The Jazz Passengers
The Jazz Passengers were founded in l987 by Saxophonist Roy Nathanson and Trombonist Curtis Fowlkes. The two musicians met in the band of the Big Apple Circus and toured extensively together in John Lurie's seminal band The Lounge Lizards. They found strong affinity in their Brooklyn roots, their affection for hard bop, comedy and eccentric currents in modern American music. In l989 Bob Blumenthal wrote in the Boston Globe, "The seven piece Passengers often suggest a perverse mainstrean band, a hard-bop group as imagined by Frank Zappa." This is an apt description of the two leaders intention in forming the band.
Early Passengers sets and cds involved complicated and soulfull compositions mixed with original vocals and comedy pieces. This mixture was in evidence in their first 5 cds: Broken Night/Red Light, Deranged and Decomposed, Live at the Knitting Factory, Plain Old Joe and Implement Yourself.
Besides Nathanson and Fowlkes the original band members included Bill Ware on vibes, E. J. Rodriguez on percussion, Brad Jones on bass, Jim Nolet on violin and Marc Ribot on guitar. It is now a six piece band without guitar and with Sam Bardfeld on violin.
The groups trend towards vocal based composition reached a more sophisticated point with the release of the Hal Wilner produced cd Jazz Passengers in Love in l994. Featuring singers from Mavis Staples to Jimmy Scott to Bob Dorough, the performance of Blondie star Debbie Harry on the song "Dog and Sand" stood out and led to a collaboration that is still very much alive. The band released two cds, Individually Twisted and Live in Spain with Ms. Harry as lead vocalist.
The group has and continues to tour the world extensively and has done orchestral arrangements (featuring the arranging/orchestration skills of Bill Ware) of their work for performances with the BBC Concert Orchestra and the Buffallo Philharmonic. This combination of orchestral and original composing is equally in evidence in their new project performing a live soundtrack to the 1954 classic horror film Creature From the Black Lagoon.