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Hot Nights, Cool Music continues with AS-IS

Rebekah Wilson • Jun 22, 2013 at 8:01 PM

Armed with remarkably sundry renditions of their alternative jazz originals and classic and contemporary covers, the motley Michael Bellar and his AS-IS Ensemble will play the third show in Northeast State Community College’s Hot Nights, Cool Music summer concert series.

Show time is 7 p.m., June 24 at Northeast State’s Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts in Blountville.

Admission is free.

The band’s name denotes its performance style: unpredictable, yet professional. Members are well-versed in the classics, yet their music is without trite repetition and hackneyed lyrics. The group’s members describe their sound as “ecstatic improvisational groove music.”

“All I can promise is that every night, it’s going to be different,” Bellar said.

The hallmark of the New York group is its spontaneous live arrangements. Bellar said members usually know which song they will lead with, but after that, any member is welcome to start a tune, and they’ll go with it. He said that at a recent show in Charleston, S.C., this method led to the band’s first set consisting of AS-IS originals, followed by a second set of covers that members hadn’t played in more than a year.

“It turned out to be really magical,” Bellar said. “And I think for audiences to see us working in our way with that kind of music — I’ve been told that that’s what people love to hear.”

The band’s show at Northeast State will include songs from its new unreleased albums.

Bellar plays acoustic and electromagnetic keyboards, accordion, hammond organ and percussion, and produces the group’s records. Brad Wentworth (drums) has performed or recorded with Aretha Franklin, Howie Day, California and Ryan Keberle. Rob Jost (acoustic and electronic basses) has performed or recorded with Bjork, Imogen Heap and Tony Scherr. Brook Martinez plays percussion, but has recently taken time off from touring.

The band’s members have been together for about seven years and can play five hours’ worth of original tunes. They have opened for John Scofield; Tea Leaf Green; Oliver Wood; Medeski, Martin and Wood; Grant Green Jr.; Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey; and Perpetual Groove.

In his solo career, Bellar has toured or recorded with Amos Lee, Art Garfunkel, Howie Day and more. His national television appearances include “Late Night with David Letterman,” the “Conan O’Brien Show,” the “Ellen Degeneres Show,” “Total Request Live,” “Good Morning America,” “Regis and Kathy Lee” and the “CBS Morning Show.”

Since 1998, the group has produced five albums, though two have not yet been released. Their album “Oh No Oh Wow,” set for release in early fall, features Bellar originals, and its sequel “Oh Yes” will have covers of songs by artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Fleet Foxes, Leonard Cohen and Bob Marley.

Formerly the house band at the world-famous Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City, the group has played at Avery Fischer Hall, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and at New York City’s Winter Jam.

Northeast State’s Hot Nights, Cool Music series highlights local, regional and national artists like Wise Old River, Dale Jett and Hello Stranger, and The Johnson City Community Concert Band.

All shows begin at 7 p.m. in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts on the college’s main campus in Blountville, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

The edgy East Tennessee quintet Lovely Goodbye, set to perform June 28, blends diverse musical styles into what members call “a united idea of new pop rock with old school flare.” Members Sean McCurry (vocals), Bryan Gibson (lead guitar), Drew Smith (rhythm guitar), Brandon Lambert (bass guitar) and Jeff Dotson (drums) released their self-titled album in 2010 and are planning the release of their second CD, called “Discover You,” on Aug. 31.

Performing July 5 will be Wise Old River, a Johnson City-based, eclectic-Americana group that fuses traditional and contemporary techniques to produce truly organic, authentic music. Members James Denton (guitar, vocals), Jeanne Denton (harmony vocals, percussion), Jim Denton (acoustic lap steel, 12-string slide guitar and bouzouki) and Stephen Marshal (bass) have performed on the PBS syndicated show “Song of the Mountains,” at the Virginia Highlands Festival, at the Down Home in Johnson City, at the Little Chicago Blues Festival and five times at Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion.

On July 13, the more than 60-member Johnson City Community Concert Band will take the stage with conductor Roxanne Haskill and assistant conductor Mike Smith. The group performs a wide variety of concert music, from traditional Sousa marches to modern compositions. Membership is open to musicians of any age who play a woodwind or percussion instrument. No audition is required.

Samantha Gray and Rock-a-Bye-Blue will bring their soulful rhythm and vintage blues to NSCC on Aug. 2. Gray is a singer, songwriter and visual artist whose performances dip into jazz, rock, country and Motown.

Dale Jett and Hello Stranger will wrap up Hot Nights, Cool Music on Aug. 10. Jett, son of the late Janette Carter and grandson of the legendary A.P. and Sara Carter, continues his family’s musical legacy with his wife Teresa (bass) and picker Oscar Harris (guitar, mandolin and autoharp.)

Hot Nights, Cool Music is sponsored by Northeast State’s Cultural Activities Committee.

For more information, visit www.northeaststate.edu, call (423) 279-7669 or email jpkelly@northeaststate.edu.

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