MUSIX BOX: Wild for John Wayne’s World

By on January 26, 2016

Instrumental jazz-funk-soul project expands scope with vocalist.

 John Wayne’s World now includes the vocal prowess of Sheena Dhamsania.

John Wayne’s World now includes the vocal prowess of Sheena Dhamsania.

Jackson, WY – Drummer John Wayne Harris, Jr. has been the backbone in several local music projects since moving to the valley a handful of years ago—Elk Attack, Mandatory Air, Canyon Kids, Uncle Stack & the Attack, Freda Felcher, and Maddy & the Groove Spots among them. A drummer as bandleader, or moreover a drummer to have his name on the marque, is unfortunately rare. Harris has the chops, though, as well as the vision and the big picture that is John Wayne’s World (JWW).

“I’m a big fan of the current funk and soul revival happening from coast to coast,” Harris said. “As a drummer, the most satisfying element of this kind of music is creating textures of groove that make people feel what your doing on stage from the ground up. Two of my favorite drummers are Adam Deitch (Lettuce) and Robert Searight (Snarky Puppy) whom I’ve been fortunate enough to take lessons from.”

Core members of JWW were in flux during the band’s first year. Whenever Harris booked a club gig he would often post an open invitation on the Jackson Hole Musicians Facebook page inviting jazz and funk musicians—both local and passers-through—to bring their instrument and sit in. Soon, Harris’ core lineup became more concrete with longtime wingman Adam Wooley on bass, Michael Evans on guitar, and keyboardist Mark Longfield. Before opening for New Mastersounds at the Pink Garter last winter, Harris gave a then-snapshot of their focus on instrumental music.

“We are re-creating classic and contemporary material from instrumental jazz/funk icons such as The Meters, John Scofield, Medeski Martin and Wood, Grant Green, Soulive, Greyboy Allstars and Snarky Puppy. The project is a chance for us to stretch out our musical limbs and put our chops on display with a strong emphasis on heavy, danceable grooves.”

Fast-forward a year. Harris has found a “weapon” in newcomer Sheena Dhamsania, JWW’s new vocalist. Dhamsania holds a BA in bassoon performance and music education from Michigan State, and she sang with a ten-piece salsa band during that time. She also plays bass guitar and teaches music at Wilson Elementary.

“We are her students,” Harris said of Dhamsania. “Our little intermingling corner of the scene has really taken notice of Sheena’s abilities.”

Harris explained the new direction, which includes the addition of homegrown compositions and, of course, vocal-based material. “Right now the set is about 50/50 original to cover. The original stuff is heavily influenced by New Orleans funk and R&B, and Brooklyn soul-jazz. The cover material with Sheena is mostly classic and neo-soul based…Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway to Erykah Badu and Lianne La Havas.”

John Wayne’s World, 10 p.m., Saturday at The Rose (free). Residency continues Feb. 13, 25 & March 12, 26. Also 9:30 p.m., Feb. 5 at the Mangy Moose ($5). PinkGarterTheatre.com, 733-1500.

‘Montucky’ kitchen grass

Montana is currently a hotbed for the traditional-meets-prog-grass bands and Bozeman’s Kitchen Dwellers are certainly a part of that. Though they sport a classic bluegrass lineup of banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and upright bass, the quintet brings to mind Midwesterners Greensky Bluegrass in their approach—not afraid to stretch with jam and folk elements in mind, yet maintaining the energy of Bill Monroe’s fire. They self-describe it as “a trip to outer bluegrass.” After a local stop, they’ll roll into Big Sky Big Grass Fest next weekend with Sam Bush, David Grisman and a dozen other acts.

Kitchen Dwellers, 10 p.m., Saturday at Town Square Tavern ($5) and 3 to 6 p.m., Friday at The Trap Bar at Grand Targhee (free).

Flinner brings Traveling Roots

Over the course of two albums and a few shows at Dornan’s in recent years, the Matt Flinner Trio’s teeter between jazz, bluegrass and avant-garde has been highlighted by it’s “music du jour” concept—drawing on whatever inspires them that day to compose a new tune and then performing it that evening. This time around, the instrumental trio of Matt Flinner (mandolin), Eric Thorin (bass) and Ross Martin (guitar) bring “Traveling Roots,” an album that refocuses, delivering compositions beyond the single day concept.

“I feel that our goal as musicians should be to try to add some bit of beauty to the world,” Flinner explained. “I see this as our small, esoteric string band bluegrass-jazz-new acoustic living on the 17th-moon-of-Saturn contribution to that.”  PJH

Matt Flinner Trio, 8 p.m., Wednesday at Dornan’s. $15. 733-2415.

PLANET PICKS

WED: Matt Flinner Trio (Dornan’s); Tribal Seeds with The Skints & The Steppas (Pink Garter Theatre); Andy Franco & the UN (Town Square Tavern); Mike Dillon Band (Knotty Pine); THURS: Ballyhoo (Town Square Tavern); SAT: John Wayne’s World (The Rose); Kitchen Dwellers (Town Square Tavern); SUN: Major Zephyr (Mangy Moose).

Aaron Davis is a songwriting troubadour, multi-instrumentalist, founding member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, and host of Songwriter’s Alley.

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About Aaron Davis

Aaron Davis is a decade-long writer of Music Box, a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, member of Screen Door Porch and Boondocks, founder/host of Songwriter’s Alley, and co-founder of The WYOmericana Caravan.

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