And this musically spawned freedom was illustrated by the enthusiasm from concertgoers at the outset. Throwing a "Dog Log" on the fire was a perfect way to entice those in attendance to get down and dance. With instrumental takes on Phish staples such as "46 Days," "Fee," and "Weigh," the first set of this ensembles Brooklyn debut lived up to conjecture as they delved deep into the preeminent jam band's repertoire. The excitement was palpable, and the mood was loose as we traversed the peaks and valleys of each song together. It was apparent that the vast majority of the audience was well versed in their Phish lyrical knowledge, as they provided the vocal accompaniment while the band remained completely instrumental throughout each respective anthem. Just as the crowd sang along, it was clear they wouldn't be the only collaborators, as the band jammed onward with a handful of guests.
The first set alone featured appearances from the uniquely talented Holly Bowling tickling the ivories on "Wilson," to Chad Dinzes (of Strange Design and MSG organ playing fame) taking the very same place on energetic interpretations of "NICU," and "Julius."
With the first set at a close, it was readily apparent to spectators that this company of musically inclined Phish enthusiasts was on to something.
And as they hit the ground running for the second act, it was clear that this troupe has staying power in this industry if it desires to stick around. To our delight, Holly Bowling graced our presence once again for a rousing "Meat," succeeded by the main players funk filled take on "Moma Dance." The second set proved to be the tighter of the two, as the fledgling band found that sweet spot between orchestration and improvisation. While the ship appeared to be moving full steam ahead, we were all jolted into overdrive by the introduction of James Casey into the fray. Casey, riding the wide wave of the immensely successful Trey Anastasio Band fall tour, rounded out the band's horn section with a tenacious enthusiasm propelling the second set to its climactic conclusion on "Lawn Boy," and "Magilla." Closing out the evening, the collective took a musical bow with a well-executed "Camel Walk."
For the first night of its second run of shows, Jazz Is Phish exceeded showgoer expectations. Each member of the band carried an aura of individuality and charisma that was developed with their respective projects. Together, in what amounts to a dynamic super-group, they've managed to take their best traits and share in the groove that is Phish. Adam and Matthew Chase of Strange Design are prodigious replicators, yet with this new effort they've triumphed in taking the Phish repertoire to new and unexplored territories. With the help of a colossal collection of veteran musicians, from Michael Ray on trumpet, to Jeff Coffin on Sax, and those in between, this batch of brethren accomplished their aim in epic style, to which was eloquently stated by Anthony Wellington was "...to put [their] own spin on it." And with insight, imagination, ingenuity, inventiveness, and a dollop of perception, what may have once seemed like a flight of fancy was realized before an assembly of fervent phans.
With Christmas on the horizon the band incorporated a yuletide theme, involving teases throughout, and for many in the crowd this event acted as an informal introduction to the holiday season. Even on a greater level this concert served as a welcomed prelude to the intrepid New Years run of Phish shows to come. So what flows to mind reflecting upon this excellent evening of innovative and inspired Phish music is friends, family, shared passions, stellar song, love, and life. Jazz Is Phish, a new project, is made up of a group of musicians bound by a common sentiment. As this party of players continues to bond on stage and in the studio, their allegiance to each other will directly reflect in the music, and as their ties strengthen, so will the synchronicity that joins band and audience together. If the potency of their Brooklyn Bowl performance is any indication, Jazz Is Phish will be reaching towards the stars at a venue near you in the New Year.
Photos: Chason Heins
©Grateful Music LLC