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Live at the Merville Hall

Slammin Jack launches new album and national tour with stadium bluegrass at the Boot

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Who: Slammin Jack

When: Monday, Jan. 9

Where: Boot Pub

The little town of Merville on Vancouver Island hosts only three buildings: a gas station, corner store and community hall, but from the little country hall came big city music with the production of Slammin Jack’s latest album, The Merville Sessions.

"A lot of times on smaller islands we play in little halls, which are pretty cool," said percussionist Jeffrey Kornblum. "We decided to rent the hall for a week to record and brought in recording equipment, a producer and engineer and turned the hall into a recording studio. The concept was live off the floor, rather than tracking."

The completion of the hall recording was celebrated with a live show for the town and the album underwent minor editing at Lab Monkey Studios in Vancouver for the final product, ready to be launched at Slammin Jack’s CD release party Monday, Jan. 9 at the Boot Pub.

"Especially with it recorded live off the floor, it does have a live feel to it," Kornblum said. "It represents us. We are pretty much a live playing band. We leave a lot to chance on the stage. We haven’t had an album in the last two and half years. It is really representative of what we are doing now."

A melodic mish mash of genres, spanning roots, prog-rock, jazz, funk and ambient electronica, along with four-part vocal harmonies, make up what the band describes as "stadium grass" – a hybrid of progressive disco and bluegrass. Funky grooves are spiked with bold explosive jams reminiscent of Phish improvisation.

Kornblum attributes the eclectic sound to the broad make up of the band, which includes Kornblum, guitarist Rich Martin, drummer Sean Scallion, keyboardist Scott Daniels and bassist Jim Guthrie.

"Everybody is completely different from each other," Kornblum said. "Our keyboard player is completely into electronic music, which is funny because he writes mostly folky music for the band – storytelling type stuff."

Recently married Guthrie is off in his own world right now; East Coaster Scallion is all about Led Zeppelin; Frenchman Martin’s music harkens back to the days of Jerry Garcia; and Kornblum is all about the bluegrass.

The band took a well-earned break from a marathon tour schedule – with more than 200 shows tallied up over the past two years – to finish the album. It was produced by Shawn Cole, whose credits include Slow Nerve Action and Los Furious.

Credited as one of B.C.’s hardest working bands, the Canadian jam unit Slammin Jack sets out on cross-Canada tour number three this month. The band has also traveled the Canada festival circuit, including the Edge of the World Music Festival in Queen Charlotte City, Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Evolve 4 Music Festival, West Coast jam-a-rama and Bonfire Music Festival.

Close to Vancouver and Martin’s former home for a while, Slammin Jack visits Whistler’s live music scene regularly.

"It seems like every time we come to Whistler it is a little bit busier, which always makes us excited to come back," Kornblum said.

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