UMass quintet takes act to Northampton’s Iron Horse

By Ian Nelson, Collegian Staff

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Rudy Brown, a jazz fusion band composed of five like-minded UMass music department members, will bring their sound to the Iron Horse tonight. The group evolved over the span of a few years from a jam band/jazz trio into a dense, eclectic quintet.

Bassist Dave Gagnon and guitarist Dan Thomas, who share vocals, began playing as a trio with a different drummer back in September 2001. After a few years, the three desired an increased complexity to their sound and added Dan Kent on keyboards. In the summer of 2006, the band added classical and jazz violinist Eve Boltax to the mix, completing steps to filling out the band’s sound.

At their most extreme, Rudy Brown produces a sound reminiscent of Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle meets John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra. Current drummer Paul Zilioli, who has been with the band since last September, said the new keyboard and violin textures “add more colors to the palette,” allowing for a more vast array of sounds, influences and ideas.

Though most of the band grew up on classic rock staples like Pink Floyd, they have collectively eased into more jazz-oriented listening as they have grown. Current inspiration comes from everywhere, from beat-driven house to Cream to Frank Zappa arrangements to Weather Report’s fusion from the 70s, along with jazz greats Chick Corea, Bill Evans, and Elvin Jones.

Classic jazz influences mesh smoothly with the raucous spastic funk of Mr. Bungle to create a very dark, viscous solution. The only element missing is a possible horn section, which was, in fact, arranged for one of their songs “Amniocentesis,” and performed at last year’s Extravaganja, an annual event sponsored by the Cannabis Reform Coalition.

The songs still hold up very well without the brass, using keys and violin accents to form the song’s “warped swing circus funk,” as it is described by the band. The quintet performs at local venues in Northampton, Worcester and Palmer as often as they can, usually two or three times a month, and is beginning to branch out into Vermont and Connecticut.

The group’s performances are largely composed of original works, with some Zappa, Beatles, and Weather Report numbers thrown in, just to name a few. The band is also at work on a rendition of the Inspector Gadget theme song “Go Gadget Go.” Their sound is continually evolving, and has become more solid since their last and only recording took place in the summer of 2006. Those songs, with their old drummer, are available to stream from their MySpace page and are available on CD at their shows.

Tonight’s show begins at 10 p.m. at the Iron Horse in Northampton. Tickets and additional information about the second band, The Bomb Squad, are available through the venue’s Web site, It is encouraged to purchase a ticket from the band themselves via e-mail at [email protected] Tickets are $10 in advance and $13 at the door.

Ian Nelson can be reached at [email protected]