The Jazz Mandolin Project, a jazz band that works around the mandolin as the solo instrument, will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, at the Smith Opera House.
Founded by mainstay mandolin virtuoso Jamie Masefield, a longtime member of the Preservation Jazz Hall Band, the Jazz Mandolin Project is an improv trio with a constantly evolving lineup and a penchant for modern and traditional jazz, rock classics and world music. JMP has carved a unique niche for itself, playing mandolin-driven, jazz-inflected music that is refreshingly innovative and delightfully hard to pigeonhole. With a harder edge but a similar draw to that of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the group is sure to appeal to Phish-heads and tasteful jazz fans alike.
The Jazz Mandolin Project had its beginnings in a coffeehouse in Burlington, Vermont called The Last Elm Café. Masefield developed a monthly gig at the café under the Jazz Mandolin Project name, playing with guest musicians who would play for a cut of the tips. As the gig grew more popular, other venues became interested in hiring Masefield and his musical friends.
The band gained national exposure in 2001 when it began playing larger venues with guest musicians such as Rob Wasserman, Jon Fishman, Fareed Haque and Larry Correal. They even played one night in New York's historic Roseland Ballroom with guitarist and New York Yankees outfielder Bernie Williams.
Jazz Mandolin Project, which has performed in Europe and Japan, is returning to Geneva as part of its current tour of the Northeast. They last played at The Smith in 2000 to a capacity crowd when Phish's Jon Fishman sat in with the group.
“That was my fist big show at The Smith,” recalled Smith Executive Director Kevin Schoonover. “It was completely sold out. We emptied out the entire concession stand and sold every drop of alcohol in the building, including some leftover champagne from the millennium party.”
The group has five recordings: its debut CD, the self-titled “Jazz Mandolin Project,” “Tour De Flux,” “Xenoblast,” “After Dinner Jams,” and “Jungle Tango,” released last year. “Jungle Tango,” explores the Latin and African rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean and matches them with the sound of acoustic stringed instruments. The album was recorded in Trey Anastasio's Barn Studio in Vermont and is currently garnering positive feedback and attention from jazz publications and radio stations.
Tickets to the Jazz Mandolin Project are $15 for the general public and $10 for Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Finger Lakes Community College students. They are available at The Smith box office, Area Records and Music and at the door. Doors open at 8:00 for the 9 p.m. show. For more information, call 315-781-LIVE (5483) or toll-free 1-866-355-LIVE (5483).