Robert Randolph and Jake Clemons
Throw a Joyous Jersey Jam at the bergenPAC
A SoundPress.net Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

Robert Randolph & The Family Band along with the Jake Clemons Band jammed at the bergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey on December 27, 2013. Both groups performed joyous sets of post-holiday crowd-pleasing music.

Robert Randolph and Jake Clemons Throw a Joyous Jersey Jam at the bergenPAC
Robert Randolph and Jake Clemons Band jamming at the bergenPAC in Englewood, New Jersey.

Robert Randolph's journey began in the church where he learned to play the "sacred steel". It would take years before secular music and in particular Stevie Ray Vaughan would change Robert's course. Forming a band with some relatives he begot Robert Randolph & The Family Band to preach the gospel of eclectic songs to the masses. Their music is a supernatural blend of blues, funk, gospel, rock and soul.

Robert Randolph & The Family Band have been touring in support of their latest record Lickety Split (2013) thus their concerts have been showcasing their classic as well as contemporary material. Soundpress.net has had the pleasure of seeing RR before but we were still "amped up" for another concert knowing that this show would be unique due to the improvisational nature of The Family Band.

Improvisational it was as much of this performance had a jam band feel to it. They opened with an expansive exploratory instrumental with effects layered over lively steel leads. It was followed by another jam of rapid fire riffs and rhythms punctuated by bold bass lines from Danyel. At one point, Robert was playing with such intensity that he was swinging his head close to the strings of his instrument with the band matching his vibrant vigor.

The classic "Press On" was a soul simmering blend of the blues that was inspiring with its intricate interplay. During the tune Randolph called out to the crowd to sing along and put their hands up. A little later they played a song that truly involved audience participation. Ladies were invited on stage to "Shake Their Hips" as the band progressed through the popular, sassy song.

The next piece had a reggae vibe to it. Jake Clemons armed with his sax added awesome accents to the mix. Robert was smiling as he sang the refrain with some fans joining in. The spirit filled set continued with more experimental elements melded into the effusive music that closed act one.

For the encore, Robert alone at the steel conjured up Hendrix with his unique spin on "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)". The rest of The Family Band along with Clemons came out as the piece flowed into a colorful "Purple Haze". The sax may have gotten a little lost in this guitar heavy tune but it was still cool. The Family Band interpretation was potent and ended the show on a stellar note.

Jake Clemons is a dynamic multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter. Jake came into the spotlight in 2012 when he joined the E Street Band with the challenging task of filling the sax spot left by his uncle the late, great Clarence Clemons. Clarence was a mentor to Jake who passed down his horns to his nephew. Although no one can replace The Big Man, Jake has proven that he is an apt player and artist in his own right. When not on tour with Bruce Springsteen Clemons fronts a five piece band.

Robert Randolph and Jake Clemons Throw a Joyous Jersey Jam at the bergenPAC
More scenes from the Robert Randolph and Jake Clemons concert.

"What I want to do with my own group is apply all the lessons that I learned. If people are coming to see me from the Bruce family, they've just seen me with the greatest band on earth. So I want to apply all the lessons I learned as far as communicating with the audience, creating a set list with a theme and a voice," stated Clemons when discussing his music.

Based on the concert that we saw on Friday Jake has absorbed a lot from his mentors. Clemons effectively connected with the crowd during a 53 minute presentation. Clemons sang, spoke of relationships both good and bad but most importantly Jake conveyed a message of healing and hope. He is also a super saxophonist.

Jake's band took the stage first crafting good grooves before Jake strolled out adding sassy sax to the mix. Jake switched to an acoustic guitar which enabled him to also sing. "Love'll Never Change" was the first lively song of the night. It was warmly received by the audience.

A bold bass and drum combination set the tone for next song that swelled from rocking to slightly restrained. This technique of build-ups were used in a number of tracks with rich results. Clemons explained that the next tune was a warning to a friend who got into a serious pairing too fast. The song was pointed with polished progressions.

The Jake Clemons Band was engaging and exciting. Between songs Jake would sometimes chat mentioning his Uncle Clarence with affection. Their mostly rocking show continued with the themes of healing and heart. Towards the end of his set Jake played keys on a piece that evoked a pensive mood that soon shifted to a more peppy pace. Again a well structured tune with build-ups with short solid solos from all the band members.

Jake thanked the crowd and Robert Randolph before playing the catchy "You Must Be Crazy" with a saucy sax solo. They finished with a message of being in the now with music that was both reflective and riveting. The band got a well deserved standing ovation as they exited.

The bergenPAC is located in the heart of Englewood 's thriving downtown. The venue continues to host a wide range of artists such as Robert Randolph & The Family Band. Upcoming events at the bergenPAC include Dave Mason, The NJ Symphony, Martin Sexton, Kelli Rabke Agresta, Billy Blagg, Michael Schenker, Rusted Root with Donna The Buffalo.

Robert Randolph and Jake Clemons Throw a Joyous Jersey Jam at the bergenPAC

Related Links: For more information on ROBERT RANDOLPH and JAKE CLEMONS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Robert Randolph | Jake Clemons | bergenPAC.org

(Originally Published on December 30, 2013)

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