Brilliant Night with Joe Marcinek, Nikki Glaspie, Tony Hall, Shaun Martin & Eric Gales
If you are familiar with Joe Marcinek, you know he runs around the country assembling bands of A-listers for a couple of shows here, a couple of shows there. The database of musicians who have graced the stage with him is lengthy and overwhelming.
So it would be tempting to claim that the band he assembled to record his upcoming album JMB4 and play a show on Saturday, February 20, is the best Joe Marcinek Band configuration ever. I don’t cotton to the concept of best, so let’s just say this:
Marcinek has never put together a band better than with Nikki Glaspie (The Nth Power) on drums, Tony Hall (Dumpstaphunk) on bass, and Shaun Martin (Snarky Puppy, Shaun Martin’s Three-O). And everybody sang.
The original plan was for everyone to assemble in Winter Park, Florida, on Thursday, then head to Full Sail University to record the album Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with that show at The New Standard in Winter Park Saturday night. That bitchin’ Texas storm had other plans, however. Glaspie and Martin were delayed getting out of the ice and snow, shelving the Friday plans. The recording did get completed, fortunately, and the show was… well, the show was completely off the charts.
The New Standard lives up to its name. This is a gorgeous venue with a great stage, superb lighting, state-of-the-art four-camera video system, spectacular food, and the determination to support the music at all costs.
The first set began with five new Marcinek instrumental compositions which will appear on the new album. The quartet opened with “Lyrid,” soulful jazz funk. Marcinek and Martin stood out. Marcinek stuck with his hollow-body electric and evoked some gorgeous jazzy chords from it all night long. If the only song they had played Saturday was “Dance Factory,” it would have been enough. Dayenu. This tune follows in the footsteps of “George Washington” from Slink!, Marcinek’s 2016 sophomore solo album, and “Mojo” from JMIII (2018). This was positive brilliance all the way around. Glaspie and Hall as a rhythm section are magnificent together, the funk deeper than deep. Marcinek and Martin played a duet, and then it was Martin time.
If you had asked me who was my favorite all-time keyboard player — before Saturday — I would have said George Duke. Now, it’s a toss-up. I had seen Martin perform previously, but this night he was simply jaw-droppingly astonishing. His Hammond B3 solo is probably the finest I’ve ever heard, and he also worked out on clavinet. Marcinek concurs! He later confided: “Shaun is my favorite musician alive!!!!! Any instrument”
They slowed the pace way down for “Sweet Sweet,” a song that matches its name. Martin began on synth and also played B3. Glaspie owned this one with her deft touches on drum kit. They followed that with “Yes,” a tune that bridged the gap between The Meters and The Grateful Dead. Hall had two masterful solos.
The final new song of the set, “JF Blues,” was indeed down and dirty blues. And it got a lot dirtier when guitar phenom Eric Gales joined the proceedings with some ridiculous shredding. Martin quoted “Give Up the Funk” on B3 at some point. That B3 washed over everything all night long.
Gales (thankfully) stayed on stage as Marcinek provided the opening chords to “Shaky Ground.” Hall was singing, with Glaspie backing up. Martin soloed first, then Marcinek before Gales simply exploded. He stopped briefly to praise a young man in the audience, then counted the band back in. Hall soloed before the jam eventually drifted into “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” Martin leading Glaspie and Hall and then everybody on vocals. Set break well deserved.
The two Texans continually sent this evening over the top. Glaspie makes the best faces looking back and forth at her bandmates, and Martin loves to throw in quotes and bits and lyrics all over the place. They were like children finally able to go out and play, which is probably about right.
Set two was a different kettle of fish after the opener, “George Washington.” I’ve heard this tune at least a score of times, but this was by far the greatest, and you can blame Hall and Glaspie for that. They CRUSHED it. OK, Martin too. Martin bounced from synth to electric piano and then Hammond B3. And Marcinek’s solo was different than any “G.W.” outing as well. Hall soloed next. And then it was the Nikki Glaspie Show — a true force of nature.
Marcinek called Roosevelt Collier to the stage for the Allman Brothers classic “Dreams,” sung again by Hall and Glaspie. As if there were not enough fire power on stage already, up stepped Saunders Sermons, trombone player formerly with Tedeschi Trucks Band. They dug deep into the tune, and of course Martin found time to veer the jam into “Don’t Stop (Until You Get Enough).”
Gales came back, and it was a free-for-all jam, a straight-up house party on “When I’m Kissing My Love.” He put on a clinic for certain! Hall then told one of his favorite stories about growing up and listing to, among many favorites, Buddy Miles’ cover of “Down by the River.” Martin twisted it for a while into Rick James’ “Mary Jane” and “Gigolos Get Lonely Too” by The Time. Solos: Martin, Marcinek, Sermons.
Martin then had an explosion of his own with what we’ll call “The Shaun Martin GoGo Party.” Hall went off stage, and Gales picked up the bass for this segment. It was a wild event.
It only seemed logical that they close with “Shakedown Street.” By this point, we were down to the original quartet plus Gales. It was a short version, and then Gales led them into “Superstition,” which he sang. Sermons was back for more trombone.
Marcinek thanked everyone, but Martin wasn’t done. He started playing the organ, and Glaspie shot him one of those looks. If you’ve seen her, you know exactly what I mean. The two of them proceeded to take us to church with “I Won’t Complain.” That is a 1996 tune Glaspie says is one of her all-time favorites. We can see why!
Two things I wish I had known further in advance. One: the Tommy Shugart Trio was added as an opener, only announced mid-afternoon. We caught only the last two song of their set. Two: Saunders Sermons was playing Gospel Brunch Sunday at noonish. Note to self: research even further!
Nate Landwer produced the performance at The New Standard with his team consisting of Joey Crochet as the Lead Sound Engineer, Brad Barnard as Videographer, and Madison Delaney as the Lighting Engineer. Many thanks to Tim Tuech for the outstanding photographs!
[SETLIST: ONE: Lyrid, Dance Factory, Sweet Sweet, Yes, JF Blues, Shaky Ground > Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) ; TWO: George Washington, Dreams, When I’m Kissing My Love, Down by the River, Shaun Martin’s GoGo Medley, Shakedown Street, I Won’t Complain]