Precinct – in Union Square, Somerville, MA
Sunday, September 5th, 2010
BBC Lost Sailor IPA

I rolled up my socks and left for Union Square around 10pm, a quick walk downhill in temperate evening air. I was the first to get there, and the back of the bar was starting to show some life. The show was set to go on any minute. I made that awkward stroll through the whole spot to find potential friends, but instead of finding them I found an excellent place to sit during the entire show – SEA MONSTERS. The Labor Day Weekend let me have my fun for once on a Sunday.

My IPA was cold and delicious, crisp and hoppy. Over the next several sips I began to notice groups come together. Out of nowhere, my old neighbors Adam and Michele showed up, and with smiles and surprise we embraced and talked until my friends showed up. They told me all about the band, and how they only played at PRECINCT on Sunday Nights. Each band member had a side project they worked on professionally, and once a week they showed up to play a show together at this place only.

Christian McNeal

Their weekend act is a headline hit. People from all walks of life were dancing and jamming to their indie blues rock. The improv work by Christian McNeill, co-founder of the band, was very impressive. The other founding member, Jesse Dee, was not present for the show, which was unfortunate. Even with one front man down, the other players held it down. They had a strong sense of soul, but it was rustic; acoustic guitar and retro-keyboard sounds mixed bits of classic rock and R&B together in a good way.

It was bluesy, and often went on groovy jams that spurred applause and howling when each instrument took a turn in the spotlight. It was not your average garage band event, but a workshop exhibit of the best and brightest group in the area. It was the best eight dollars I had spent in ages.

And they certainly knew how to draw a crowd, too. People local to the area know the story better than I do. Their fame precedes them, and their sound lives up to expectations. They all gave great solos that made me wonder what other shows this bar plays. The under-80, standing-room-only ambience left me satisfied for over two and a half hours. What other greats have come and gone underground in that back room at PRECINCT? It doesn’t really matter; SEA MONSTERS have become iconic figures there, and I don’t expect that to change.

Travel Notes – Mark Murphy @ the Iridium Jazz Club

Friday, November 27th, 2009
Iridium Jazz Club
51st and Broadway, New York City

Double of Bourbon, a Pen and a Notepad

Final show of Mark Murphy and his band at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. They open with a natural sound that almost sounds like Paul Simon. Murphy is not on stage. There are two percussionists, one lead guitarist, and one bassist. It vibe feels very good on stage. I like the lead guitarist’s guitar, an acoustic-electric from Yamaha. The exotic percussionist has extremely long hair. He is Israeli, and his name escapes me. He plays the bongos and other natural percussion instruments that casually hang around him like his hair around his eyes. He is playing the triangle now in accompaniment with the drummer, Joel Rosenblatt.

The bassist solos with style; I almost forgot what instrument he was playing.

The first track embodies so much life and groove. I am glad that I decided to attend this show on a whim like this.

“When people say ‘Yeah!’ I don’t know what they mean.”The famous opening words of ” target=”_blank”>Mark Murphy as he walks into the scene. He is assisted on stage by his friend and lead guitarist. He was born in 1934. That would make him damn hear 75 right now. He walked on stage with a cane in hand, a yellow-green-black beanie on, and a thin and grey goatee and beard. His opening words did not lead me to believe he was the vocalist.

They jump right into the music of a generation more known by my parents’ generation: upbeat melody with light Cuban flares, hot potato jazz solos and looks from one another in understanding. Murphy sings alongside a talented quarter. There is such a candid jam quality to the music, and it’s only track two.


He sings at the top of his lungs, and the band finds union in their project, energetic with swing. We’re all clapping as hard as we can.

This is a unique kind of jazz. Old talent meets new, and the blend brings a balance not seen by many modern jazz musicians. There is one legend among young and aspiring talent. Who is the real gem in this mish-mash of artists? The guitar wins my favor; his speed is trumped by his name… Vinny Valentino. I imagine he was raised on this kind of music. Murphy comes from a generation before him, and embodies the lyricism of “hip” jazz from the 1950s and 1960s. They make it work, playing classics I never knew. Murphy’s voice is soothing, and this number they play now is slow and ambient, blends  of old and new. I imagine that over forty-odd years, he’s allowed some drastic changes to his traditional swing. If I were to listen to the track I hear now for an hour (I would allow it), I would eventually fall into a drunken stupor and dream sweet dreams.

They pick up the pace four or five tracks in. This number is very lively, and it is definitely more modern than the others. Fast, noticeably fast. I rock in my seat and clap my hands to the individual solos interlaced in the upbeat.

I get the feeling that Murphy has a lot of fun introducing his players.

CUBA!” and the Cuban bassist, Armando Gola, plays his rocket solos. “Angel Eyes” are the words of choice coming from Murphy’s lips.

This is a song where they found their element, fusion and flow coming together, and Murphy gets up to receive the crowd. He needs his cane to walk, and his comrades on stage receive him and praise him. What an entertainer.

The show is over after an hour and a half set that seemed to fly by. I wasn’t finished with my well-poured double of bourbon yet. Murphy is walking into the crowd now, and shakes the hands of his valued audience and fans. He is getting old for night shows, and the band too restless. How many do they have left together? What kind of relationship do they have? When he first started singing on stage his voice was not smooth, and the band smiled and laughed casually as he collected himself on stage, and got into the groove.

They all gave me one hell of a show tonight; an experience I would otherwise forget if it weren’t for my notes. Thank God for Jazz.

I feel like the show shouldn’t be over.

I feel like the good times have just begun.