Winter Park / Live Music: In that place where blues and jam meet
March 7, 2008
The Andy Irvine Blues Collective features “Johnny O” Ohnmacht and Jimmy Yozell together for a special concert with Irvine at the Winter Park Pub.
Ohnmacht and Yozell have not only played quite a bit with Irvine, but played together in the early ’90s as the Johnny O. Band.
“It’s about good players getting together,” Yozell said of the upcoming show, adding that Irvine is his favorite bass player in Colorado. “He and I make the best rhythm section there is.”
Yozell started playing drums when he was 11 and said everything influences his music, especially the time he spends in Brazil and the afro-Brazilian funk and samba beats found there. He lives there half the year and has done so for about seven years.
He also grew up with Art Blakey’s son and considers that a very formative time. (Blakey was an American jazz drummer and bandleader and is considered an inventor of the modern bebop-style of drumming.) Yozell said he went to many of Blakey’s shows and that was when he really got into jazz.
“He really laid down the big hard-bop style back then,” Yozell said.
Later on, Yozell took classes at Syracuse University to study music and recording and said he was playing 10 to 12 gigs a week at the time.
Among many other bands he’s played with since then, Yozell started the Johnny O. band with Ohnmacht and the duo put out Ohnmacht’s second CD together called “River in the Sky.” Yozell just finished a new CD with the Strolling Scones (a ’60s show band) which features all original material and band leader Rick Stockton recorded that second Ohnmacht CD.
Ohnmacht, of Boulder, brings a unique mixture of funk, soul, rock and high-energy blues to the reunion performance with Yozell and Irvine. The musician estimates he’s been writing and recording music for more than two decades and his band released its third CD in 2004. The album, entitled “Time for the Turnaround,” pushes the boundaries of the blues. Yozell said it is a “funky flavor tinged with spice from New Orleans.”
“I love playing blues but also where blues meets the jam,” Ohnmacht said. “I like to stretch it out and see where the moment leads musically. I think that it’s also most enjoyable to the listener to feel like they are a part of a unique musical moment.”
Ohnmacht wrapped his hands around his first guitar at age 10 and by high school he was already playing professionally and was sure it was what he wanted to do with his life. He also credits several influences from the family, a grandfather who played bassoon in the New York Philharmonic and taught at the Julliard School of Music, and a stepfather who was an accomplished drummer and percussionist.
Audiences may have also heard of him when he played with Band du Jour, which consecutively sold out the Fox Theatre in Boulder and toured worldwide for six years.
Of this weekend’s performance, Ohnmacht said Irvine “is one of the finest bass players that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.” Of Yozell, who made two tours to Europe as the drummer for the Johnny O. Band, Ohnmacht said he “is an outstanding drummer who is very versatile and fun to work with.”
Lately, Ohnmacht has been spending a lot of time in the studio with two-time Grammy-award-winning producer Tom Wasinger and is working with him on a collection of instrumentals. Most of the material, he explains, was influenced by his travels through Brazil.
“It is quite a departure from my blues playing but it is something that I’m having a lot of fun with.”
The trio looks forward to playing together once again and Yozell said he wants the audience to “have fun and dance and feel the music and go away happy and empowered with a positive energy to spread to others.”
“(The Pub’s) a cool, intimate venue,” Ohnmacht said. “The three of us haven’t had the chance to jam that much together for awhile and that means it will be fresh and funky. Andy’s a bad a**, point blank, and Jimmy has a funky style of his own. It’ll be a fun night. Come ready to dance.”