The Barry Mando Project To Jazzify South Park Tavern
By Nick Schwab
Any form of progressive art acts like a tidal wave that moves towards the future with indifference. The age-old cliché may be that jazz music died after that first early 20th century explosion but, like in other forms of music, the architects of jazz rebuild and reconstruct their work to be used as a temple for future generations.
Much like a religious text, it can also be reinterpreted to forever suit the modern rather than the regressive. One such jazz act, that has its sights on the future rather than yesteryear, is the Barry Mando Project. The improvisational three-piece band shows that they will not conform to the genre’s traditions and motifs.
“We’re definitely not traditional jazz,” said Mando’s Danny Williams. “There’s some nods to the past, since we listen to that music, but we’re not that at all.”
Williams, who forms the band with acoustic and electric bass player Danny Cecil and drummer Paul Deatherage, originally wanted to craft a band that utilizes his “unique” instrument: a five-string Baritone Mandolin.
The Baritone Mandolin, a type of plucked instrument in the lute family, may be a bit odd for a jazz band, but the Project also gives a few unique, intriguing descriptions of their style.
On the bands Myspace page (www.myspace.com/thebarrymandoproject) they describe their art as a “Jazz Power Trio.“
“We’re not a sit-down band. We play a danceable, ‘get up and shake your booty’ type music,” clarified Williams. “We have a modern approach to it. We may have a few tunes that swing, but I really like to write tunes that are funkier and have more grooves. I am very eclectic in my music tastes.”
He is eclectic indeed, even in how he wants to describe the Project at a particular moment. Williams described them as “improvisational music.” Then later on, he told of their “jam band element.”
“Art is so subjective it is hard to pinpoint what other people get out of it,” he said about his artfully emitted emotions. “There’s happy and sad and a bit of mad in our music: it runs the emotional gamut.”
This bipolar feeling is an important element to Williams’ style and even the music he listens to.
“[Music] needs an emotional contrast,” he said. “If it doesn’t, I get bored.”
When speaking with Williams, it is clear that this unsure, scattershot attitude is a product of both a true music fan and a genuine artist. Ask him what he likes about jazz and you can almost hear the gleam in his eye through his answer.
“I love the improvising that comes along with [jazz]. You can really put your stamp on it; it’s extremely creative music,” he said. “I love the rich harmonic melodies too: the lush, thick chords.”
Having just mastered their first album, an EP, the Barry Mando Project are eagerly awaiting to get it heard.
“You write some tunes and you put them out there, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” he admitted. “You may take it off the set list if it does not get a good crowd reaction and you rework it and tweak it.”
While Williams hopes for a reaction to his music, he admits he can’t always expect it to be positive. “They don’t have to like it,” he said. “But I hope they respond to it.”
However, the Project mainly measures their success against themselves.
“It’s about how it feels when we play,” Williams said.
The six-song album took seven hours to record, with four or five takes of each tune and minimal overdubs. According to Williams, they were the six strongest tunes they had at the time.
An addition to this collection that hasn’t been seen in past Project work is a song featuring vocals.
“The vocal song is called ‘With Or Without’ and it has a very modern R&B, neo-soul kind of groove to it,” said Williams. He then spoke about the lyrics.
“It’s a very short verse about a guy into a girl, and in the song his friends and family are telling him he shouldn’t be, but his feelings are telling he should be with her,” he described. “Then the chorus turns a bit saying that they should take it slow.”
Williams hopes the Project will be known for their live show, as well. They thrive on live improvisation.
“(Deatherage) described a live show like it’s a picture frame,” Williams said. “Then we get to put what we want inside that picture frame.”
So, with the release date looming, it may be too early and too subjective to say if the Barry Mando Project will or will not revive the genre. At the very least, they add to the list of bands that will play jazz’s elliptical funeral.
The Barry Mando Project will play at South Park Tavern on Saturday, April 23.
Reach DCP freelance writer Nick Schwab at firstname.lastname@example.org