Winter Park / Live Music: Feeding your soul by getting you on the dance floor
February 15, 2008
East Coast jam band Esther Macomb is heading out West for the first time, with several concerts scheduled throughout Colorado – two right here in the Fraser Valley.Band members are Dave The Law Freedman, Rob Bungy Pawlings, Kenny The Pope Shaw, and frontman Paul Maddison. Freedman plays guitar and sings vocals, Pawlings lends his talents on bass and vocals, Shaw plays drums for the band, and Maddison plays guitar and sings vocals. Each member helps compose and arrange the band’s original repertoire, with specialties in what Freedman calls party funk.It’s music that we grew up with, and it allows us an avenue for improvisation, Pawlings said. When it comes down to it, it’s all about making people dance and enjoy themselves.The band’s name was inspired by mountains in New York State near where several band members grew up. An Adirondack folk tale tells of a young girl, Esther Macomb, who set off to climb the tallest mountain, Mt. Marcy, because she thought its peak would feed her soul. Instead, Freedman explains, she climbed a different mountain that is now named after her.Freedman’s musical career began with piano lessons and he also played trumpet. In his teens, he discovered the guitar and knew there was no turning back. He said he’s always loved listening to music, listing The Beatles’ as inspiration, as well as the Grateful Dead and Elton John. When he started digging into guitar, he would listen to a variety of blues and jazz and it was about that same time that he got into jam band Phish. More recently, he’s been listening to all of that as well as more pop and hip-hop.Freedman and Pawlings grew up in the same area and started a jazz and funk trio called the Upstate Allstars. The two then met up with Maddison and Shaw and had originally asked Maddison to join the trio and morphed it from an instrumental jazz ensemble into a rock band. When the original drummer left Freedman said it was a no-brainer to ask Shaw to replace him.Maddison, an internationally ranked tennis player for some time, met Pawlings in college and Maddison and Shaw were in another band together. When Maddison was in ninth grade his dad, who was also a musician, asked what he was going to do for a living and Maddison told him he was going to be a rock guitarist. He told me to get an education degree, he said. Now, I’m a rock guitarist with an education degree.With encouragement from both parents who are musically talented (his mom was a radio disc jockey), Maddison went on to study music education and composition at Suny Purchase. The dynamic performer, who also has several nicknames, attributes many inspirations to his musical stylings, including James Brown, Rick Moody Books and the Red Hot Chili Peppers; he also listed girls, Fender jazz basses, and James Brown a couple more times. When he’s not playing music, he’s thinking about it, he jokes. He describes the band’s sound as fun, funky, sexy, danceable guitar-driven rock. … It’s the most fun one can have with pants on.Pawlings has a master’s degree in music and first started playing bass at about age 17. During college he played in a big band and it was there that he said he first thought of making a living as a musician. He went to school to become a teacher and has incorporated the two passions, teaching private bass and guitar lessons on the side.He said just about everything in his life influences and inspires him, including his mom who would take him to church early so she could rehearse with the choir. Bassist Jaco Pastorious was also a big influence, and lately he’s been listening to Jay Z, Stevie Wonder, The Police and pianist Bill Evans.Shaw started playing drums in fifth grade and became enamored with it in middle school. He said he really likes and respects female vocalist Feist, listens to a ton of old R&B and funk, and that most recently he’s been checking out drummer Steve Jordan.Kenny is the most musical drummer I’ve ever played with, Freedman said. He consistently listens to everything that is going on and is always right in the pocket.Freedman said the band is pretty psyched to be heading out this way. He always thought their sound would go over pretty well in Colorado and they had been talking about doing some shows out here for quite some time, adding that they just decided that it was time to stop talking about it and to just do it.Esther Macomb is also working on a new album, set for release by the end of this year. They’ll have some sampler CDs at the shows that will have a few sneak peeks of the new record tracks.