While the peak of the jam band scene was arguably reached somewhere in the middle part of the last decade, there are no shortage of excellent bands playing today and releasing new music who blend different genres of music together and improvise freely on stage. Granted, not all of these acts fit neatly into the hippie-dippie definition of a jam band, but all of the groups here give a sense of freedom at their shows through improvisation and exploration. Here are the ten jam bands to keep an eye on in 2014.
10. McTuff The Hammond B-3 takes center stage for McTuff, the exciting power jazz trio from Seattle, Washington. Things stay high tempo, as a monsoon of improvisational solos and licks are tossed into the sound. Despite the music being all instrumental, the music these guys create really resonantes. Most of the messages seem to be "go conquer the world" due to the majesty of the Hammond B-3, and that sounds good to us.
9. The Quick and Easy Boys Hailing from the bustling jam-band scene in Portland, these high spirited musicians take funk and honky-tonk and combine them with psychedelic jams to create a unique, catchy sound that is more musical ride than composition. Falsetto '60s soul vocals add an extra exuberant touch to the mix, and the fast pace keeps the energy level at a ten throughout the show.
8. Aqueous Taking the composed sections of songs just as seriously as the improvisation makes this fairly young band from Buffalo, New York, sound polished and more experienced than it actually is. Blending musical genres like funk, jazz and psychedelia together, the band's sound stands out for the repetitive rhythms that builds into elaborate grooves.
7. The Stepkids Mixing psychedelic cues and compositional influences from Frank Zappa with '60s soul sounds and vocals, the Stepkids sound unlike anything out there. They have gained a great reputation for live shows that captivate all the senses, with acid-drenched projections smoothly blending in with jazzy R&B stylings. The act's most recent album, Troubadour, was released last September to much acclaim.
6. Jonathon Scales Fourchestra Jonathon Scales Fourchestra took up the steel pan in 2002, and has since created some of the most unique and dynamic music out there. Beautiful melodies are composed on the spot, as the band keeps a steady rhythm for the rest of the music to grow. The music is good enough to have attracted guests like Victor Wooten, who appears on last year's Fourchestra.
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5. Otis Grove Otis Grove has been playing around the Boston and surrounding New England area for a while, but his sound has gotten increasingly more aggressive and rockin' in recent years, garnering the nickname "organ funk." No surprise then that the Hammond B3 Organ is a huge presence in the sound, although the Moog and the Mellotron certainly turn heads and ears, as well.
4. Snarky Puppy This instrumental fusion collective, which was started out of the spirited musical enclave of Denton, Texas, takes jazz and adds world music instruments and sounds to create an experience that is refreshing and lifts the weight off your shoulders. With nearly forty musicians at its service, the band has developed a sound that reaches orchestral heights. After last year's Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song, all eyes and ears are trained on the group's next release, set to drop next month.
3. The Mantras The Mantras are a steady touring band out of Greensboro, North Carolina, that takes Middle Eastern musical elements and combines them with funk, rock, jazz and electronica to create a slithery, sexy sound that makes for a constant dance party at live shows.
2. Earthless Taking inspiration from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, San Diego's Earthless have been popular in the SoCal skate scene for a while, and the instrumental sound has never sounded fresher. Heavy doses of dark psychedelia are tossed over a stoner metal sound, and as things are improvised, they are often repeated until becoming part of the written repertoire.
1. Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band A well-known name in the Philadelphia musical underground scene since relocating from Brooklyn in 2009, guitarist Chris Forsyth builds sonic walls then tears them down as lead man with the Solar Motel Band. Swirling slide guitar sounds cohesive with his crunchy, raw garage tone, creating a musical energy that feels very alive. Forsyth's latest release is "Solar Motel" is a four part suite of instrumental build and bliss that takes you on such a journey that you can't believe you have only been listening for an hour. He coined his sound "Cosmic Americana," and that's about right as he takes elements from space, the Grateful Dead and Television and creates something otherworldly and engulfing.
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