Primary Instrument: Saxophone
The Syncopated Taint Septet formed unexpectedly and organically in the summer of 2002 when Skerik was at home in Seattle between tours. Talking with long-time comrade and baritone saxophonist Craig Flory, Skerik decided to reactivate a sax-and-organ group with Joe Doria on Hammond organ and John Wicks on drums. Soon, the horn count increased as Skerik enlisted fellow Seattle musicians Dave Carter on trumpet, Hans Teuber on alto saxophone on flute, and Steve Moore on trombone and Wurlitzer electric piano, packing the harmonies (and the stage) with a five-horn front line. From the beginning, Skerik invited all of the musicians to suggest ideas and write music for the band. The great part about this band is everyone writes music for the group. For me, these guys represent what is best about Seattle musicians: very strong improvisational ability combined with unique, creative musical compositions.
Skerik took the name Syncopated Taint from a description used by Harry J. Anslinger, the appointed Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 to 1962. In the same type of puritanical, xenophobic 1930s climate that gave rise to Hitler in Germany, Anslinger pursued a zealous, sensationalistic, and often racist mission in the United States to demonize drugs and the people who use them. His campaign had a particular bias against jazz musicians, who Anslinger saw as satanic addicts responsible for the spread of marijuana use among the nation's impressionable youth. Among several other disturbing remarks to Congress, Anslinger famously differentiated between jazz music and good music. Syncopated taint was another term he used to refer to the rhythmic and moral contaminations he perceived in jazz.
When Skerik came across Anslinger's description, he decided to flip it and co-opt the phrase as the name of this group. For Skerik, it fits. I like to think of this group as punk-jazz. Maybe a punk-jazz version of the Thelonius Monk Octet. I find that a very useful term, which is also something that Jaco Pastorius used to use to describe his music. I was very influenced by the way he who could play the shit out of bebop and then turn around and interpret a Jimi Hendrix tune just as deeply. Even though people consider that to be two different genres, I've always felt they were very closely related. Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix were both coming from the same place, the same roots, and they were both making music that was revolutionary and radical, politically and musically.
Back in Seattle last summer, after just a few gigs with the Syncopated Taint Septet, the whole band knew they had something unusual happening. The vibe and the energy at the live shows were blowing people away, and Skerik knew what he had to do. He called engineer Mell Dettmer, who wired the Owl & Thistle in Seattle to record the band live at their next gig. The result was this recording, which presents the music from that legendary night. This album is full of the loose spontaneity, euphoric moods, and spectacular moments that occur when a group of friends gets together to play in their neighborhood.