Smokestack (January 2003)
Michigan's own Smokestack has seen plenty of smoke filled bars and clubs as they've grown into a touring rock band . But where they differ from many up-and-coming Jambands is that these four guys are equally comfortable playing funked-out jazz standards or intricate neo-classical instrumentals. For Smokestack, music is a way of life, and each style breathes unique energy into its original sound. Members of the band have studied under such legends as Roy Haynes, Rufus Reid, Terry Lynne Carrington, John Clayton, Dennis Wilson, and Matt Michaels as well as played in Latin, bluegrass, funk, and jazz bands. Despite Smokestack's dedication to the art of improvisation, they place equal attention on song writing and lyrical content.
After getting their start at small clubs around Ann Arbor, Michigan in late 1999, Smokestack has recently generated a huge buzz outside of their home state. The band has played over 150 shows in the last year including sharing the stage with such acts as moe., Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Umphrey's McGee, Particle, the New Deal, Dark Star Orchestra, The Slip, JGB, ekoostik hookah, The OM Trio, Oteil and the Peacemakers, Stangefolk, and The Shantee. Smokestack has steadily built a following through their high-energy live performances and the talk that follows them. Through mass circulation of live recordings (the band and it's fans burn 100's of live CD's and give them away to fans) the band was able to sell out venues in Colorado during their first visit to the state. Since then, the Stack has returned for two successful Colorado Tours with another 3-week Mountain Tour set to begin in mid-July. Smokestack's live shows have also been widely traded and talked about north of the border through Canadian websites such as Jambands.ca and Jamhub.ca. In addition, Smokestack as recently been accepted as part of the Home Grown Music Network.
Here are some of the things that others have been saying about Smokestack:
"For the past month, the band's debut album 'It's Coming Down' has not left our CD player. It's a highly addictive album showcasing the band's musicianship, and ability to deliver a good song. It's a rare treat to hear a band that gets classified in the jamband genre to be mature songwriters at such a young age in the band's history."
"The quality of playing blew me away. All four guys were stars, but that keyboard player is a superstar. Very Hornsby in his writing and singing, very Medeski with his jams. I have had the CD for a few months, and being a little familiar with the songs impressed me even more."
"Eclectic is a goal towards which more and more bands are aspiring. But Smokestack has turned this into an art form; their set lists are unpredictable and meticulously documented on their website. They are all highly capable musicians and this paves the way for a performance that is constantly evolving and highly experimental."
The Northern Express
Traverse City, Mich.
"Musically, Smokestack has much in common with the jazzier contemporary jam bands, especially String Cheese Incident and Phish. The music is intensely eclectic, with elements of Latin, bebop, reggae, fusion and bluegrass. The musicianship is at an extremely high level."
The Aspen Times
"These are people who have studied their instruments and it comes out in their performance. They know what they are doing. My advice is this: go see Smokestack while their tickets are still cheap."
"This is one of the best albums released in the past year and if the opportunity is available to see Smokestack in action, jump at the chance because sooner then later, their shows will begin to sell out."