My “First” Roosevelt Collier Sighting – Bear Creek 2009
My first Bear Creek was in 2009. The lineup, as always, was stacked to the sky: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Lettuce, Cadillac Jones, Lotus, Steve Kimock, Toubab Krewe, Greenhouse Lounge, Lotus, Trombone Shorty, and dozens more.
I am a huge Shak Nasti fan. Let archive.org be your friend if you are unfamiliar. Tim Turner, guitar and vocals, Matt Lapham bass and witty asides, and Rion Smith, drums have been together since at least 2005. We had already seen them nine times that year alone and were stoked to see them open up Friday on the Amphitheater Stage. They were brilliant.
Here is the link. Steve Bazley, one of the great tapers, recorded this! It was also recorded by Digital Soundboard and sold there at the festival.
After their set, Turner lamented that “Roosevelt couldn’t get here in time for the set.” Which meant nothing to me… at the time. He said they were hoping to play an extra set somewhere on Saturday.
At the time, Bear Creek Music & Arts Festival at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park utilized six stages: a tent in the meadow, Uncle Charlie’s Porch Stage, the campground stage, the amphitheater, and two inside the Music Hall: the main one and another at the back of the hall.
Turner had arranged to play a set at 2:30 p.m. on that smaller back stage Saturday, excited to be playing with Roosevelt Collier. Turns out I had seen Collier once before, at the Wanee Music Festival that year, when it was held in June, with The Lee Boys.
Also joining them was tenor saxophonist Ras Trent Spears, who had played with Burning Spear, the Wailers, the Itals and others. Fortunately, Daryl Wolff (the force behind the AURA Music and Arts Festival (of blessed memory and keyboard wizard of Tand) recorded the show and uploaded it to archive.org.
Collier asks, “Y’all ready?” And the quintet launches into “Little Old Money Maker,” a Meters tune. Ras Trent solos first, followed by Collier and then Turner. It was a perfect choice to get everybody locked in. Lapham and Smith are killin’ on bass and drums.
Next up is a jam Turner referred to as “On the Way,” a Collier composition. We’ve seen him return to this song over the years, most recently at a show at Dunedin Brewery in. Turner has a brilliant solo before Ras Trent does the same. He was a great addition to this set. Lapham is walking all over the place, so incredible. Then Collier digs in. Everything he does is soulful, but this reaches out and grabs you. At some point, Smith heaps on the funk from his drum kit as the jam elevates. They all blow it sky-high (and that is a short ceiling back there in the Music Hall!).
Next up are two Shak Nasti tunes, both stretched out to 20 and 18 minutes respectively. “Treelocks” is one of Shak Nasti’s best songs, and this version gets ridiculous in a hurry. Turner is an outstanding singer, and this showcases him so well. Lapham and Smith are in lockstep, of course, and Collier and Ras Trent fall quickly in line. Lapham romps before Turner takes the first solo, sometimes scatting along with his playing.
Ras Trent goes next, first quoting Manu DiBango’s “Soul Makossa” and later Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” This was an inventive solo with some great free jazz elements and a nod to Junior Walker. Lapham struts as Collier joins the conversation. Lapham is all over the place (“Spider Fingers”), and Collier hits some space elements before the two of them try to tear the building down. Turner repeats the chorus before they shut this jam down.
Roosevelt says, “I see more than 12 people came in!” With that, they begin “Monster,” the only repeat from Friday’s superb set. This one wraps itself around Smith’s polyrhythms and a repeated guitar figure. Turner takes a very laid-back solo at first, and then Collier reinserts himself subtly. Turner then turns up the heat for a blistering second half of his solo, Smith with his foot on the gas.
Ras Trent’s solo flows with ideas, including quotes from a variety of songs including “Salt Peanuts” and “Summertime.” It too is low-key, bringing the jam back down to simmer for a moment before the temperature cranks back up. Then it’s Collier time. He too begins in a mellow tone briefly, but Lapham and Smith push him ahead, and Collier responds.
“Frying Pan” is just an all-out, balls-to-the-wall rocker. You could sing any number of lyrics on top of this music. Turner barks out the vocals before the fun starts. Turner rips a solo first, then Collier romps. The band is raving behind him. At 4:30, Lapham and Smith start picking up the pace as Ras Trent honks on top of the melee. The jam gets tighter and faster. Smith speedshifts up again at 6:10, and this gets, in the vernacular, stoopid. Smith soars before bringing it back down to earth.
I would end up seeing Collier again before the end of the festival: with Donna Hopkins and then with Yonrico Scott.
What a spectacular formal introduction to Roosevelt Collier!
Epilogue: I have had the pleasure of hearing Roosevelt in dozens upon dozens of settings over the years, especially with this trio. Shak Nasti is the band I have seen more than any other, and Matt Lapham is the musician I have heard more than any other.