Vince Gill jumps back in Time
Although Time Jumpers is not a band of science fiction time-travelers, the 11-piece group transcends time through its throwback brand of country music.
Fans will be able to "jump" deep into country music's roots at the group's concert, 8 p.m. Feb, 16, State Theatre for the Arts, 453 Northampton St, Easton.
Outside of the music industry, the Time Jumpers highest-profile member is without a doubt 20-time Grammy Award winner, Nashville Songwriters and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Vince Gill, who lends not only his guitar playing but vocals to several songs performed by the group.
Gill will not only be performing with the Time Jumpers at the State Theatre, he will also be the opening act with a 40-minute solo set of his material.
"The Time Jumpers is a Western Swing band at its core," says Gill. "We play old-type Bob Wills music. Western Swing music was invented kind of back in those days by Bob Wills, Spade Cooley people like that.
"They took Big Band music like Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, but used Western influences on how the instrumental type stuff was played. They used fiddles and steel guitars and things like that rather than the brass instruments. It's a great 'be-bop-y' kind of swing music. It feels great. And it's great to dance to."
Wills is universally credited as one of the granddaddies of Western Swing, which originated in the latter part of the 1920s in the American South and West. The popular dance hall music combined Dixieland, gypsy jazz, blues, folk, cowboy and the the Big Band sound.
The sound is characterized by the prominence of steel guitar and fiddle, but includes piano, upright bass, sax and drums, and features an up-tempo beat. The genre was initially referred to by several names, including Hillbilly, Old-Time music, Hot String and Western, but became commonly known as Western Swing after the 1931 Duke Ellington hit "It Don't Mean a Thing (If If Ain't Got That Swing)" introduced the word "swing" into the lexicon.
"It's an 11-piece band," says Gill of the Time Jumpers. "It has three fiddlers Kenny [Sears], Joe [Spivey] and Larry [Franklin]. We have an accordion player, Jeff Taylor.
"'Ranger' Doug Green plays acoustic rhythm guitar. He's from the group Riders in the Sky. He did a lot of the music for 'Toy Story' ["Toy Story 2" film].
"Billy Thomas is the drummer. Dennis Crouch is the bass player. Myself and Andy Reiss both play electric guitars, Paul Franklin plays steel guitar and Dawn Sears is a world-class singer.
"Seven singers [Dawn and Kenny Sears, Gill, Green, Spivey and Thomas], and just great instrumentalists, a lot of orchestrated things, where the fiddles play three-part harmony," Gill continues. "A lot of instrumental stuff is done with this band and it's a unique thing that I think a lot of people will really enjoy."
The Time Jumpers formed in Nashville in 1998 when a group of well-regarded master studio musicians decided to get together for regular jam sessions to play the music that they loved in a fun and relaxed environment. They began performing regularly Monday nights at Nashville's Station Inn Bluegrass Club.
Owing to its increasing popularity, the band recently moved its Monday night jams to the larger Third and Lindsley nightclub.
The band's latest album release on Rounder Records, last year's "Time Jumpers," is nominated for two Grammy Awards: Best Country Album and Best Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group - Country for "On the Outskirts of Town." The group was a two-time Grammy nominee in 2007.
"I'm in the band. I play guitar and I sing," says Gill when asked about his role in the group. "We rotate it around. Everybody sings a couple of songs.
"It was born out of everybody wanting to play this kind of music, play on a Monday night and have some fun. They [the members of the group] started a jam session back at the [Grand Ole] Opry.
"All these musicians play with different people full-time and do different things to really make their living. This band was born out of just the love of all the great old music.
"Little by little, they got more popular and the club started filling up every Monday night and people [other musicians] would drop by and sit in. It's kind of the hottest ticket in town on a Monday night.
"We've had Sheryl Crowe sit in Jordin Sparks, Elvis Costello, Emmy Lou [Harris]. Rodney [Crowell]. Old greats of the Opry will come by. It's a really great time. Everybody is crazy about hearing some of this real traditional country music from like the '50s and '60s like Ray Price's 'Shuffle' and some Buck Owens' songs, some Haggard tunes things like that.
"But also I'd say 70 percent of the music is steeped in that real Western Swing flavor. It's a great experience. People will probably see something like they won't ever see. There are not many people out there playing Western Swing music.
"This band has their own voice. To see this group of musicians, that are just great musicians, get some notoriety and get some attention and things like that it's so much fun for me to see because, to me, talent and great playing and great singing is the most important thing.
"They [the Time Jumpers] are really getting a chance to do some things that they probably wouldn't have done. I don't think anybody would have thought the band would tour the kind of places we're playing.
"Not a lot of people are going to know who the Time Jumpers are, and we know that. But because it's a group of [musicians] that have all had 30, 40 years of a career in the music business. It's not a bunch of young kids with stars in their eyes."