The Jazz Passengers

The JAZZ PASSENGERS were founded in 1987 by Saxophonist Roy Nathanson and Trombonist Curtis Fowlkes. The two musicians met in the band of the Big Apple Circus and toured extensively together in John Lurie’s seminal band, The Lounge Lizards. They found strong affinity in their Brooklyn roots, their affection for hard bop, comedy and eccentric currents in modern American music. Besides Nathanson and Fowlkes the original band members included Bill Ware on vibes, E.J. Rodriguez on percussion, Brad Jones on bass, Jim Nolet on violin and Marc Ribot on guitar. It is now a six-piece band without guitar and with Sam Bardfeld on violin. The group has and continues to tour the world extensively. In 1989 Bob Blumenthal wrote in the Boston Globe, “The seven piece Passengers often suggest a perverse mainstream band, a hard-bop group as imagined by Frank Zappa.” This is an apt description of the two leaders intention in forming the band. Early Passengers sets and cds involved complicated and soulful compositions mixed with original vocals and comedy pieces. This mixture was evidenced in their first 5 cedes: “Broken Night/Red Light”, “Deranged and Decomposed”, “Live at the Knitting Factory”, “Plain Old Joe”, and “Implement Yourself”. The group’s trend towards vocal based composition reached a more sophisticated point with the release of the Hal Wilner produced CD, “Jazz Passengers In Love”, in 1994. The CD featured singers from Mavis Staples and Jimmy Scott to Bob Dorough, but it was the performance of Blondie star Deborah Harry on the song “Dog In Sand” that stood out and led to a collaboration that is still very much alive. The band released two cds, “Individually Twisted” and “Live in Spain” with Harry as lead vocalist, with extensive tours of performances with Harry. In 2010 the Jazz Passengers released “Reunited”, featuring Elvis Costello and Deborah Harry, their first record since “Live in Spain”. The band’s cover of Peaches and Herb’s disco hit was called “the musical equivalent of a Cubist painting, taking elements and rearranging them in unusual and sometimes grating juxtapositions.” from

Leave a Comment