Today's highlighted Madison-based musical act is The Gadjo Players.
Jazz of all ages and formats is a matter of course for The Gadjo Players, a string-centric quintet formed late over the course of 2005. They play a mix of jazz, swing, and bluegrass covers and originals, their styles swaying from early 20th century acoustic tunes to electrified fusion from the '70s. Then there are their originals, ten of which have lately been recorded for their debut album, the first chance for listeners to catch their music outside of private parties and a handful of club appearances.
Here is how the group describes itself:
A group of local guys with great chops, this acoustic string ensemble plays both fingerstyle and flatpicked magic with jazz, gypsy swing and even a little Flatt & Scruggs strong melodic sensibility thrown in for good measure. The harmonies and fluid melodies will please your ears and make believers out of anyone unfamiliar with their music.
There are five musicians who make up the players: Matt Krueger on the mandolin, octave mandolin, drums and percussion; Ben Johnson on the double bass, electric bass, and electric fretless bass; Mike Kratochwill on acoustic and electric guitars; Nate Hess on the mandolin; and Amber Dolphin on the violin. The story behind the group's formation is quite extensive, reaching back to the mid '90s and passing through bands of yesteryear like Primitive Feet, The Zen Cats, Onomatopoeia, Large Marge, and The Vandelays. With the purchase of a double bass in early 2005, though, the die was cast for the newly minted players.
Johnson describes their mission:
The Gadjo Players have played around town for the last year (mostly private gatherings). We're always expanding our repertoire. We write and play lots of originals. We still do the jazz-fusion thing with electric guitars and drums. We play a wide variety of instrumental music including gypsy and traditional swing, Celtic, bluegrass, Latin, and even a little blues. We have our own sound system, recording studio, and transportation. We're completely independent. We're ready to play anywhere we can, and we know people will be thoroughly entertained.
Over this same period, The Gadjo Players have also been busy at work recording their debut release, titled Between Two Waters. Featuring a panoramic illustration of late 19th century Madison on its cover, the album features ten tracks of their epoch-spanning jazz as it was recorded in their own studio.
Nearly every song on the album, most of which were written by Kratochwill, is available for listening at thegadjoplayers.com. In fact, the group provides an extensive list of their repertoire ready to go for gigs, weddings and parties, along with recorded versions of a half-dozen of their classic covers. Also available online are numerous photos of the band in action and a handy schematic of their typical stage set-up.
The Gadjo Players are celebrating the release of Between Two Waters with a free show at Restaurant Magnus on Friday, Feb. 16. This is the only public show the group currently has scheduled for several months, with their next show arriving in May.
This is the latest featured entry from the Madison Music Project, an online database of Madison-area musicians. Please register or update your current profile on the project for consideration in these highlights.