The Jim Morey Band: Jazz that's quirky, clever and classic
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2010 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: The Jim Morey Band.)
The Jim Morey Band transports you to a bygone time through a twisty smoke-filled haze and psychedelic dreamscapes.
Moods range from spooky to swirly to zany to clanky as Morey (vocals, trumpet, keyboards and guitar), Anne Van Atta (bass and vocals), Billy Carr (drums) and Eddie Rosicky (gutiar) stir stuff from the depths of the soul and move the body in a jumping-jive, ragtime high.
Nuthin But Love, the band’s 2009 CD, offers up a thick gumbo of spicy ingredients — jazzy swing, New Orleans stomp and darkly rhapsodic serenades. Its bizarre and far-flung influences range from the soundtracks to ’40s big-band flicks to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
“I’m exploring the guitar and keyboard for sounds that complement the mood we want to create,” Morey said. “I am particularly drawn to the Hammond B-3 sound on the keyboard because it has a funky, gritty bite to it.”
Bandleader Morey wears a lot of hats, both literally and figuratively. Along with making music, the cap collector takes photos and designs jewelry. He’s been playing the trumpet since age 8, and cites a tape called Greatest Jazz Trumpet Players as his earliest influence. He’s lived throughout the United States and in the past decade returned to his hometown St. Pete, where he’s been busy playing two bands, Jim Morey Band and Lounge Cat — and scoring films such as Loren Cass and How to Be a Loan Shark.
Not your typical retro nerd or cabaret performer, Morey sports a mellow, freewheeling hippie-bohemian zest for life, best described in his Waits-ish Gypsy Wind. It’s a vibe, even with the many duties of his band and side projects, he hasn’t outgrown.
It’s remarkable that Morey keeps up such a pleasant and mellow outlook when you take into consideration that he’s narrowly escaped death more than a few times in his lifetime.
He took the last bus out of New Orleans before Katrina (and later wrote a song about it, Last Bus). Once in New York, his car was shot with 30 bullets while he wasn’t in it, and he’s labored as an iron worker, sustaining multiple injuries.
His band, likewise amazing, puts on a show that’s known for strange and wonderful surprises. For example: He might have anywhere from two to 10 musicians on stage, along with an arrangement of bizarre props; Morey has played two trumpets at once and has even welcomed a mechanized circus monkey onstage.
“I just inherited another mannequin, which makes five,” he said. “They all may end up on stage with us soon. Bobo the monkey is contemplating coming out of retirement for our tour this summer.”
Also, a show late last year had drummer Carr playing drums with his right hand and bass with his left. There’s no definitive explanation as to how he pulled that off.
“Billy Carr is an amazingly talented and unusually ambidextrous human being,” Morey said. “He’s also quite a cool person to cover for Anne when she is unable to be at our gigs.”
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*