Jay Lane’s Dead Beats
Jay Lane is hanging out in front of a store, attempting to keep his Australian shepherd from barking. The two wait outside as his wife and daughter shop. The veteran drummer discusses his past, present and future on his cell phone while taking in a rare moment of domestic life. For much of 2009, the veteran drummer has spent his time on a concert stage in one of four configurations—his regular gig in RatDog, joining Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman in the acoustic Scaring the Children, playing with Weir and Phil Lesh in the new Furthur band and his new Band of Brotherz.
As it turns out, he’s used to such multi-tasking. “Back in ‘94, I was playing with the Charlie Hunter Trio, Alphabet Soup, Weir and Wasserman and Sausage with Les Claypool,” Lane says. “That was really screwed up because I went from no gigs to having all these gigs all at once.”
When asked how he keeps all of the different bands’ music straight, Lane shrugs it off: “As long as you got a little time to separate ‘em. If anything, it keeps you on your toes a little more.”
While appreciative of all the opportunities, Lane’s involvement in Band of Brotherz elicits extra degrees of enthusiasm. Its mix of hip-hop, reggae, funk and jazz nods toward his days as part of the early ‘90s acid jazz scene in San Francisco. The improvised gigs attracted local MCs who freestyle rapped over the sinuous instrumental backing.
“Live hip-hop was this all new, underground thing,” he says. “It was really exciting. I felt like, for the first time, I was playing [in a new subgenre] where I was in on the ground level.”
From those early gigs, the band Alphabet Soup formed in 1991, featuring RatDog saxophonist Kenny Brooks, rappers Chris “CB” Burger and Zachariah Mose, keyboardist Dred Scott and, occasionally, keyboardist Jeff Chimenti among other auxiliary members. Lane recalls the group’s eventual demise as a byproduct of a “battle between hip-hop and jazz” when the musicians wanted to solo and the vocalists wanted a solid beat. “That tension made for some really good music,” he says. “We were playing jazzy chords with funk grooves.”
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