Jimmy Herring Band
The Visulite Theater
November 18, 2010
Jimmy Herring has had a long career starting as a founding member in Bruce Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit in 1987, one of the great improvisational bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s. A fan of Steve Morse and the Dixie Dregs, a jazz fusion band based in Atlanta, as was ARU, Herring sharpened his chops listening to the great guitarists of the fusion movement. After ARU stopped touring, Herring played with many bands over the next 16 years. Amongst the ensembles to which he has lent his services over the years is a list that is fraught with improvisational royalty and includes Jazz Is Dead,The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh and Friends, and his current gig as Widespread Panic’s lead guitarist.
Though a majority of his career has been spent perfecting and playing the tunes of others, Herring decided to record his own work in 2008 on an album entitled Lifeboat. The members of that band were bassist Oteil and his keyboardist/flautist brother Kofi Burbridge, drummer Jeff Sipe, andGreg Osby on alto and soprano sax. The album is all instrumental and is has been a focal point on the current tour and so was the case in Charlotte.
The original members toured in 2008 in support of the release of Lifeboat. The 2010 touring band was comprised of keyboardist Matt Slocum, Neal Fountain on bass, and drummer Jeff Sipe. This short but intense tour held 7 shows in the Northest and 16 in the Southeast for a total of 23 in 30 days and marks only the second time that Herring has toured in support of his own work.
The touring band played mostly from the Lifeboat album, but with greater intensity and drive than on the album. The show was very mid 70’s jazz fusion– structured and melodic-with tonal hints of Jeff Beck’s style of play. There were blazing guitar sounds, and often just a guitar voicing the melody line. With an abundance of 5/4 and 7/4 time signatures and rampant time changes that occurred often and without warning, making every measure or two offered a challenge to the listener. The band would not be left behind in the wake of the searing guitar work of Herring. Rather, they ably kept up and in so doing they collectively provided a solid platform from which Herring could soar and wail through his solos.
The rarity of being able to hear and see Herring play his own work live makes catching a show on this run a rare treat. However, to see and hear it done with inexplicable musical perfection makes it something even more sweet. On its whole, it is something not to be missed.
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