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Half-Pint Jones wants YOU to be a movie star

Joey Kuhn | Monday, April 27, 2009

Local band Half-Pint Jones will be recording a music video at Legends Thursday at 8 p.m. The band has extended an invitation to anyone in the Notre Dame community to come and be an extra in the video shoot. Afterwards, the band will also play a set for those in attendance.Half-Pint Jones is hard to categorize, but their sound falls closest to jazz-rock fusion with heavy funk and R&B influences. Formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the group tries to preserve New Orleans’ cultural heritage and soul-flavored sound in their music. Their songs blend jazz-style improvisation on trumpet, saxophone and guitar with traditional rock structures and singing.The band just released their second album “Single File,” for which they tried to focus their sound into three- to four-minute compositions. Their first album, “Trilogy of Patches and Olaf,” mostly consisted of long, linear jams, whereas the second album features mostly shorter songs. Still, the band manages to preserve the essence of their sultry New Orleans style on these shorter songs, and the album contains a few longer jams towards the end as well.”Single File” opens up with “Moist Air,” on which Justin Ross flexes his pipes with a smooth, bluesy melody, singing, “I don’t like you but now here’s one thing that you should do / Don’t you just fall in love even though a man may look at you.” The band also displays a softer side in ballads such as “Pain” and “Ryn,” a sweet love song with an R&B groove.Half-Pint Jones shows its diversity of musical tastes throughout the album. “Marks Ballgame” would be perfect for a conga line with its Latin-tinged sound and simple, feel-good lyrics: “Please feel free to shake your booty all night long!” “Jam Sandwich for Jonas” features a Cuban percussion rhythm paired with peppery horn licks reminiscent of ska or mariachi bands. According to the band’s Web site, the song is a tribute to the saxophone player’s son.It’s hard to even think of Half-Pint Jones as a “rock band,” because most of their songs sound more like sophisticated jazz with a little bit of rock and funk thrown in for good measure. “A Mixture of Things” starts off with a bebop feel, the tenor sax, trumpet, guitar and bass going at it with zany speed. Living up to its name, though, the song quickly shifts gears into a more mellow groove.The last few songs on the album are completely instrumental, giving the members of Half-Pint Jones a chance to show off their true improvisational skill. Loosening their self-imposed length restriction, the aptly named “Indulgence” lasts almost 10 minutes, but it’s well worth a listen to hear saxophonist Chris Olivier, a New Orleans native, channel John Coltrane through his horn. “Love ‘Dem Changes” is an upbeat, funky post-modern jazz piece featuring both Olivier and trumpeter Mark Gamble.This is clearly a group that loves music and has as much fun playing as fans do listening. They don’t show a refreshingly light sense of humor on several songs, especially “Bachelor,” a song about the single life containing lyrics such as “Strolled to the kitchen for breakfast / At the time when most are eating lunch / My biggest decision of the day / Is scrambled eggs or Captain Crunch!” Drummer Steve “Krojo” Krojniewski also played a song with Umphrey’s McGee at the Morris Performing Art Center on April 18, but the performers thought it would be funny to pretend that he was U2’s guitarist The Edge, to whom he bears a striking resemblance.Half-Pint Jones is probably not for everyone; a listener who does not have at least a minimal appreciation for improvisational jazz, roots rock and world music might not enjoy their unique blend of musical genres. But if you like trying new things and you want to know just what the South Bend music scene has to offer, don’t hesitate to go to Legends to see this band and be in their music video. Who knows? It might be famous someday.