The Core: Jaimoe
Photo by Carl Vernlund
The founding Allman Brothers Band drummer on his Jasssz Band, wedding gigs and the Brothers’ recent Lifetime Achievement Grammy
From Bee-Bop to Jasssz
I had a band called Jaimoe’s Bee-Bop Band and all we played was bee-bop. People kept saying, “Hey Jaimoe, why don’t you take your band on the road?” and I said, “Because it costs money to take your band out on the road—in life you need money to do things.” [Laughs.]
But I got to thinking, “The hell with it—if you have good musicians, you can charge admission and people will pay for it.” I thought that it would be nice to have a new singer—until then, nobody had been singing—and a friend of mine introduced me to Junior Mack [in 2005]. He looked like Michael Steele, who was the chairman for the Republican Party. He gave me his CD and we started to play at this local town café [in Connecticut].
I told him, “Your CD doesn’t do you justice. With all due respect to them, you don’t play like Warren Haynes or Derek Trucks. There’s only one person I’ve heard that sounds anything close to what you’re doing: George Baker, the band director for Marvin Gaye for about 12 years.” We recorded an album called Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band Live at Double Down Grill [in 2006]. And I still think it’s the best CD we have on the market—feeling wise.
Hall of Fame Wedding Band
We had been playing a lot of weddings and birthday parties. It was unbelievable. I’d ask people what they wanted to hear and all they’d say is “Do you want cash or check?”[But after Junior Mack became acclimated to the band], I realized we needed to do something else, too. I talked to my talent agent about booking some gigs and he says, “Yeah, we’ll do that.” I guess they figured it was a good way to keep me in line and in control when The Allman Brothers Band was not on tour.
Our lineup has changed a bit, mostly piano players. We had a guy from France and he tried to go down to Wanee—the Allman Brothers Band’s festival—a few years ago and he didn’t have a green card. He’d been over here six years or something and hadn’t gone back. He said, “I’ll just play Wanee.” I told him, “Don’t you get on that plane.” He stepped into the airport, they saw his name, snatched his ass right out of that line and pretty much sent him right back to Paris.
Handing Over the Reins
Junior Mack wrote most of the songs on [our first studio album] Renaissance Man [released last year]. My mind wasn’t focused on recording a record, I just wanted to record music. Junior is a unique person—a perfectionist when it comes to his music. He brought songs that he had been working on and if we all felt what he had written, we’d put our own styles and feeling into it. We also recorded The Allman Brothers Band’s “Melissa.” Junior Mack brought that one in too—he had been playing it but as a bossa nova number. Growing up listening to people like Otis Redding, you learn how to move a crowd. You have a song list and you just go. The Allman Brothers Band will have a song list and, a lot of times, there are a lot of old tunes on there but we [change it up] by playing with the arrangements—like Ray Charles.
A Fresh Sound
My Jasssz Band is very rhythmically driven. In the Allman Brothers, I improvised a little more so the opinion was that I was a jazz drummer and Butch Trucks was more of a set drummer. Sometimes you need a strong percussion section, and sometimes it’s more than it needs to be on certain songs. Sometimes you need to play freely and improvise, and sometimes you need to follow along with the groove. Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band is what it is because we don’t want to play anything that defines what we are. I want to be a combination—a fresh sound.
What I consider my greatest musical achievement is the fact that the Allman Brothers gave confidence to a lot of younger musicians. It opened the eyes of a lot of musicians to do something they have never thought of. For the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, it seems to represent all those years of hard work and things that should have been. To even be nominated for an award is an honor in itself. Out of countless bands, you’ve been picked as [one of] the few that are nominated to represent all the others.
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