Jazz Is Phish Reinvents Masterfully What We've All Come to Love at The Bop Stop in Cleveland


Drummer Adam Chase (and guitarist Matthew Chase) formed Jazz Is Phish in 2015 as a roving collective of musicians honoring the music and the legacy of Phish. The idea was simple: identify a thread that weaves through a broader creative community and pull it. See where it leads.

“It became apparent to me that if I could create a way to pay homage to Phish while allowing musicians to have their own identity by re-imagining the music in an instrumental setting that I would be able to uncover musicians from a wide variety of backgrounds and genres to embrace their love for the music,” Adam told the Huffington Post in 2016.

The result has been a multifaceted road show and studio sesh involving dozens of world-class musicians. A six-piece manifestation showed up at The Bop Stop last night. The sold-out crowd was treated to a real gem of a show.

In Cleveland, we were given the pleasure of seeing a great lineup perform music: Adam Chase on drums, Lee Barbour on guitar, Cody Wright on bass, Jamar Woods on keys, Chris Bullock on sax and Adam Dotson on trombone. Throughout the show, each musician found opportunities to put his spin on music that, one must assume, has influenced an individual creative style.

Often, the brass guys carried the vocal legwork and used tight bursts of flashy pizzazz to convey Trey Anastasio’s laissez-faire Gumbo lyrics or the scat melody of Bathtub Gin. Chase held things down in the back, re-envisioning Jon Fishman’s eight-armed rhythms in a new setting. And Woods took what Page McConnell does best, flipped it around and dropped the synth goods off in the bayou to deliver a chilled-out organ vibe that twisted around each jam; his shining moments came in Tweezer and Ya Mar, when he worked in tandem with Wright, and in Stash, when he took to the baby grand onstage and teased the Gin melody through a vibey take on one of Phish’s early classics.

It was a terrific night, and half the fun was in trying to identify each song as they came up during the set. Plenty of Phish’s original work was rearranged wonderfully (including in the case of Carini, which Chase said was structured by and dedicated to the late Kofi Burbridge, who played with incarnations of this band).

My personal highlights were Gin, which featured a dynamite solo by Dotson, and the Moma Dance > NICU combo—some good funk that led right into a splendid calypso spin through Ya Mar.

Those of us who keep busy in the local jam scene have been blessed with several mighty fine weeks of music in Cleveland, and last night’s jazz outing was no slouch.

For the Bop Stop’s part, Director Gabe Pollack introduced the evening by describing how special this Monday night bill was to the club; it’s not every day a bunch of heads walk in and sell out your jazz joint on a weeknight. The Bop Stop has operated for years as an arm of the Music Settlement, a music education center (east side and west side!) that’s built a creative community for those seeking a deeper understanding and connection with the craft. “With every drink at the bar, you are supporting music education in Cleveland,” Pollack said, and he needn’t tell us twice. (By the way, the Bop Stop is in the running for All About Jazz’s Top 100 venues in the world, so g’head and vote!)

Setlist (an approximation)

Tweezer Reprise, Bathtub Gin, Gumbo > Jam*, Tweezer, Stash**, Carini***, Bass Jam****, The Moma Dance > NICU, Ya Mar, Brother


Dinner and a Movie*****

*Based on Herbie Hancock’s “Sly”
**With Jamar Woods on baby grand piano, Bathtub Gin tease
***Dedicated to Kofi Burbridge
****Waste -> Stash reprise?, the subject of much audience debate
*****Bathtub Gin tease

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