Telluride Jazz Celebration: Lettuce

Telluride Jazz Celebration: Lettuce

Lettuce to perform Saturday, August 2, 7:50 p.m. Buy tickets now here.

The word “jazz,” originally “jass” was slang for love-making or whatever anyone did who went to brothels at the turn of the 20th century. Then it became the kind of music played in brothels to accompany such activities. For Telluride Jazz Celebration impresario Paul Machado, “jazz” means a certain kind of spontaneous interaction on stage and off, when the chemistry created by music, the mountains, the food and wine, and the people kicks in as it inevitably does every year over the Telluride Jazz weekend.

Letttuce Faces

Letttuce Faces

At its center, the Telluride Jazz Festival is an aural elixir so yummy it makes your ears smile, but trying to define the word sandwiched between “Telluride” and “Celebration,” is like trying to hold on to quicksilver: jazz slips through your fingers as soon as you try hanging on: Telluride Jazz is classical, mainstream, blues, funk, Brazilian, African, Latin and more. The 38th annual event takes place this year Friday, August 1– Sunday, August 3.

The 2014 Guest of Honor at Telluride Jazz is  conguero and percussionist Poncho Sanchez. The Grammy Award-winner shares the program with other major talents including Dragon Smoke, Monty Alexander, 2014 Grammy winners (Best R& B Performance) Snarky Puppy, Jon Cleary, Claudia Villela – and Lettuce.

Lettuce, the vegetable, is native to the Mediterranean and Near East and was grown in China in the 5th century and in the royal gardens of the Persian kings in Iran over 2000 years ago. Lettuce, the seven-piece band – as in “Let us play” (see below) –  is native to Brooklyn. The group is known for a taut, hard-rubber vibe that, according to one critic, “takes ‘70s funk principles of staying in the pocket and pound out contemporary, danceable music that borrows from retro-jazz/funk/R& B/blaxploitation soundtrack influences but is never beholden to them.”

Lettuce – now guitarists Eric Krasno and Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff; Neal Evans (keyboards,Hammond B-3 organ, piano), Adam Deitch (drums/percussion); Erick “E.D.” Coomes (bass);  Ryan Zoidis (saxophone); Nigel Hall (vocals), and Eric Bloom (trumpet) – arguably had its origins during the summer of 1992, when all of its members as teenagers attended a music program at the prestigious Berklee College of Music. Brought together by the influence of various funk bands including Herbie Hancock, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Tower of Power, the band jammed throughout that summer before dividing to conquer.

The incipient group reconvened in 1994 as undergrads at Berklee, attempted to play at various Boston jazz clubs. They would simply walk into a venue and ask club owners and other musicians if they would “let us play,” hence the then burgeoning band’s name.

Drumbeats from New York to San Francisco, Chicago and Tokyo spread the message: Lettuce was a band to watch. Their first cd, Outta Here was released in 2001, followed by their Live in Tokyo recorded at the Blue Note in 2003.

In 2008, Lettuce released Rage, which drew heavily from many of funk’s forefathers: Rage! features covers from Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up and Charles Wright’s Express Yourself.

In 2011, Lettuce played on the Royal Family Ball tour with brother band, Soulive and accompanied on select shows by Rashawn Ross of the Dave Matthews Band.

In 2012, the juggernaut, now the modern-day rulers of old-school funk, released Fly, described as “a decidedly raging slab of relentless groove, hyper-charged syncopation and psychedelicized soul anthems.”

Lettuce is only one of the day jobs of the group’s members. Krasno and Evans play with the jazz/organ trio Soulive, along with Kininger and Zoidis who play with Soulive as the Shady Horns. Zoidis is also a member of the Rustic Overtones. Coomes is a studio and touring bass player for such acts as Britney Spears and The Game. Bloom plays with Bonobo and Jon Cleary. Deitch is a producer who has worked with the likes of John Scofield and Wyclef Jean. Smirnoff tours with Robert Randolph and the Family Band.

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To learn more, check out this video:


Click the “play” button and listen to my interview with Adam Deitch and Adam Smirnoff.

adam deitch

Adam Deitch


Adam Smirnoff

Adam Smirnoff

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