Wednesday, April 21, 2010

RTBE Interview with: The Loose Marbles

This will be an on going project of interviews with various artists. Today's guest: Ben Polcer, Trumpeter in The Loose Marbles.

Rock The Body Electric: When and how did The Loose Marbles get started?

Ben Polcer:  The Loose Marbles band technically started in Providence, Rhode Island in 2000..  it was inactive from 2001--2006, then was reborn in NYC under the leadership of Michael Magro (clarinet) and Ben Polcer (trumpet), which it remains today.   It was developed as a street band in Washington Square Park in NYC for a few months in 2006 with Peter Beirhorst (banjo), Jake Sanders (guitar), Peter Ford (box bass), and Rich Levinson (washboard).    In 2007 Michael Magro and Ben Polcer relocated to New Orleans, to play on the streets through the winter.  There we met up with other musicians and dancers (Kiowa Wells-- guitar, Barnabus Jones-- trombone, Jason Jurzak-- tuba/bass, Meschiya Lake-- vocals, Shaye Cohn-- piano, trumpet, Blu Beverage--tuba, Jessie Juice Man-- bass drum, Jon Gross-- tuba, Chance Bushman and Amy Johnson-- dancers, and some others)...

RTBE:  Are there set members or more like a rotating cast of characters?

BP:  The only real set members are Michael Magro and myself.  It is a constant rotating cast of musicians, different on almost every gig..  There are members who play a good majority of the time now though.  They are:  John Rodli-- guitar, Robert Snow-- bass, Shaye Cohn-- piano, trumpet, Barnabus Jones--trombone, Jason Jurzak-- bass, Jon Gross-- tuba.

(Ben playing Trumpet, Piano and Percussion at the same time... not bad)

RTBE:  The band has such a pure Old-time Jazz sound, yet the group is young, how did the authentic tone and sound come about?

BP:  The authentic sound came from various sources.   Michael studied many old New Orleans recordings of George Lewis, Albert Burbank, Bunk Johnson, Jim Robinson, etc, and molded his clarinet playing around that style, and spent some time in New Orleans.  My father is a traditional jazz trumpet player, so I grew up hearing this kind of music at an early age.   We decided to play this 'style' of music, and sought out other musicians who played in that vein...
RTBE:  How much does the city of New Orleans influence you?

BP:  The city of New Orleans has had a huge influence on the band.   This kind of music is very much a part of the culture here in New Orleans, and has offered countless opportunities and inspirations that no other place could have offered.   Even before we came here the music of New Orleans had affected us, through recordings, and live musicians.

RTBE:  You guys seem to have two homes, NOLA and NYC, do you feel there is some sort of connection between the two cities?

BP:  I think that there is a connection between NYC and NOLA, mostly because they are two places where music and more specifically, jazz music are a big part of the culture.   More in NOLA nowadays.  For us, they just happened to be the 2 places where we did a lot of playing, met a lot of musicians, and made many contacts.   Though we live in NOLA, I was raised in NYC, and Michael in Philadelphia.  
RTBE: Is it true you guys try to never charge a cover for your shows?  If so how did this come about and why?

BP:  It is true that we very rarely charge a cover for our shows.   I think it came about because we are at heart a street band, where the music is free.   Though we were not being paid by anyone, we found that if we made music for music's sake, people would give generously to us, and we could make a living off of tips and cd sales alone.   Learning this lesson on the street taught us a lot about not forcing music down people's throats, and not pushing too hard for their money.  We found that the more passive we were in seeking money, the more generous people would be--- and most of the clubs we play at are free to the public, just have to buy a drink.   we like it that way, because music should be for everybody, not just those that can pay a cover charge.

Thanks to Ben for his time.  The Loose Marbles will be playing 3 shows in and around town during Jazzfest, if you are in New Orleans be sure to catch them: 
(Also be sure to just cruise around as you may catch them playing in the streets...their natural habitat) 

I gotta say I was blown away when friends of mine (Ben and KP) brought me to check this group out, it was stunning, they sound like they have been playing this music together for decades and to find that they are a loose knit fellowship of like minded street musicians was shocking.  Just check out my favorite YouTube Clip of the group and try NOT to be blown away...

I rest my case!
Become a fan of theirs on Facebook and try to catch them when they come to your town...or better yet head down to theirs.  

All pictures were taken by RTBE (Thanks Kelli!) at The Loose Marbles 9-17-09 Show at Radegast Biergarten Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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