Stanton Moore (with Skerik & Charlie Hunter)
"Kooks On Parade"
(a.k.a. Nalgas Sin Carne)
Skerik is the saxophonics wizard featured on Stanton Moore's debut album All Kooked Out!, and has worked often in the past with Fog City Records owner/producer Dan Prothero, most recently on Garage A Trois' debut recording.
Skerik is one of a rare breed. A catalyst whose considerable talent and infectious enthusiasm keeps the stew brewin'. Says producer Dan Prothero, "I first heard Skerik back in 1994. He blew three notes, I mean his first three notes, and I knew he was something special. And, believe me, the band heard it too. You never saw musicians come to life so fast, amazed at this guy who was just sitting in."
That night was the start of an ongoing relationship between Dan and Skerik, beginning with some collaborative work with Dan's projects The Rhythm Section and New Legends. Somehow along the way, Skerik got increasingly involved with Fog City alumni Galactic. He was gracious enough to agree to join Galactic on the San Jose to Los Angeles leg of their first-ever West Coast tour, in the lean days way back in 1996 (now referred to as the "hard leg tour"). And as far back as 1997 he was showing up unannounced and bumrushing the stage to freak the funk with them (Washington DC in March 1997 was a particularly memorable example)...
We were so glad that he also agreed to join Galactic drummer Stanton Moore on his first solo outing, All Kooked Out! (on Fog City Records). Offbeat Magazine had this to say about the results:
" Skerik makes a point of proving wrong every band director who has told a saxophone student that squawks are bad by accenting his phrases and solos with noises so far off the charts that writing them out would be an exercise in futility. His outbursts create an intriguing dynamic counterpoint to Moore and Hunter's polished pairing. " (Alex Oliver, Offbeat Magazine)
The All Kooked Out session not only yielded what has become one of Fog City's classic releases, but also the first Garage A Trois recordings.
Skerik is always busy with Critters Buggin. Critters is a fearsome foursome of truly creative musicians that create a one-of-a-kind live experience -- come with an open mind and it will get blown! Recent Critters tours have had them joining Medeski Martin Wood... Most recently, he and other members of Critters Buggin joined Galactic on stage at Bumbershoot in Skerik's hometown of Seattle.
Skerik's also hooked up as a founding member of Tuatara, a supergroup of multi-instrumentalists making adventurous acoustic music for Epic Records. The press seems to like to call it jazz-rock, but it sounds more like Ennio Morricone's lounge project to us.
Skerik organized some of the baddest live players from the Seattle music scene (Wayne Horvitz, Bobby Previte, and Dave Palmer) for his project Ponga. The Boston Phoenix called it "Sun Ra's Magic City as dreamed up by the Orb." Other projects include a short run with Roger Waters and a semi-permanent slot with Les Claypool's Flying Frog Brigade.
More recently, he's been working and gigging with his Syncopated Taint Septet...
The Seattle Weekly's cover story ("Jazz In The City") had some good insight into the jazz scene in the Northwest. Some outtakes, starting with a quote from Skerik:
"We have to really hustle and play in a lot of bands just to make the rent, $200. But I chose to live in Seattle because it is a good home base. I got family, I was born and raised there - it's my tribe... I'm trying to keep a low profile, like the band Blotallica. It came about because we wanted to play music without any expectations from an outside source. We just put the name out there and people come. It's not anything the media has told them to be a part of. If you go someplace an play your ass off, something's gonna happen. I have faith in that... I'm trying to coordinate individual musicians, people that aren't plastic, man, to do free things at public schools. We come with a history of the music on our instruments. I remember being really inspired by people in high school."
Skerik performing at Big Night Out 1 (photo courtesy of lukew.com)
And that is what Skerik puts into his playing, everything that he has going for him at the moment, and it's paid off. Critters Buggin' has gained some success with a sort of spacey, improvised, funk music, and is about to release a second record on the LooseGroove label. The Critters' work doesn't cover all the bills, though, so Skerik is also in Blotallica, Motel 6, the Mingus Band, etc. He isn't all that worried that he's not rolling in money. In fact, he knows that comes with the territory when you are breaking new ground. "Playing instrumental music is like quitting your job and starting your own business. You're prepared to be alone," he said. "and people in the music industry are very cynical about instrumental music. Tney immediately think people aren't going to like it because it's not like anything out there."
That exact thought has probably crossed Julain Priester's mind many times, particularly when he played with Sun Ra, creating music that was so challenging and avant-garde that for decades the band leader was considered a kook. Also in that vein, as Skerik reminded me, is the fact that it took 30 years for Miles Davis' Kind Of Blue to sell a million copies. This is not music that offers quick fixes for those seeking employment, or even for those looking for an evening of vapid entertainment. By its very nature jazz -- and I am compelled to include Skerik, Stone, Combo Craig, Horvitz, and many of the young players in this category because they meet the basic criteria for jazz: They can swing and improvise -- is still struggling to move forward.
(courtesy of the Seattle Weekly)
Check out the Fog City Audio Lounge to hear Skerik in action.
You may also want to keep an eye on what Skerik's up to with his many other bands, who do tour on and off: Garage A Trois, Skerik's Suncopated Taint Septet, The Dead Kenny G's, Critters Buggin' among others.Finally, there is a killer archived journal of Skerik's west coast "All Kooked Out!" tour with Stanton Moore and Charlie Hunter - with sound clips from this incredible series of shows.