New Orleans-style jazz band does Halloween showMade in the Shade
By Dave Fox
The world of jazz encompasses many forms, from traditional to the avant-garde. The local sextet Made in the Shade concentrates on the origins of jazz music, playing exclusively in the New Orleans street music style. Indeed, these guys began by playing on the Boston Common to celebrate Independence Day in 1990. The group consists of Nathan Cook, soprano sax/clarinet/vocals; Marc Chillemi, trumpet; Dan Fox (no relation), trombone; Crick Diefendorf, banjo; Paul Dosier, tuba; and Jamie Moore, drums. All are Berklee grads, and their wide knowledge of jazz allows them to infuse their music with an energy that transcends the age of this music form. Last Thursday, I caught their weekly performance at Ryle's in Inman Square.
The show started with a slow, dirge-like piece which featured Fox's "dirty" sounding trombone between each line. The drumming was a slow beat on a tom-tom, giving the tune a mournful feel. Chillemi played a nice trumpet solo with plunger to round out the piece. The next tune featured Cook singing, in a gravelly style, about the wonders of New Orleans. This had a slow beat in four, and featured trombone and trumpet solos. Also of note was Cook's soprano solo, in which he used a novel vibrato style and produced an ethereal tremolo by fluttering the keys on his sax.
After a nice interpretation of Cab Calloway's "Minnie the Moocher," the group got into the spirit of Halloween and offered a pair of tunes about death. The first was "St. James Infirmary," and the sextet gave it the right touch of gloom and doom. The next piece, "Old Man Mose is Dead," was more lively and tongue-in-cheek, and featured fast vocal call and response between Cook and the rest of the band. The lyrics were quite humorous, and concerned the finding of the (dead) title character by the singer.
The next piece was an interesting rendition of Thelonius Monk's "In Walked Bud," which Chillemi announced as "In Walked Bud, Dead." They gave this standard an almost Calypso feel, and there was much use of auxilliary percussion (cowbell, claves, etc). Fox offered a splendid trombone solo, which was followed by a nice soprano solo by Cook. Dosier (who admirably pumps out virtually non-stop bass lines) played a spirited tuba solo as well.
To end the set, the band played the traditional tune that is played in New Orleans when a coffin is lowered into its grave. This was highly mournful and dirge-like, as one might expect. The band exited the stage in a unique fashion during this tune, by parading off the stage, around the club, and into a back room single-file, while still playing. This was made possible by their use of acoustic instruments, which don't tie them to amplifiers or electric outlets. The whole effect became similar to a New Orleans funeral, and was quite arresting.
For the second set, the band changed costumes to a sort of hippy-influenced spaceman look. To reinforce the "space" concept, they ran the vocal mike through a phase shifter, which distorted Chillemi's between-tune banter and gave it an other-worldly effect. (He also played his trumpet through this on occasion to give it a strange sound.) The second tune was quite interesting. It had an upbeat feel, and featured a comic solo by Dosier, who ran around (literally!) the club and "serenaded" various patrons with his tuba. During this, Fox humorously directed Cook and Chillemi in some comic horn colorations.
Later in the set, the band performed its signature tune, "You Can't Play Here, Little Boy, You Need a Permit." Composed by Fox, this tune humorously recalls the band's reception by Cambridge's finest the first time they played in Harvard Square. (These days, Dosier keeps the bright green permit prominently attached to his tuba.) The lyrics tell the story, with the title phrase forming a catchy refrain. The horn players each soloed, and overall it was a very entertaining tune. To end the evening, the band offered a spirited rendition of the song most identified with New Orleans Jazz, "When the Saints Go Marching In."
On the whole, Made in the Shade presented three hours of highly entertaining, mostly humorous music. Each of these musicians is a good showman as well, and their hijinks add to the appeal of the music. By playing later standards in the New Orleans style, they pay homage to the great jazz players of the past. The infectious sound of this group would appeal to a very wide audience, as it is more emotional and less intellectual than many forms of jazz. Also, their back to basics instrumentation gives them a different sound than most modern jazz groups. Check them out!