Back in Richmond Va for Jazz is Phish, this time with the addition of Felix Pastorius, son of famed bass player, Jaco Pastorius. Felix is an amazing addition to this lineup and I was excited to see him perform. If you haven't seen Jaco, get on Netflix right now and watch it, it's one of those documentaries that change your perspective on music and specifically how the bass guitar was played.
I had only seen Jazz is Phish once before this show and I had a great time dancing with friends and socializing to Phish songs, but this time seemed different. The band seemed more together musically, and from the very first notes, I knew this would be quite a different experience.
The band began steadily, taking “First Tube” into spanish territory, with hip shaking, salsa sounds and rhythms. It was a great way to get the show started and more people seemed to pile in as the song raged on.
The band went into an eerie and slowed down, “Story Of The Ghost.” The horns seemed stiff but they worked through it, huddling up and talking it out. Stand out solos from keyboardist, Josh Thomas who always seems to be the life of the party, grinning and having a good time.The horns blast in with, “Carini” my favorite Phish song, they really made it their own and I just love to hear “Carini” anywhere, anytime. “Lawn Boy” was next, which seemed slower than the original, with added jazzy undertones.
“46 days” was led by the horns, with solos, true to the jazz standard. Felix filling in wherever he can like a true professional, sitting in the back, being inconspicuous but his prowess as a bassist is unquestionable. His playing ability drove the other members to try even harder and to play at their very best. Great onstage interactions between Felix and Josh, calling each other out when they missed notes and just genuinely having fun; this resonates with the audience. When the band is having fun, so is the crowd.
Not a bad “Wilson,” it always seems to get the crowd participating and who can’t help but yell, “WILSON! WILSON! WILSON!” but the horns need to do more work! A fairly straightforward, “Weigh” into, “Moma Dance” which seemed like the crowd favorite, as I was pushed to the back of the venue by some butt play; a random drunko trying to do, “The Bump” with me; talk about personal space invader! This guy couldn't keep his hands off me; I guess he liked what he saw. I however am not into ogrish, unpleasant churls.
I can't imagine how difficult it must be to play covers and try to morph them into something familiar but at the same time completely different. Jazz is Phish not only covers these songs but they jam them out, as if weaving in and out of the song like a spider making a web, perfectly placing every strand where it needs to go, taking pieces of each song off into different directions from the focal point, or the composition itself. I'd truly like to see what the Chase Brothers could do with their own songs and arrangements.
During “Bathtub Gin,” the horn players kept having an onstage pow wow, I even saw the trombone player tell the Trumpet player, “This is Bathtub.” I guess thats how different each song can be, and perhaps they were taking it so far out, that even the band members didn’t know where it was going and that's what true improvisation is all about. “Bathtub” turned into a great afro-beat-like jam with a great sax solo reminiscent of Fela himself.
I am not sure what the next song was, I believe it was an older instrumental Phish song but the band went into the most traditional jazz swing that I have heard them play, it sounded reminiscent of Weather Reports/Jacos “Teen Town.” The similarities were undeniable and Felix took a long solo that had me awestruck. I couldn't help but yell out, “TEEN TOWN!”
“Gumbo” got all Pink Floydish with Matthew Chase shredding it, showing off his guitar chops in various forms throughout the performance. The core four of Jazz is Phish that night were so tight and together: bass/Felix Pastorius, drums/Adam Chase, keyboards/Josh Thomas, Guitar/Matt Chase, I applaud all of you. They were so in sync with one another musically and mentally, it truly showed. Great work all around.
Encore: “Julius” No notes needed.
Talking with the guys after the show Adam Chase and I were discussing Felix and his natural abilities on the bass. “He is one of my favorite bassist to work with. I would take him over some of the most well known bass players in the world, as a drummer he is always right there and knows exactly what to do next, instinctually. Felix takes this band to the next level.”
Felix Pastorius towers over me and I'm 6'2. I was eager to meet him and express my astonishment at his playing ability. He seemed reserved and humble. I hope that Felix joins more Jazz is Phish shows and perhaps we will even see him enter the Jam Band scene more regularly. I embrace him with open arms and include him in my top bass players to see live.
With a new album out, Jazz is Phish is really pushing to get recognized and they should be. When I can't get my Phish fix, I will surely go to Jazz is Phish for a taste. I hope to grab a copy of their album soon and I may possibly do a review, we shall see what the future holds. I know Jazz is Phish are going to be gaining a lot more followers and supporters if they continue to play like that. If you love Phish and horns then you have to check this band out.
May The Jam Gods Be With You,
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.