Although Electromagnets music can be hard to describe, “jazz-rock”, is as close as any other. The ‘Magnets are influenced a lot by Weather Report and Chick corea’s Return to Forever. Their deep knowledge of jazz structures and ability to combine these patterns with rock rhythms, rather than just pile them on top, makes them stand out from other groups playing jazzy rock. Electromagnets currently consists of Bill Maddox, Kyle Brock, Steve Barber, Eric Johnson, and Bill Maddox, who plays drums. Their story is an important chapter in Austin’s jazz history. Aussenhorowitz was the nucleus. It consisted of only Bill Maddox, Steve Barber, and their sound was like two people. They combined drums, keyboards and a shared bass line to create jazz-like harmonies and your standard boogie. Aussenhorowitz was, however, not as successful as its predecessor, The Booger Band of Atlanta. It quickly died. Maddox and Barber then gathered Brock, a bassist, and Tomas Ramirez, a reedman, and created a group called The Edsels. Ramirez went on to work in the Lost Gonzo Band, and later, with the Jazzmanian Devils. But he was one the most influential and important creators of jazz elements within the Electromagnets. There were many more jazzmen. The Edsels grew to include Nick Phelps and Larry Crook (both currently with Nova), and John Treanor (currently playing with 47X). They changed their name from the Lurching Id Bop Orchestra. Their ascent was inspired by a variety of musicians, from Albert Ayler and Tower of Power. However, it was short. The Lurching Id Bop Orchestra was not yet ready for Austin. The LIBO was a fascinating and fun focal point for the embryonic Austin jazz scene at that time. In the summer of 1973, the original Electromagnets emerged. The original band, plus a few floating percussionists and musicians with horns, formed this band. It was insane. The Nickel Keg was a fun place where the band enjoyed making sight gags, ritually offering hamburgers, and other spontaneous acts that were designed to offend boogie music fans. They also did some great stuff between their tricks. A San Marcos newspaper named Weather Report said that these guys were “incredible.” It’s not easy to boogie to a 35/4 rhythm but this is music. The next morning I woke up to find all my warts gone. The Magnets added Eric Johnson to their horn section in January 1974. Their music became more commercially viable. Johnson, despite being trained in classical music was heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix as well as hard rockers such Led Zepplin. Johnson came from Mariani, where he was a member of a rock band that shared the bill with ZZ Top or Bloodrock. Johnson is an outstanding guitarist, by all standards. He is more accessible to an audience that has never heard of Eric Dolphy or John Coltrane. Johnson’s solos can be heard as Allman and Clapton, which are bright stars in his galaxy. His ability to mix rock riffs with jazz arrangements has made him the ‘Magnets material for models. But if you look closely, you can see Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt rising above the horizon. The Electromagnets’ unique trait is their ability to listen and function together as a unit, rather than as a rhythm section supporting some flashy soloists. While Barber and Johnson exchange leads in complex and high-pitched dialogues that leave listeners spinning, their ears are still wired to the percussion and bass. Maddox gives a nod and the music changes on a dime. The time shifts, Brock basse launches into a run, and Barber and Johnson are there riffing behind him. ESP is what some call it. But the ‘Magnets refer to it as the New Electric Musik. from http://ericjohnson.com/electromagnets/html/bio.html

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