By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
Releases: Feel the Heat (Siente el Calore) (1996)
P.S. Four of this band's six members are originally from Nogales, Mexico.
Grant Man and Island Beat
Note: Warm and soulful, Grant Man and his band play authentic, earnest roots reggae in the key of Jah.
Quote: "Let love be at the forefront of all."--band motto
BTW: Man was born and raised in Liberia.
Note: Bottom-heavy punk/ska with the traditional elements of upright bass, trombone and trumpet.
Quote: "We're just five average guys playing above-average music."--Micah Huerta, trombonist
BTW: None of the members of Kongo Shock has a day job.
Walt Richardson and Morning Star
Note: White-sand-and-coconut-oil blend of Caribbean reggae and Latin pop, with echoes of African world beat.
Quote: "I feel like the music is medicine. It's a holistic experience for audience and performer alike--definitely a shared thing."--Walt Richardson, lead vocalist
BTW: Richardson often performs acoustic sets around the Valley with singer/guitarist Hannes Kvaran. Kvaran will likely make an appearance at some point during Richardson's showcase set.
Note: Triple-espresso, dance-or-go-home ska with flavor shots of funk and gleaming sax solos.
Quote: "Ska bonds a lot of race gaps and age groups together. Also, it has a dance beat so it draws a lot of women. And when you've got women, you've got men."--Jesse Ribyat, unofficial band spokesperson
BTW: Warsaw is one of three bands clearly responsible for breaking ska in Arizona. The other two are Kongo Shock and Dave's Big Deluxe. Dave couldn't be with us today because he's from Tucson (this is a Valley-only affair).
Note: Jamaican guitarist Zebbhi Niyah worked as a session man with both Rita and Ziggy Marley before he moved to Phoenix three years ago.
Quote: "We try to reach beyond the usual reggae crowd. Every time we play, we make new fans."--Zebbhi Niyah
BTW: "Zebbhi" is a reference to the Israelite tribe of Zebulon. "Niyah" is Jamaican for a close friend or family member.
Lady J and Blues Ratio
Note: Don't let the name fool ya. This band blurs the line between jazz and R&B, but the Ratio is about 3:1.
Quote: "We're a spicy mixture of everything. It just depends on who we're playing for."--Lady J
BTW: Watch for the mother/daughter one-two combo of Maxine Johnson and moms Lady J.
Nuance Jazz Ensemble
Note: Nuance puts a plugged-in spin on Thelonious Monk and pre-fusion Miles Davis, along with originals that hopscotch among standard jazz, bebop and world beat.
Quote: "Essentially, what we try to do is place classical jazz into a modern context."--Steve Sorenson, guitarist
BTW: Sorenson used to back up Ella Fitzgerald.
Odd Man Out
Note: Progressive jazz originals accented by a few Monk and Coltrane standards.
Quote: "It's real simple. Three words: original, modern, jazz."--Bryon Ruth, saxophonist
BTW: Unlike most jazz combos, this band is run as a creative collective, with no leader in name or deed.
Note: Roberson's voice is honey, smoke and sin, and she's a clever arranger who makes jazz standards her own. Sometimes she plays with just a drummer and piano player, sometimes a standup bass man, too.
Quote: "I realized a few years ago that if I'm not singing, I'm dying inside."--Sherry Roberson
BTW: Roberson sings in English, Spanish, Japanese and Yoruba, an African dialect. She's a Buddhist.
Note: Stoner funk that leaps and drifts from deep, blissed-out grooves to incendiary instrumental breaks. Front man Ben Gilley has wizard's fingers on the bass.
Quote: "We call what we play 'stinkasmokafunkagrooverama.'"--Ben Gilley
Releases: Dillywagon (1996)
BTW: This band throws unbelievable after-parties. As in, good luck peeling yourself off the pillows to un-be-leave.
Note: This band's got a sick horn section and grooves so fat they should come with a calorie counter. Whiskey-voiced front woman Tiffany Sullivan pogos between a smoky croon and Janis Joplinesque keens.
Quote: "We want to make something beautiful and meaningful--not meaningful in any political or cosmic sense, just an artistic one."--Travis Brinster, guitarist
Releases: More Soul Than a Rabbit Factory (1996)
BTW: Polliwog spent 18 months and $20,000 on its debut CD.
Note: Stone Circle fuses jazz, funk and rock, with an emphasis on melodic bass lines that stand out in get-on-up jams like "Beyond Your Dreams" and "Funky Blue Monkey."
Quote: "We're all about enjoying life."--Sherrie Petersen, lead vocalist
Releases: Beyond Your Dreams (1996)
P.S. Stone Circle sells condoms at its shows with wrappers that show a monkey with a banana between its legs and the logo: "Funky Blue Monkey . . . Wrap Yours."
Note: Tempe trio that plays bluesy, pumped-up funk hinging on tight drum/bass grooves and front man Josh Prior's frenetic mike prowess.
Quote: "The combination of everything we put into our music is something nobody else has tapped into. We're proud of that--doing something original."--Josh Prior
P.S. Yoko Love has three songs about pimps.