‘Future funk’ outfit Lettuce among more than 50 acts to play Camp Bisco

To perform a tribute to late jazz icon and tastemaker Miles Davis is a tall order. To do it live and do it so well that the recording is worthy of being released as an album is a feat attainable by few musical outfits.

But that’s exactly what “future funk” ensemble Lettuce did when they payed improvisational homage to Davis at the 2016 Catskill Chill music festival in Lakewood and subsequently released “Witches Stew: A Tribute to Miles Davis” in October 2017. And they’ll bring their genre-defying instrumental groove to Scranton when they perform as part of the Camp Bisco music festival, which takes over the Pavilion at Montage Mountain and surrounding grounds from Thursday through Saturday.

The band — which consists of drummer Adam Deitch, guitarist Adam Smirnoff, bassist Erick “Jesus” Coomes, keyboardist and vocalist Nigel Hall, saxophonist Ryan Zoidis and trumpet player Eric “Benny” Bloom — was originally formed in 1992 when several of the band’s then-teenage members attended a summer program at Berklee College of Music in Boston. As producers, session musicians and integral parts of other projects, the artists in Lettuce have reached noteworthy levels of success and contributed to Grammy Award-winning efforts. Even Lettuce’s past members and collaborators, which include producer Jeff Bhasker and Soulive founders Eric Krasno and Neal Evans, are among the industry’s most respected artists — it makes sense that such an expert collective could attempt what Lettuce did in honoring Davis.

“I think if we had given it more time and preparation and thought, we definitely would not have done it,” Coomes said, laughing. “We were freaking out a little bit beforehand. It’s a really big deal, the greatest musician of all time. You don’t want to go after his stuff and do anything less than a great job. We were all surprised that we got the vibe going the way we did, and so we decided to put it out as a record. We have tons of respect for Miles.”

The now critically acclaimed performance interprets songs from Davis’ groundbreaking ’70s era, pulling from albums “In A Silent Way,” “Bitches Brew,” “Jack Johnson,” “Live-Evil” and “On the Corner.”

“We thought of maybe doing the whole ‘Bitches Brew’ album, but there’s not as many songs that — for lack of a better term — would be considered danceable material,” Bloom said. We wanted to show how experimental in sound those albums were, but I also wanted the funkiest things possible.”

Now in its fourth year at Montage, under the auspices of festival founders and seminal “livetronica” group The Disco Biscuits, Camp Bisco features more than 50 acts ranging from electronic musicians to jam bands to hip-hop artists.

The Disco Biscuits will perform six sets throughout the weekend, and they’ll co-headline with Bassnectar, Lotus, STS9, Tipper, Bonobo (live band), Excision and Illenium. On a bill saturated with the infinite shades of electronica, Lettuce is slated to deliver the dirt along with fellow funk practitioners Kung Fu.

“We love to be one of the only (live) bands to be on a festival,” Coomes said. “If you have really good live music that comes on at a certain point — I love every kind of music. I love drum machines. I go to (an electronic festival) and forget live music exists for a little while — when Lettuce comes on, that (live performance) is poppin’. We really love being the live band that (blew everybody away) that weekend.”

And Lettuce offers their impeccably tight, driving, up-tempo funk/jazz fusion with a flair for the theatrical. In much the same way the late Frank Zappa composed, Lettuce tends to weave multiple, complex instrumental movements into one composition that communicates different layers of feeling, almost as if the band is scoring a film or a stage production.

“When you use words, you can take a massive right or left turn with any moment,” Coomes said. “I think when it’s instrumental, it’s important to add depth and a story and make a movie out of it. We’re just trying to make deep and interesting music.”

But the theatricality and authenticity of Lettuce’s work doesn’t hinder their ability to put bodies in motion, and their shows typically induce waves of dancing among listeners.

And for Coomes, whose musical ventures have put him on stage with Britney Spears and The Game and in the studio with Kanye West and Dr. Dre, it’s a pleasure that his longest-running and most openly creative project is so widely appreciated.

“That fact that you’re interviewing me because of a live instrumental funk band we started when we were 16 makes me smile,” he said. “I’m so grateful.”

Lettuce bassist Erick ‘Jesus’ Coomes said the funk fusion outfit enjoys being one of the live bands at an electronic festival.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_campbisco23-3.jpgLettuce bassist Erick ‘Jesus’ Coomes said the funk fusion outfit enjoys being one of the live bands at an electronic festival. Weekender file photo
‘Future funk’ ensemble Lettuce will perform Thursday at the Camp Bisco music festival in Scranton.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Lettuce_Main_Credit-Alex-Varsa_LR-3.jpg‘Future funk’ ensemble Lettuce will perform Thursday at the Camp Bisco music festival in Scranton. Courtesy of Alex Varsa
Annual festival offers over 50 acts in Scranton

By Matt Mattei



What: Camp Bisco music festival

When: Thursday through Saturday

Where: The Pavilion at Montage Mountain and surrounding grounds, 1000 Montage Mountain Road, Scranton

Features: Six sets by The Disco Biscuits and sets by Tipper, Bonobo (live band), STS9, Bassnectar, Lotus, Excision, Illenium, Lettuce, Kung Fu, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ghostface Killah and more.

Additional information: Three-day festival passes cost $179.50 and $219.50 with camping. Friday- or Saturday-only tickets cost $75.50 but will increase in price as festival approaches. For more information and ticket options, visit campbisco.com.

Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.

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Lettuce: 2018-03-23 – The Capitol Theatre; Port Chester, NY (Complete Show) [4K]

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