North Carolina-based instrumental tribute band Jazz Is Phish dove deep into the extensive catalog of Phish on Friday at Asheville Music Hall. Jazz Is Phish was founded in 2015 outside of Asheville by brothers Adam and Matthew Chase, who discovered their capability of using Phish’s music as a jam vehicle into jazz exploration.
Phish is a Vermont rock group known for their musical improvisation, extended jams, blending of genres, and loyal fan base. After over 30 years of playing, it comes to no surprise that there’s a band formed strictly around playing off of Phish’s unique sound. That said, Jazz Is Phish bassist Anthony Wellington made it clear to the crowd on Friday that his act isn’t “just another Phish tribute band.” Bouncing off of what Phish has already created, Jazz Is Phish aims to harness a new sound.
At Friday’s show, Jazz Is Phish featured members of The Giant Country Horns (who toured with Phish throughout the early 90s), Snarky Puppy, Victor Wooten Band, Sun Ra Arkestra, and Strange Design, as well as a few local Asheville musicians. The band’s sound resembled island-style Phish with heavy jazz and just the right hint of reggae. Chris Bullock of Grammy-winning Snarky Puppy emulated Phish’s vocals on the Saxophone with precision that paralleled the original harmonization.
The night started with an immense, jazzy-funk groove that filled the room with anticipation and excitement, until the horn section started to subtly segue into “Ghost”, and the room lit up. Next, “Alumni Blues”> “Letter to Jimmy Page” kept the stamina flowing with a sound that could’ve been mistaken for a Zappa arrangement. The atmosphere started to get dark and heavy as “Carini” started to form, and energy was brought back up to a jaunty feel as they closed the first set with “Dinner and a Movie”, which hasn’t been seen at a Phish show since 2013.
The second set opened with “Brother”, another song that’s been MIA on the Phish repertoire since 2012 and is usually only brought out for Father’s Day runs. “Lawn Boy” transported the set to a serene, melodic state that left the audience in awe. An outstanding rendition of “Foam” started to bring the show to its peak and hit the climax during “46 Days” when energy catapulted to an all time high with arms and drinks flying. Coming down from that, everyone was reminded that they can still have fun while chanting “Wilson” towards the end of the show. “Cars, Trucks, and Buses” ended the show on a particularly groovy, blissful note.
As the setlist panned out with quite the collection of unique Phish rarities, fans had a chance to witness some of their favorite songs that Phish hasn’t played in over three years. Jazz Is Phish ends their winter tour in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday. For more information, check out their website.
Jazz Is Phish Setlist at Asheville Music Hall on 2/12/14
Set I: Ghost, Alumni Blues> Letter to Jimmy Page, Fee, Weigh, NICU, Carini, Dinner And A Movie
Set II: Brother, Dog Log, Lawn Boy, Foam, Jam, 46 Days, Wilson, Camel Walk, Julius; E: Cars, Trucks, & Buses
Written by Sammy Lilly