Uncle Sammy (July 2001)
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Combining the grooves of funk, rock, latin, drum and bass, reggae, swing and afro-beat with the harmonic languages of jazz, pop sensibilities, progressive composition and full on improvisation, Uncle Sammy has been turning heads and opening ears on the east coast U.S. and around the world for over four years. They have shared the bill with such acts as Steve Kimock, Percy Hill, Moon Boot Lover, Jiggle, The Slip, ulu, The Miracle Orchestra, Sector 9, Psychedelic Breakfast, The Disco Biscuits, Soulive, Foxtrot Zulu, Brothers Past, Ancient Harmony, Blueground Undergrass, JGB, Deep Banana Blackout, The Heavy Metal Horns, Two Ton Shoe, moe. side project Ha Ha the Moose, and many others.
Uncle Sammy finds its beginnings in the halls of the legendary Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA. In the fall of 1996, Tom Arey (drums/vocals) and Brian O'Connell (bass, chapman stick and vocals) met in a jazz ensemble class. Simultaneously, Tom and Max Delaney (guitar/vocals) met in Ear Training. While all this was going on Brian and Max met at a late night jam session. Meanwhile, Brian and Beau Sasser (keyboards, vocals) had been jamming jazz standards and funk regularly with a group known as Gabe Turner and the Jazz Explosion. All these paths would eventually cross.
The real start of the band happened when Max's friend Jeff Waful (then an intern at Gamelan Productions) got a gig for a band to open up on a Thursday night concert series put on by Gamelan at the Wellfleet Beachcomber in Cape Cod. So Max secured the talents of Tom and Brian to play every Thursday during the summer of 97 at this beautiful ocean side club. With the addition of Jay Mallory on vocals and rhythm guitar, they played originals and covers to a packed house at every show.
After the summer the boys went back to Boston to continue college. Jay stayed on the Cape and they picked up the talents of Beau Sasser. Rehearsals followed and a few gigs in Boston during the fall of 97. 1998 found the band playing more around the New England area and gaining a stronger fan base in Boston. By 1999, Uncle Sammy had become a regular at the famed Wetlands Preserve club in Manhattan, recognized as the capital of the jamband world. That year also found them performing on the Berkshire Mountain Music Festival as well as branching out farther into New York State and increasing it's gigs across New England. Also that year they independently released their first CD, "Live at Broadway Joe's", that has since gone on to sell thousands of copies.
In 2000, "Naturally Preserved", their second disk was released on Phoenix Presents to critical and popular praise. Another milestone in 2000 was the 5-week tour with Addison Groove Project, another Boston area band. The tour stretched across New England, the East Coast and New York State. In 2001, Uncle Sammy continued to play to bigger and bigger crowds in the Northeast as well as making a 3-week tour East Coast tour that went from Bar Harbor, ME to Key West, FL. They received an incredible response from people who had been waiting years to see them.
In the summer of 2001 they played many festivals including the Berkshire Mountain Music Festival in Massachusetts (for the third year in a row), Livestock in Pennsylvania and Scottypaluza in New York. One of their most historic sets occurred after their early afternoon set was rained out at the Gathering of the Vibes in upstate New York. The band proceeded to set up in a barn by the entrance to the festival and play a three and a half hour set to thousands of festival goers who had been frustrated by massive band cancellations all weekend. This set was released as "In the Barn" in early 2002 on the Live Discs label. The group continues to play in and around its home base of New England and will be touring ever farther into the western states and the south.
Uncle Sammy had increased its fan base considerably with a buzz growing across the country and an increasingly active tape and CD trading community that records and trades copies of their shows. The tapers have pushed the band ahead on its musical journey. "Knowing that a show is being taped makes you want to play even better because anyone will be able to hear it at any time", says Brian O'Connell. The band also has an active internet discussion group on which O'Connell comments, "the discussion group keeps us in constant contact with our fans, many of which are our close friends. It's a real community."