JJ Grey and Mofro Review

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February 13, 2012 by Benji

There are a number of reasons why I love this band; to name a few:

– Southern Blues

– Minimalism

– When I moved to Michigan from NYC, JJG&M (also at the Magic Bag) was one of the first concerts I went to, and gave me hope that there was a good live music scene here.

I was excited to hear that JJ was coming back to town. My wife and I were planning on going together; unfortunately she wasn’t able to come with me. From the car I started calling friends to see who was coming. Everyone I called was on their way. By the time the show started there was a small crew of friends tucked in the corner hanging out. I was a little surprised to hear there was an opening band. I was even more surprised to find there were two opening bands. Daryl Hance was the first opener; he played the swampy blues you would expect for a JJ Grey opening band.   JC Brooks and Uptown Sound was the second opener. They were a real surprise; imagine James Brown as the front man for The Stooges! That’s what JC Brooks is like.

Then out comes JJ Grey, his stage presence and persona has really matured and gotten bigger in the last number of years.

He used to sit down for the entire show, really creating an intimate experience. Now he is big and loud, he walks around the stage, and sometimes doesn’t even have a guitar on him. During one of the songs (I wish I could remember which)  he and his guitar player  Andrew Trube who looks like a dirty grungy  country guitar player, with black duct tape holding the ends of his straps to his Les Paul, was going back and forth exchanging licks with JJ, and busted a string, but kept on playing. After the song he switched out for a fender Stratocaster.

A fantastic aspect to the band is also Art Edmaiston playing saxophone and Dennis Marion on trumpet. These two dance in sync, play perfectly off one another, and accompany the music with perfect chemistry. I don’t think Mofro could have a better horn section.

To me the fascinating part of the whole experience was realizing that Anthony Cole (Nat king Cole’s nephew) and Todd Smallie are part of Mofro and not just Daryl Hance’s back up guys; when they were playing as the opening band, I was thinking “My god these guys are badass!” AC plays the true jazz minimalist kit. With only a snare, high hat, kick and one cymbal, not even a tom to hit.  Todd stood there bobbing his head, very unassuming, but played some nasty blues on his fender jazz bass. I kept saying to my friends. “Those guys are amazing, look at them go”. When they came out as Mofro, it all came back to me, and I realized why they looked familiar, they are with JJ, they are part of why I love his music!   As far as rhythm sections go, Mofro is a lethal combo. And JJ Grey’s song writing and singing is as raw and emotional as it gets. If you don’t know the music, check it out, I promise you will like it.

Check out these videos I posted:

A  Woman

Brighter Days

6 Ways From Sunday

Thanks to my friends Erin and Ben Slayter fromDocufest for the pictures!

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