Jeff Sipe Trio hit Martin’s Downtown on Saturday night, and the show was as expected — three monster musicians, including young bassist Taylor Lee, who blew many minds — playing high end jazz, rock, funk, Afro-Cuban, even country music with feel that kept people moving. Some even danced, which is not the norm at a show like this.
But Sipe grooves, making all kind of odd times and layered rhythms feel bouncy. With Lee and Knoxville-Tenn.-via-Harrisonburg guitar master Mike Seal floating killer melodies and leads, it was bounce-worthy, even as intense as the music was.
The trio kicked it off with the Jaco Pastorius/Weather Report classic, “Teen Town,” with Sipe and Lee nailing the iconic parts while adding flair of their own. Later, the band would play another Weather Report number, “Havona,” with special guest Jay Starling (The Transmitters, Keller Williams), a Charlottesville-based keyboardist and lap steel player. Starling added authentic steel licks and great intonation to a Chet Atkins-style country-grass number, and honking organ sounds to a cover of Ray Charles’ “Busted.”
Seal is an under-the-radar player who should be getting a lot more love. He showed great chops and taste during a 2011 show that he and Sipe played with Jeff Coffin’s Mu’tet. In last night’s mostly trio format, where he had more freedom to solo, he showed just what a player he can be. He plays with no pick, just fingers, yet with blazing speed uncommon to such a style.
Little about this show was common, from the covers — including a sweetly sad version of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” — to the originals. Posted below is one of Lee’s originals, “Lightening.” Hear Seal and Lee just tear it up here, with the ego-free Sipe grooving hard behind them. Sipe soloed a lot last night, as he should, and it was always in the context of a groove the other players were setting up for him, with shout parts that he nailed in between his riffage. Here’s a link to one from early in the show. Note how he drops a stick at the top of it but keeps the solo grooving. He’s human!