A variety of sounds featured at first Summer Send-Off

By on September 5, 2017

The Record Company jams. (Kip Tabb)

After JJ Grey and Mofro closed the Summer Send-off at Roanoke Island Festival Park (RIFP) on Wednesday evening there was a question running through my mind.

Is the band jazz, funk, rock, blues maybe even a little country?

And the answer is, it doesn’t matter. All that matters is JJ Grey and Mofro is good. Really, really good.

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There was bit of a rain delay, but the worst of the storms that rolled through skirted RIFP, and after waiting 15 or 20 minutes the band took the stage.

From the first crisp, tight funky beat and great harmonica lead Grey plays in “How Junior Got His Head Put Out,” there was no doubt — this was going to be a special night of music.

Grey started the set thanking everyone for staying, although not everyone was willing to chance the weather of an outdoor venue. Too bad so many people left because what they missed was a top performer, composer and lyricist at the top of his game with a band that was able to match his performance note for note, nuance for nuance.

JJ Grey is a master storyteller. Within those stories, though, are relevant and important observations on life. He writes about race, he writes about violence, he writes about life.

Raised in Florida, he is in love with the northern part of the state, in Lochloosa, many of his themes come together. A beautiful slow hand blues song, the words speak to wanting to go to that one special place that is home and the feeling of impending loss.

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JJ Grey. Marcus Parsley (trumpet), Zach Gilbert (guitar).

“Lord have mercy knows, how much I love it
Every mosquito every rattlesnake
Every cane break, everything
Every alligator every blackwater swamp
Every freshwater spring – everything
All we need is one more damn developer
Tearing her heart out…”

If the lyrics inform his songs, it is the music that sells them and the performance Wednesday night was outstanding on a number of levels. Traveling with two trumpets, drummer, keyboard, bass and guitar, Grey’s arrangements are complex, with a full, rich sound.

“Orange Blossoms” is a wonderful song about young love, passion and the memory of orange blossoms. It’s not that complex at first, but because there are so many pieces to create the sound he wants, layers and textures are added to the music.

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The trumpet solo by Marcus Parsley is crisp and crystal clear; Zach Gilbert lays down a funky blues lead on guitar. The result is the song becomes much more shaded and interesting.

It would not be fair to write about the Summer Send-off Bash without mentioning the other acts on stage.

Ruth Wyand and the Tribe of One.

Ruth Wyand and the Tribe of One kicked things off. Every time I have see Ruth perform I am impressed with her skill, stage presence and professionalism. For anyone who has never seen her in person, check local listings and take the time to see what she brings to the stage.

The sun broke through the clouds just about the time the Travers Brothership took the stage. They had a nice jazzy jam feel to their music. They must have been baking on stage, because the sun was in their face, the humidity was up and there was no breeze.

The temperatures dropped a bit for The Record Company. But as the weather cooled off, the music stayed hot.

A classic rock trio—drum, guitar, bass—they were fantastic. Performing a wide selection of original music, they weren’t afraid to take some chances, moving seamlessly between ballads, slow hand blues and some good hard-driving rock. A real crowd pleaser, when they hit those rock beats, people were up and dancing.

Presented by Mike Dianna’s Bearded Face Productions, the Summer Send-off wraps up the first summer for the new company. Given the quality of this show and others he produced over the summer, hopefully this is the first of many years to come.

A portion of the proceeds from the show will help fund the Mustang Music Outreach Program that helps kids learn how to play and perform music.

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