“At the end of the set in Brooklyn, I said to the guys imagine what it would be like if we were able to do this six nights in a row? You’d love to keep doing it. But that’s not the reality.” – Chris Harford
”It would be great to take this out for a longer run, but that’s not the world we live in now. I’m not going to wish for the things that aren’t there and be very grateful for the things that are.” Stuart Bogie
For those who witnessed the full throttle performances from The Stuart Bogie Band featuring Joe Russo and Chris Harford’s Band of Changes at the Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn on March 26, these statements need no further clarification.
Bogie and Russo, celebrating the release of their debut album “The Prophets in the City,” ignited a modern jazz blowout to open the night. Without missing a beat, Harford and his Band of Changes featuring Russo, Dave Dreiwitz, and Scott Metzger kept the fiery pace going the rest of the night. The BOC set was a showcase of the familiarity created from decades of performing together in one configuration or another.
As the exuberant crowd left the bowl, there was no doubt the energy created inside was special. This was night two of a weekend of shows for both groups. They played the Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia two nights before and while filled with great moments, the Brooklyn show was the best of the weekend.
The Brooklyn Bowl weekend can be directly traced to Russo, who wisely used the album release to get two of his favorite musical projects together.
According to Harford, “That’s all Joe Russo. That’s him doing this for his friends. He loves music so much. He wants to play a variety of eclectic music. He has a magnificent coterie of musicians around him. He conjured the idea and booked the shows. We’ve got to give credit where credit is due.”
Bogie echoes the same sentiments, stating “Joe really got those gigs going. Anytime playing on the same bill as Chris for me is like going home. It’s family. Add in Joe, Scott and Dave and it’s the ‘A’ squad. Whenever I can play with Chris, it’s a joy. If the others are with him, it’s even better.”
There was plenty of joy for the musicians behind the scenes throughout the weekend. Whether bowling a few frames before soundcheck or just catching up with friends, the smiles were plenty for everyone involved.
Neither band had played together in a while, nor were there any rehearsals prior…only a quick soundcheck. But, despite the limited time playing together, the music did not suffer. The Philly show got things rolling, but both Harford and Bogie agree that things really clicked on night two.
Harford begins, “I’d say Brooklyn was better. It benefitted from a second night. There was a better sound on stage for us. We were a bit more warmed up. Through Covid, not having played so much, it was like getting the rust off.”
Bogie also noticed the difference, claiming “I felt the same way about the second show. There’s no better rehearsal than a performance. If the locations were in reverse order, it would have been the same thing. This band will go as hard in front of two people or a thousand.”
After a hot weekend of shows with both bands musically locked in, the new reality hit hardest. Both bands have to shut things down until the scheduling world brings them together again.
This concept is nothing new for Harford, whose Band of Changes has had a rotating group of members dating back to the 90s. Musicians with a wide variety of musical styles from Dean Ween to Richard Thompson to celloist Jane Scarpantoni.
The benefits of playing a hot weekend of shows was not lost on Harford, who was dealing with back pain and a couple of personal emergencies the weekend of the shows. “That’s where my mind was. I’ve been doing this with these guys for so long, once we start playing, it’s calming. It’s like we’re in a bubble doing what we do for the last 30 years. The music heals. It brings a relief and sense of calm.”
Bogie and Russo find themselves on another branch of the “one weekend only” tree. They’ve been releasing music for years. However, “The Prophets in the City” is the first album for The Stuart Bogie Band featuring Joe Russo. The album is a joyous fast paced journey of modern jazz. Both musicians were able to translate that pace and energy to both live Brooklyn Bowl performances. Crowds each night joyfully dancing from start to finish to music they’ve never heard because it wasn’t released until the day of the second show.
Bogie is perfectly happy bringing this offering to the musical universe even with its limited availability. “We have the Peach Festival on the books and will definitely add more shows this year. We’re gonna make more music like this. I’m thirsty for more composition and creation. I’m less compelled to figure out how to make a project a successful commercial entity. Too much of that is out of my control for me to worry about. As I get older, I just want to keep on writing and creating and the world can catch up or they can’t.”
Like the other musicians he shared the weekend with, Harford has numerous artistic ventures occupying his time. “As an aside, I have this reggae punk band Blanc Du Blanc. The past year we released three records. The first Blanc album was a double 45. It featured Marco Benevento and Dana Colby from Morphine. Then we released an EP with three versions of Scorpions ”Wind of Change.” We also released Regatta Du Blanc Du Blanc that has Joe Russo and Dave Butler on drums. I’ve also been doing lots of artwork as well.”
Bogie, whose list of musical credits is wide and extensive, also has a full calendar. “I’ve been doing a solo clarinet project. I’ll be opening for Bonny Light Horseman. I’ll be playing at a festival Marco Benevento is putting together in June. I’m even playing in a record store with my friend Jaimie Branch. I want to do things all over the place. A lot of solo clarinet. A lot of arranging for people. A lot more writing for the Bogie Band. Much more collaborating with Joe. He’s putting a nice studio together. I can’t wait to see how a saxophone sounds in there.”
Despite the limitations musicians face with each new project they join, there are plenty of positives that come from them. The venues for these shows are usually more intimate, which allows fans to get close to the action on stage. The continual influx of new music festivals affords the opportunity to play with multiple projects over the same weekend. Sometimes, if everything lines up just right, a “one time only” gig can morph into something more permanent.