. Jason and I are both from Southwestern Virginia so we grew up with bluegrass in our bones. I speak for all 3 of us when I say that we are always searching out new music. We have all been in various bands before but this one is all acoustic as opposed to electric. AND NO DRUMMER! That makes load in pretty easy haha. I like to bring a little bit Eastern music into the mix and I have studied the sitar as well as guitar and mandolin. Jeff has a jazz background and a vast knowledge of theory so that helps. He plays the Double Bass in JATOBA. He also pretty much remembers every song he has ever learned, even from high school! Jason brings a very eclectic rhythmic style that is very unique and he utilizes lots of really interesting techniques, tunings and style. All three of us compose and sing as well.

What is “groovegrass” for those who may not know?

“Groovegrass” is what we have come to call our genre of music. We aren’t typical bluegrass. Brian Joy, the publisher from Cider Mag, has recently described it in a simple equation. “Bluegrass+Newgrass=Groovegrass. Although we have lots of roots in traditional bluegrass music we tend to compose songs that aren’t your average 4/4 compositions. We bring in an array of many different influences. We can very easily fall into a groove where Jason will beatbox and we get about as far away from bluegrass as possible but somehow we manage to bring it back. We like to keep people on their toes(and dancing).

Describe your approach to songwriting as a collective group.

Either Jason or I will bring a song to the table that we have been working on at home. We first go through it musically and smooth it out a bit. We tend to “Jatobify” it, taking out a part here, re-working a section there. Then we add vocal harmonies. The interesting thing is that we all bring something to the table, hold our own weight and we don’t let our egos get in the way of the writing. We all take criticisms objectively for they are usually whats best for the group and for the song. Usually if two out of the three of us are for a particular change then we go with majority rules.

What inspires you to create music?

Being able to write something that speaks in a language other than words, with each other and with the audience. The feeling of pouring your heart into a piece of music and seeing people genuinely enjoying it. There is no feeling greater, in my opinion, than the collective energy exchange and conversation that happens between a band and their audience. I’ve also been starting to dabble in a story telling approach to song writing. It’s been a growing interest of mine to delve into that style. Int’s interesting creating a “different world” and creating unique characters within that world.

Influences?

JATOBA’S Influences, Andreas Kapsalis Trio, Bela Fleck, Peter Rowan, Blind Melon, Radiohead, Martin Sexton, Pink Floyd,Thievery Corp, Air, WEEN, Martin Sexton, John Mcglaughlin, Alex Gray, Frank Zappa, Thom Yorke, Kings of Convienence, TOOL, David Grisman, Victor Wooten, Greg Brown, Taarka, Thamusement, Chick Corea, Don Ross, Phish, Curtis Mayfield, Ray Lamontagne, Amos Lee, Nirvana, Grateful Dead, John Prine, Darrel Scott, John Hartford, Old Crow Medicine Show, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Simon&Garfunkle, Ali Akbar Khan, Derek Trucks, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Primus, Leo Kottke, Mike Gordon, Keller Williams, Allman Brothers, Railroad Earth, Andrew Byrd, Nickel Creek, The Beatles, Beck, Phish, Medeski Martin & Wood, John Scofield, Old and In the way, Sufjan Stevens, Susumu Yokota, Ravi Shankar, Tabla Beat Science, Yonder Mountain String Band, David Byrne, Shpongle, Dave Brubeck, The Talking Heads, The Flaming Lips, The Doors, Citizen Cope, The Wood Brothers…..And the list goes on….and…..on…..and…..on

Can you discuss the role of improvisation and your overall approach to live shows?

Improvisation plays an important part to our sound. Although we do not rely on it to get through a show. We DO NOT want to be coined as a jam bad either. When we do improvise it feels more like we are trying to be one entity with 6 arms and 6 ears! We have dynamic musical conversations that can change on a dime. We all listen intently so that we may pick up on each other’s slight nuances and overtime we have been able to predict where one another is heading. Its quite an amazing experience to be a part of when it clicks and can add a whole different dynamic to the show.

Where can people find your music?

www.jatobamusic.net

And if you search youtube for Jatoba Music there are some videos that people have posted.

Anything you would like to add?

Jatoba will be releasing their first full length studio album, “Death, Fire and Picnic Tables” on Saturday, March 26th @ The Stone Church in Brattleboro, VT. Hope to see you there!

JATOBA, Vermont’s Smokin’ Groove-Grass Trio to Perform at Nectar’s

February 27, 2011

JATOBA returns to Nectar’s with their “True Sound of Vermont” on March 5.

Take three very talented young men and hand each a set of strings, add quirky and interesting lyrics and eye-popping harmonies. Don’t forget the wall-to-wall crowds of fans singing along with every tune. There is an anticipation that only precedes a very select amount of musicians. This band and their new CD ‘Death Fire and Picnic Tables’ carry that anticipation. Jatoba encompasses all that you expect from an amazing musical experience. A sound that just may be the new voice of Vermont music. A sound that is described as “bluegrass without boundaries.”
Jatoba’s “blue-grass + new-grass = groove-grass” abilities create a sound that is all their own. Stand up bass that keeps the story moving in all the right rhythms. Guitars, banjos, and mandolins that proudly declare character, creativity and fun. At times, it’s difficult to believe there are only three.

Because Jatoba carries their own musical genre along for the ride, it would be a poor bet to say there is anyone out there that wouldn’t enjoy a serving or three of Jatoba. Even the most dedicated and stubborn genre elitist will find their toes tapping in sync with everyone else. Groove-Grass does not define Jatoba, Jatoba defines Groove-Grass. It would be hard challenged to findanother band doing this same thing.

Jatoba at Nectar's on February 11.

Photo credit: Brett Lupfer Copyright

2011 All rights reserved. http://www.brettlupfer.com/

March of 2011 begins a new chapter in the story of Jatoba, with the long awaited first studio CD release, “Death, Fire and Picnic Tables”. With the massive popularity of their live CDs, ‘The Jatoba Witness, A guide to…Volumes 1-3’, Jatoba’s first venture into the studio with mastering, production, and sound professionals backing them, is sure to be one of the most sought after local recordings in recent memory. Old favorites, new creations, and the always familiar Jatoba sound simply cannot result in anything less than the masterpiece they have strived to achieve.

There’s nothing southern, west coast, or Middle America about it. Jatoba is set to put the Vermont music scene in the spotlight on a whole new level. You’re welcome to come along for the ride. All you need is some comfortable dancing shoes, a sense of humor, and appreciation for really good music. Jatoba will take care of the rest. So be sure to catch them at Nectar’s, March 5th.

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