Jessica Jones’ Motown Revue at Dunedin Brewery

Colorado chanteuse Jessica Jones enjoys assembling bands around the country to play a run of shows of a wide assortment of genres. Currently, she has descended upon Florida for a three-night run featuring Motown and other soul songs presented by Get Laws’t Entertainment. She had help putting together another crack outfit of musicians. This quartet centers on the keyboard wizardry of Marcus White (Voodoo Visionary, Marcus King Band). He is joined by three of the best players from Jacksonville: bassist Shane Platten (Melody Trucks Band, Ginger Beard Man), Jay Umlauf (Grindstone Sinners) on guitar, and drummer Jamal ‘Music City’ Wright. 

Opening night (October 21) of the run was at Dunedin Brewery. Tonight (October 22), the ensemble travels Sully’s Livewire in Melbourne, with Truphonic also on the bill. Sunday JJ and crew will blow it out at 1904 Music Hall in Jacksonville.

Umlauf was an interesting choice for this project. He is a brilliant rock shredder, not a funky rhythm guitarist. That dynamic changed the way the band approached many of the songs from the Motown canon and other soul favorites. The crowd certainly seemed pleased with the result.

Jones, statuesque in a gorgeous purple sequined gown with blond tresses falling on her shoulder, is clearly a fan of The Four Tops, selecting three of their songs to perform, beginning with “It’s the Same Old Song.” Platten and White provided backing vocals all night. The pattern often was for Umlauf and White to solo, varying the order.

Next they went to The Shirelles’ songbook for “Mama Said.” Platten and Jones later explained that the quartet had learned all the material and how to play it straight up, which then gave them the opportunity to improvise, such as the reggae breakdown they took.

For The Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hanging On,” Umlauf’s screaming guitar was perfect, following brilliant electric piano from White. We also witnessed the backbone of the quartet as Platten and Wright shoved it into overdrive. WOW!

They offered a relaxed version of “Sunny” (Bobby Hebb) which became stronger as the song progressed. Someone in the crowd asked about “Me and Mrs. Jones,” the Billy Paul hit. Jones and White played through a few bars of Me and Mr. Jones,” laughing all the while before admitting it was not a song the band had practiced. They returned to the setlist for another Four Tops smash “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” and then got dark and dirty on “I Put a Spell On You” (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins), Umlauf and White again out front.

There was no question about what song was next as White played an extended intro to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (The Temptations), with some great work from Wright before Jones sang, “It was the third of September…” This was the highlight of the first set. The jam got huge, centering on White and Wright (best performance I’ve ever heard from the drummer). Platten was his beastly self here and throughout the evening, so powerful on bass.

Somewhere along the line, Jones and White began singing those familiar lyrics from “Soul Makossa” (more familiar from MJ’s “Wanna Be Starting Something”), “Mama ko mama sa maka makossa.” Finally, Jones twisted the jam into one of her favorite mashup songs, bobby Caldwell’s “Open Your Eyes.” 

Wonderful first set.

Jones jumped headfirst into “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the original version by Gladys Knight and the Pips (actually, the first version was by The Miracles, but Berry Gordy nixed it). Umlauf and White did lots of interplay here, Umlauf’s best playing of the night in that funky rhythm mode. Next was The Supreme’s “My World is Empty Without You,” followed by “BEechwood 4-7648,” the hit by The Marvelettes.

Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” turned into a rave-up between White and Wright. Wright had a feature, and when the dust settled they had shifted to “Tears of a Clown” (The Miracles). White the Instigator teased “Funkytown.” The groove actually got very Dead-like with Umlauf in Garcia territory. Chris Sgammato had grabbed his alto saxophone and sat in.

The ballad offered next was simultaneously beautifully placed and a complete surprise: “Midnight,” the collaboration between Krhuangbin and Leon Bridges. Umlauf and Sgammato had nice solos here.

Jones announced that they had one more song left. There were numerous requests, but the group stuck with the playlist for The Four Tops’ “Standing in the Shadows of Love.” This was a kickass version that jammed for quite a while until White the Instigator began playing the chords for “Chameleon,” Herbie Hancock’s fusion masterpiece. Jones stood back of stage as the quartet blasted off, Sgammato and White soloing and Platten and Wright driving the jam into the stratosphere. As it drifted back toward Earth, White introduced a Latin vamp that maintained until the end of the track.

And… pandemonium. Last song? WE DON’T THINK SO!

As the band returned to the stand, Jones asked that the dance floor in front of the stage be cleared. That done, they jumped into a powerhouse “Rock Steady” (Jones’ motto, BTW). AND a young man who had been there all night, removed his hat and put on an astonishing and magnificent breakdance exhibition. That twirling on his neck? DAMN! Turns out he is Victor Dimaren. He danced with The Weeknd at the Super Bowl!


{Hoping that decent photographs will surface.]


[ONE: It’s the Same Old Song, Mama Said, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, Sunny, Me & Mr. Jones, Reach Out I’ll Be There, I Put a Spell On You, Papa Was a Rolling Stone > Open Your Eyes; TWO: I Heard It Through the Grapevine, My World is Empty Without You, Beechwood 4-5789, Uptight (Everything’s Alright) > Tears of a Clown, Midnight, Standing in the Shadows of Love > Chameleon; E: Rock Steady]

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