The Players Club
A couple of relatively recent examples, both from 2008, are “Hi-Fi Stereo” by Reverend Organdrum (a side project for Jim Heath, aka Reverend Horton Heat) and “The Haunted Melody” by the Steve Howe Trio (yes, Steve Howe of Yes).
Now comes Greg Koch with “Toby Arrives” by the Koch Marshall Trio. Like Howe’s offering, it’s also a father-and-son effort with dad on guitar and son playing drums.
Koch has a sizable back catalog of often instrumental music where getting “out there” is the norm and many genres are covered. But this KMT debut sees a more disciplined Koch distilling his normally “all over the map” sound into a potent blues-jazz blend.
As with many good things, the album coalesced by happenstance. Koch’s drummer son Dylan had been doing gigs in the Twin Cities with a guitarist and an organist, and was always telling his dad to check out the latter sometime. As chance would have it, the organist was going to be in Milwaukee and Dylan persuaded a reluctant Greg into agreeing to a jam. Hammond B-3 player extraordinaire Toby Lee Marshall, expecting only a possibility of a jam at the Koch home, was flabbergasted when Greg took him and Dylan to a studio where drums and an organ were already set up and mic’ed — and the rest is history.
The opening title track is what its name implies: the first of two recorded during that initial March 2017 encounter. Five more tracks were laid down in April, followed by a final one in July. Everything was tracked live in the studio except for an acoustic guitar overdub on “Sin Repent Repeat,” the awesome electric-bottleneck showcase that serves as the set’s denouement.
“Blues-jazz” may be a sufficient modifier in the aggregate, but the trio manages to touch on several sub-subgenres. For instance, the aforementioned “Sin Repent Repeat” has strong gospel overtones.
“Enter the Rats,” with its finger-lickin’ chicken-picking, transitions seamlessly into the ZZ Top-flavored “Boogie Yourself Drade.” For prog fans, the 10-minute “Mysterioso” draws inspiration from Frank Zappa, Allan Holdsworth and Joe Satriani.
“Funk Meat” is another fine display of chicken-picking that starts out sounding like the theme to an alternate-universe “Sanford and Son” and then throws in a contrapuntal snarl or two from Greg’s 1958 Gibson Les Paul reissue. That ax is also used on the title track, but for the rest the Gristleman uses his 1955 Fender Telecaster Custom Shop model.
With all the great virtuosity, tone and recording/mixing/mastering (by Steve Hamilton at Makin’ Sausage Music), it’s no wonder Ed van Zijl of the Netherlands-based Mascot Label Group made “Toby” the first release on his Players Club imprint — and signed KMT to a multi-album deal.
“I am and have always been a lover of great guitar playing,” van Zijl said when Good New Music took a shot in the dark and reached out to him via email. “(On) The Players Club … you will find freestyle jam music all based around the guitar. It might be instrumental, it might be vocal. The artists do not get any instructions from me, only my trust and belief in them.”
Van Zijl added, “I want an outlet for great musicianship and to let the artists do what they are good at, what they love, and have them not make any compromises whatsoever for commercial reasons.”
When asked if anyone else was lined up for future Players Club releases (“Toby Arrives” and Tommy Emmanuel’s “Accomplice One” are the only entries so far), van Zijl replied: “We currently have two more artists recording for TPC: Vernon Reid … (and) Jan Akkerman. … We have more on our target list, of course, who we will announce in due time. I do not know release dates yet for the above albums, but I estimate fall at the earliest.”
Van Zijl said he has plans for taking the Players Club concept on the road, as well.
“Once we have enough albums out, we want the artists to tour together and in the right circuit,” he told GNM. “Imagine Vernon Reid and Jan Akkerman together — that would make a cool package. Just an idea so far. It will take a little time to start that up as that part is never easy, but touring is part of the plan.
“We just did our first Provogue label tour in Europe under the name Rockin’ the Blues … (and did) seven shows in three countries. You can find plenty of that on YouTube. 2019 will see more countries and shows, and I hope to launch it in the U.S. in two or three years.
1. Toby Arrives
2. Funk Meat
3. Heed The Boogaloo
4. Let’s Get Sinister
6. Enter The Rats
7. Boogie Yourself Drade
8. Sin Repent Repeat
Total time: 50:48