The new Jam band Eclipse didn't exactly steal a bunch of other bands' best players. It just looks like it.
With a lineup of some of Cincinnati's most creative talent, the group boasts founder and band leader Brian Batchelor-Glader (who goes by BBG) on keys; Max Gise on electric and acoustic guitars; Aaron Jacobs on bass; Phillip Tipton on drums; Jibri and Daddie Rich on vocals; and a rotating horn section that could wake James Brown from his grave.
The ensemble is an interesting mix of styles and aesthetics, combining new school (everyone has at least a B.A. in music) with old school (the live horn section) and international influences with progressive Jazz harmonies and a Hip Hop core. There is a depth, both musically and emotionally that pervades and transforms what otherwise might be interpreted as simply dance grooves into something greater. Their original compositions are performed with the precision of a ballet dancer but the attitude of a street fighter.
An example of this contrast comes out in the lyrics to a song on their newly released, self-title CD, entitled "Tomorrow": "I wake up in the morning and I don't know why my arms can't stretch up to touch the sky/ I'm either living the dream or a realized lie when the quality of life that I'm livin' ain't mine."
The melancholic, wistful vocals give way to a mesmeric chorus you can't help but move to. Gritty and hard yet somehow vulnerable, these compositions highlight that razor's edge musicians walk between being technically adept and soulful.
This isn't to say the Jam band is too complex to jam -- "Mambo Hop," a trance-inducing tune with a salsa flavor, is dance music at its best. "Taste of India" incorporates Eastern scales to a funky backbeat. Energy drips off the stage when they play live. And the audience drinks it up.
A good part of the appeal is in the spontaneity of the live performances. Gise, the guitarist and co-band leader, says this is part of the draw of a Jam band.
"The element that would define a Jam band to me is live performance and the ability to change their arrangement of the tune on the spot ... and see where it goes," he says. "It's a different approach."
The live improvisation keeps the audience on its toes and the variety of the compositions keeps the set from ever becoming monotonous. This is one band that will never be accused of having "all their songs sound the same."
BBG says he enjoys the diversity.
"We don't really have any rules so we can go from a Jazz Fusion song into a modern Hip Hop (song) and into a Rock song," he says.
Gise adds, "We want to make original music that we enjoy playing. Vocally we usually let Jibri and Rich do what they want, but I think we're all on the same page that we want the vocals to be empowering and uplifting and inspiring ... I would almost say, and I've never heard anyone else use this term, but (it's) 'love movement' Hip Hop, uplifting Hip Hop. (We try to) blend the two styles well ... to open people's minds, make them feel something."
Gise says the band, which has only been together a year, has been well-received. "I think the response has been overwhelmingly good from all audiences," he says. "I've had people come up and say they never really liked Hip Hop but they liked our band."
The group, which has just started focusing on getting gigs outside of Cincinnati, aims big.
"I have pretty high goals," BBG says. "I would like to see some kind of national recognition and would like to start touring more regionally and work up to national and international travel. That's kind of the big goal."
ECLIPSE (eclipsemovement.com) performs Thursday at Stanley's Pub and Friday at The Mad Frog.