Jet Edison played in Savannah once before, during the blink-and-you-missed-it run of Mojo's Juke Joint. All Phil Johnson remembers is that somebody handed him a drink and said "You can walk down the street with this."
The Colorado quartet is back this week, for two dates — Monday (July 29) at the Tybee Island Social Club, and the next evening at the Wormhole.
A potent cocktail of jazzy rock, funk, serious musician chops and a rollercoaster live show, Jet Edison is a band you really ought to investigate. It's not really a jam band, although there's a loosey-goosey Grateful Dead spirit hovering over the stage, and the music veers into improv territory whenever the mood strikes the guys.
Mostly because of Phil Johnson's polydextrous piano work, Jet Edison reminds this writer of, say, Little Feat. And even Steely Dan.
He was classically trained as a youngster, but never really connected with the music. Then he discovered jazz piano, and rock 'n' roll piano and — whoosh! — he found his calling.
"The four of us come from different parts of the country, we all met at CU in Boulder," Johnson tells me. "I think what makes our dynamic particularly special is the fact that all of us grew up, from a very young age, as avid music lovers. We all have kind of the same story — when you hear something, you just devour it. You go on to the next record, to the next record ...
"We were so lucky to grow up in the Napster age. For a while there, all music was just free and available. And freely trade-able with everybody. We were the kind of kids that would go home from school and just hop on the computer and download song after song after song."
When they met at school, Johnson, guitarist Max Kabat, bassist Adam Mason and drummer Alex Johnson each brought similar musical tastes to the party.
"But some things were very different," Johnson says. "Someone would bring in a bluegrass track, and for me, growing up I didn't listen to bluegrass. Or I'd hear some really cool jazz/funk, these kind of underground music styles that are all over the place."
You'll hear Zappa in the music. And Weather Report.
And the Beatles and the Stones.
All of this accounts for the changing set lists, every night.
"I write most of the set lists in the band, and I used to try to do it even before we got to the venue," Johnson explains.
"And I discovered that I can't write a good set list unless I'm at the room. I can feel the room out; I can feel the kind of night we're going to have. Especially when you're on tour, and you're going to so many new places. I'm going to want to tailor the show to the room, to the crowd." Forthcoming music
For your calendar, here are some previously-announced live dates you might want to remember:
Modern English, Aug. 28 at Dollhouse Productions;
Corey Smith, Sept. 5, Johnny Mercer Theatre;
Revival Fest, Sept. 14, Railroad Museum;
Savannah Jazz Festival, Sept. 22-28;
JJ Grey & Mofro, Oct. 10, Lucas Theatre;
Hunter Hayes, Oct. 11, Johnny Mercer Theatre.
Vienna Boys Choir, Oct. 18, Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.
Jim Brickman, Nov. 11, Lucas Theatre.
Joe Bonamassa, Nov. 13, Johnny Mercer Theatre.
Since the interview with Claire Lynch is in this issue, let's talk about some of the other acoustic shows coming to the Pickin' Parlor at Randy Wood Guitars in Bloomingdale. On Aug. 3, it's the Southern blues-pickin' storytelling rascal to beat, Roy Book Binder. And the amazing Boxcars are back for another round of purely-pro and pristine bluegrass Aug. 17.
On Sept. 13, Randy welcomes the incredible solo guitarist Laurence Juber. Here's an Englishman with a fascinating back story: He was the lead guitarist in the final (1978-80) incarnation of Paul McCartney & Wings ("Goodnight Tonight," the Back to the Egg album). Hell of a nice guy, too.
• Announcing a few more summer shows from the Savannah Stopover gang: Filligar and indie harpist Mikaela Davis play the Jinx Aug. 3; Roadkill Ghost Choir returns, with T. Hardy Morris, to the Jinx Aug. 17. At Dollhouse, Helado Negro plays Sept. 4.
For ticket info, see the Facebook page for Music File Productions.
• The ongoing renovation at 307 W. River St. means the Brick & Mortar Live Music Lounge won't be ready for its previously-announced Aug. 2 opening. Expect things to take a few more weeks. We'll keep you posted.