Ever since Jahman Brahman‘s first visit to Richmond on St. Patty’s day earlier this year, I knew they’d be back. And they were, coming to The Camel on December 18th as one of their last stops on their “Tearin’ Down the Walls Tour.” I had the pleasure to listen, study, groove, and philosophize with Jahman Brahman on this evening.
Ever since Jahman Brahman‘s first visit to Richmond on St. Patty’s day earlier this year, I knew they’d be back. And they were, coming to The Camel on December 18th as one of their last stops on their “Tearin’ Down the Walls Tour.” I had the pleasure to listen, study, groove, and philosophize with Jahman Brahman on this evening. So, who is Jahman Brahman? A jam band? A shred ‘n flow rock ‘n roll band? There are too many terms to call it and, honestly, the term you use doesn’t matter. What you do as a band is what counts. And Jahman Brahman knows what they are doing. After regularly playing 10 to 15 shows a month, and yet another successful tour, it’s obvious they have earned their chops. For what they do, this band is one of the most underrated bands on the scene–and that says a lot, given the saturation out there.
“It can be difficult to get over the hump and get beyond the pack,” said drummer Rowdy Keelor. However, they already have a consistent following, and are well on their way. After forming in Ohio and touring for a couple of years, Jahman Brahman decided to relocate to Asheville, North Carolina. “We still have a great following in Ohio, but we moved to branch out to other markets. We are now playing a spot at the OneStop in Asheville, and we’ve had incredible responses across Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas including Raleigh, Wilmington, and Charleston,” said keyboardist Josh Loffer.
All of the band members are self-taught, with a wide variety of influences continuing to shape and influence their direction. Together they bring an eclectic mix of talent and motivation. “Everyone likes totally different stuff. I’m into alt rock these days. They have great songwriters and incredible melodies. I don’t have to like dance music like [lead guitarist] Casey [Chanatry]. I respect that he does and that he brings those influences to the table,” said Rowdy. Josh Loffer is heavily influenced by Motown and even the unique fusion of Hiromi Sonicbloom. Bassist Nate Brown has studied the lengthy library of Phil Lesh for a long time. And vocalist/guitarist Justin Brown enjoys the breadth of the local bands that he meets on the road.
As our pre-show discussion continued, I couldn’t help but realize how in tune these guys are with each other. And not just in the musical sense, but in the band mentality; one of commitment and understanding of each other. As we delved into the art and science of improvisational music, we found the discussion gravitating to musical theory and how it forms the basis of what they do.
“We are really branching out into various diatonic modes. We are using the lydian, mixolydian, and dorian modes as a basis to shift our moods and sounds. And through that we’ve found that our improvisation has evolved into composition,” said Casey. “We are moving as a unit… not just a series of breaks (guitar, then keys, etc).” As a music theory junkie, I appreciate this greatly. This is how a band elevates itself, and I’m glad to see that Jahman Brahman understands and executes this practice.
“Lately, our improv has evolved. We used to have a designated improv part in all our songs. And now that’s not always the case. We’ve turned many of those parts into more composed parts. There’s a fine line between gelling and just jamming,” said Casey. “It’s all about how to carry a set, flowing correctly every time,” he added.
“We like to build up to a certain lick that then transitions everyone back,” vocalist and guitarist Justin Brown reiterated.
On this random Tuesday night, Jahman Brahman brought a level of energy that is often hard to find at a smaller venue in the middle of the week. They wove a varied fabric of compositions, playing everything from jam classics like “The Wheel” to a passionate Sponge cover, and even a version of “(You Gotta) Fight for your Right (to Party!)” laced with intense fervor. They nailed a Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas song as well. The boys also brought Chelsey Grey (fellow Ashevillan and vocalist) on stage for a powerful rendition of the Allman Brothers “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” They did all of this while also performing a set of original music which clearly demonstrated that they are not just a jam cover band. These gents compose with complex melodies and jam as a unit with an array of moods and tempos, not just two-lick songs that all sound the same. This is musical exploration at its core.
“Take risks on stage. That’s what this business is all about. If you play safe, it shows in your music,” said Josh. Well, those risks paid off. As the audience grew and the late night Broad Street crowd ventured in, the band continued to elevate the space.
Rowdy explains the challenge of bringing their best performance to every venue they play. “A colleague of ours once said, ‘It’s easy to play a good show in front of 500 people. It’s playing to the smaller crowds that’s the challenge.’ Can we always bring that energy?”
“The tour has been a mixed crowd, just like any touring band can experience,” said Casey. “But this tour has seen some incredible shows. Opening for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong in Frederick, MD at Cafe 611 was certainly a highlight. What an amazing crowd and energy!”
Sure, I hear hints of other bands from the scene, but their mix of Motown, blues, ambient jamming, and straight up rock is artfully combined to make this band their own. And they’ve found a healthy platform of influences from which to springboard. Their energy was apparent, and well received by the crowd. The end result was enlightening, honest, and passionate music. The potential these guys bring to the scene is incredibly exciting.
To Jahman Brahman: Thanks for the amazing show and grooves. Thanks for the inspiring conversation. And thanks to each of you for showing that musical energy, composition, and talent are indeed alive and well. I–and many others–will be seeing you again very soon.