Every Monday, saxophonist Elias Haslanger and his quintet play jazz at The Gallery – a cozy little crow’s nest of a nightclub, on South Congress Avenue, with windows that face the Austin skyline. The event, and the band, is known as “Church on Monday.”
I attend regularly, religiously – not merely because I want to be there, but because I need to be there. Church on Monday, you see, is all about love . . . and community . . . and sharing. Church on Monday makes our hearts soar. Church on Monday sends us into the night with a spirit of affirmation.
This album – recorded live, over three nights, in late 2013 – captures the soulful, swinging, bluesy essence of Church on Monday. It also captures the band’s sincerity. This group has a deep respect for form, for heritage, for nuance, for pushing the music forward, for each other.
“This band reminds me why I wanted to play music in the first place,” said guitarist Jake Langley, adrenalin flowing, after one of the group’s first live shows at The Gallery, back in 2012. “It’s about really listening to each other, interacting with each other, and involving the audience.
“It’s about taking chances. It’s about respecting the music. And it’s about becoming a servant to the music. And because we all respect each other, we’re interested in making a band sound, as opposed to individuals doing their own thing. It’s fun. It feels like dancing. It’s like dancing with different partners.”
Haslanger, a native of Austin whose chops are influenced by the genius of John Coltrane and Stevie Ray Vaughan, believes in jazz as an enthusiastic venture. No starchiness. No aura of detachment. Some nights, he’ll get so wrapped up in someone else’s playing – eyes closed, cradling his horn – or get so involved leading the cheers at the end of a solo that he’ll miss his own cue to re-enter the melody. No matter. It reminds us all that beauty is the object. Not “me.”
Dr. James Polk, who spent 10 years in the 1970s and 1980s as the director of the Ray Charles touring band, is the spiritual hub of Church on Monday on the Hammond B-3 organ. His mantra: “Don’t forsake the groove!” Haslanger founded this group two years ago to showcase Polk, even though the man had long ago turned away from the organ in favor of piano. “He was a lion waiting to roar,” says Haslanger.
Polk’s solos, whether sultry or soulful or bluesy or psychedelic, are never in a hurry to arrive before their time. When he’s not in the spotlight, the stylish manner in which he cradles and comps the other soloists, show after show, is a testament to artistic grace. No wonder Jake Langley applauds, every night, when Haslanger introduces Polk to the audience at The Gallery.
“For me and this band, it’s never been about the saxophone solo, the guitar solo, the B-3 solo. It’s about the sum of it all: how it moves from song to song, to the end of the night,” says Haslanger. “When you get musicians together, and it’s done right, there’s an electricity that goes through the air that makes people notice. And it changes their chemistry. It’s like you said earlier. Whatever was bothering you before the show on Monday doesn’t really matter. Because all of a sudden, it puts a feeling through your body that totally cleanses your soul. That’s why we do it every week.”
I know that sensation. See you at Church on Monday.
– Brad Buchholz, Austin American Statesman
Risks and challenges
The CD will be ready to ship by the end of March. The only challenge would be if there was a delay in production or if we don't raise enough money to finish the project!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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