Reggae to highlight Spring Gruv Sunday
March 20, 2012
Tommy Benedetti, the drummer for the East-Coast reggae band John Brown’s Body is looking forward to playing Canyons during the opening weekend of Spring Gruv.
"It’s always awesome coming out to that part of the country," Benedetti said during a phone interview with The Park Record from his home in Boston, Mass. "We really love it there."
Although the band that has been playing its self-proclaimed "Future Roots Music" since 1995, its real roots go back to the late 1980s with the band The Tribulations.
Benedetti, a graduate of Boston’s Berklee College of Music, hooked up with the band in 1993.
"That was the band that was the earlier version of John Brown’s Body and it had been around for a while," he said.
The draw to reggae was something that came naturally for Benedetti.
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"As far as musical influences go, I was raised in Albany, N.Y., on Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Iron Maiden and ’80s rock and metal," he said. "Once I got to Boston, the floodgates opened to John Coltrane, Charles Mingus as well as Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix and a ton of different stuff, and I started listening to a lot of different artists."
As far as the John Brown’s Body goes, Benedetti recalls listening to artists including Culture, Alpha Blondy, The Meditations and Burning Speer.
"Personally, I love Roots Radics and Sly & Robbie," he said. "Our singer Elliott (Martin) likes a lot of the mid-’80s U.K. stuff like Aswad, Steel Pulse and Chalice, but there was so much that we’ve all been inspired by over the years, and as far as it goes, it was a lot of the roots stuff."
Also, being in an eight-man band helped with the musical development.
"We all like different things, which is good because we all turn each other onto different stuff even to this day," Benedetti said. "It’s a very musical environment to be able to do anything."
While the music filtering in and out of the band is great, it is a challenge keeping that big of a band together.
"There have been quite a few people who have been through our door during our existence," Benedetti said. "As we get older, we spend a lot of time on the road, and it gets to the point where some don’t want to tour as much or others have different needs with the different places they get to in life.
"But I think we’ve been pretty consistent musically and sonically over the years," he said. "We’ve always had a three-piece horn section. We’ve never compromised on that. When other touring bands, including big touring bands, compromised on their horns, we never did."
John Brown’s Body’s current lineup is Benedetti, Martin, bassist Nate Edgar, guitarist Mike Keenan, keyboardist John "JP" Petronzio, trombonist Scott Flynn, saxophonist Drew Sayers and trumpeter Sam Dechenne, and the mission is still the same, to make the best music they can.
"We don’t play Southern California-pop reggae, because we have no interest in that," Benedetti said. "We’re from the East Coast and we’re a little heavier, you know?
Certain bands direct themselves to more of a wider acceptance and that’s fine, but we’re not looking for that. We’ve never had any mainstream success, but that’s fine, because we consider ourselves lucky to do what we do as long as we have."
The musical intent sits well with Benedetti, because he likes playing with a large band.
"As a drummer, it’s incredibly exhilarating to play with such a big sound," he said. "I’ve been playing behind an eight-piece band for 17 years, and if feels like a rocketship out there. I love the feel of that massive sound."
However, he knows that good, solid reggae hangs on the tightness of the rhythm.
"When all is stripped down, the drum and bass have to be impenetrable, and that’s how I make my bread at the end of the day," he said.
John Brown’s Body will perform a free concert Sunday, March 25, at Canyons Resort at 3 p.m. to cap off the day’s Spring Gruv events. For more information, visit http://www.canyonsresort.com.