Jimmy Herring Crafts His Own Lifeboat (Relix Revisited)
An early Aquarium Rescue Unit press photo
Guitarist Scott Henderson came to town for a free clinic in support of the school. There, Henderson was teamed up with local musicians, including a drummer named Jeff Sipe, whose performance exhilarated Herring.
“I was completely overtaken and I went up to him and said, ‘I just moved to town three days ago and it looks like I came to the right place. Are all the drummers here like you?’”
He now chuckles at his naiveté.
“Of course all the drummers weren’t like him, there is only one Jeff Sipe. Then I said, ‘I’d really like to get together with you some time if possible.’ Now he didn’t know anything about me but he was super cool and said, ‘Well, what are you doing tomorrow?’ So I went over to his house and we played for four hours. I felt like I had found a musical soul mate on my third day in town. Then a week later he calls me up, ‘Dude, these two guys from Virginia Beach just moved into my house, they’re brothers and they are unbelievable, you’ve got to get over here right now,’ And it was Kofi and Oteil [Burbridge]. So I went over there and I was just flabbergasted at their incredible musicianship.”
While Herring began his teaching gig, Sipe and the Burbridge brothers supported themselves by playing in Top 40 cover bands (“That was the way to make a living back then. All these incredible musicians were playing Top 40.”). The four also began shedding together in their off hours with the intent of developing a body of original material.
But then the Colonel came calling.
Herring remembers, “After a short while Sipe started playing with [Col.] Bruce Hampton and came back to us saying, ‘I’m playing with this dude and it’s so weird, it’s so liberating. You can play anything you want and nobody tells you what to wear, nobody tells you how to play, it’s the craziest thing. Eventually Oteil started playing with Bruce and they lost interest in what we were doing.”
A number of months later Herring was invited to attend a gig (“They thought I really wouldn’t be into it because it was so crazy and so much like performance art but I was thoroughly entertained.”). Then Hampton extended an offer for the guitarist to return another night and sit-in with the band (“He made me sit through two sets and I was about to explode”). The following day, Hampton invited Herring to join The Aquarium Rescue Unit.
“I learned so much but the biggest thing I learned was to unlearn things. Before I started playing with Bruce, technique was a big focus of what I was doing. All my favorite musicians had tons and tons of technique but he shot all that down. ‘What is that scholastic crap you’re playing?’ Or he’d say, ‘Play that sunset over there. Come on, you’re some bitchin’ guitar player, play the sunset.’ So I tried and he’d go, ‘No, no, no.’ Then he’d grab the guitar and play the sunset. He worked really hard on showing us how to get out of our own way.”
This approach continued to inform Herring’s music even as Hampton and Sipe departed the group in 1994, due to health reasons and a (Leftover) Salmon run. ARU became increasingly inert (“Although we never broke up”) and Herring soon brought his egoless approach, a predilection for practice and his own grounded, humble nature to a series of increasingly high-profile endeavors.
In 1998 he was invited to join Mahavishnu drummer Billy Cobham, Weather Report bassist Alphonso Johnson and Dixie Dregs keyboardist T Lavitz in Jazz Is Dead, a project that enabled him to perform with three of his childhood heroes (“It was scary but they made it so easy. And eventually Billy ended up leaving and we got Rod Morgenstein [Dixie Dregs]. That was awesome, too, I felt, ‘God has blessed me, it’s raining great drummers!”). The summer of 2000 saw him reunited with Oteil Burbridge while sharing guitar duties with Derek Trucks in The Allman Brothers Band (“I really started playing because of that music and I got to play with Derek and Oteil, so it was awesome. But Dickey hadn’t died, so I felt I couldn’t stay.”) From there he began an extended stint with Phil Lesh & Friends, which led to his role in the reconstituted Grateful Dead.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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