Columbus supergroup Sanctuary (artwork by Lesley Raye) plays the “Music of Miles Davis ’68-’75” on Wednesday, November 27th at 9pm. Limited tickets are available here. Bandleader and drummer Tony McClung was kind enough to answer my email questions about the show – keep reading to learn more about the show (and the band’s INCREDIBLE lineup) and prepare for an epic kickoff to your Thanksgiving holiday!
Tell us about the history of Sanctuary – how did it come together?
Tony McClung (TM): As far as the history goes, I’ve always loved ALL periods of Miles’ music. This particular project began with my friend–and great drummer–Chris Guthrie; he was learning to play bass and wanted to jam together. I figured, why just fool around when we could do a band?
Sanctuary has played once/twice a year since 2013 and the lineup has been different every single time; I like the idea of seeing what new possibilities exist. Good examples of previous players would be Bobby Floyd, Tony Monaco, Adam Deascentis, Michael Cox…
The lineup looks amazing – please run us through the band members for Wednesday. What excites you about playing with them?
TM: For this particular gig:
James Gaiters is a Columbus drummer I’ve always loved. I typically don’t appreciate two drummers. It can, more often than not, simply create competitive noise that shares no spirit or groove. However, this will be the third time I’ve invited a second drummer for Sanctuary (Ryan Jewell and Willie Barthel have both done it previously). We take a different approach: we don’t play the same parts; we listen and work together as one instrument. I am honored and excited to have this opportunity to play with James Gaiters. James has soul; he has swing; he’s got filth; he’s got the spirit.
Jim Ed Cobbs, on percussion, is a truly exceptional musician. He subs in a bunch of my bands on keyboards and drums and KILLS in BOTH situations. Jim Ed is one of those musicians who makes every band he plays in sound better.
Willie Barthel III is playing bass this time around though he is one of my absolute favorite drummers (anywhere); he ain’t fooling around on the bass either. This young man is a stellar, stellar talent and I am so excited to witness his continued growth.
Robert Mason is on keyboards and is one of Columbus bright young talents. His generation are the jazz kids who grew up post-D’Angelo and Robert Glasper. Robert has an understanding of time and groove that is deep and unique. He listens very well and manages to leave a big stamp on the music while simultaneously leaving a lot of space for others to play in.
The other keyboardist is none other than the amazing Kenny Banks Sr (junior is also an astoundingly gifted pianist). What’s the best way to sum up how great Kenny Sr is? He sat in on a recent Birdshack gig with Bobby Floyd. After the piano solo, when people looked up from their dinner to applaud, the room was full of shocked faces that it was a different guy. Kenny has been doing well in Atlanta for a long time but I was lucky enough to be here when he lived here. He’s a beautiful soul. He plays music the way it ought to be played.
Zakk Jones……geez………brilliant, always learning, completely individual identity in his 20s. You will see this kid all over the world in years to come. I promise. Just watch.
Eddie Bayard is a force of nature. He is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever heard. He can blow for 20 minutes without repeating himself or boring even a straight audience and he can also make you cry. On top of that, he’s as kind as human beings come. He also knows a TON of music. Ask him about any saxophone player in ANY style and he’ll give you their life and musical history.
Dwight Adams. I met Dwight the first night Obama got elected. I walked into Dick’s to celebrate and starting talking to this guy at the bar. We talked for a long time before we even realized we both play music for a living. Now, I consider us all fortunate that we get to hear Dwight so much in Columbus. He’s simply a world-class musician with tone, taste, chops, history, and an eye forward. He wasn’t in Stevie Wonder’s band simply due to a lucky break, I’ll tell you that. He’s a badass trumpeter and a great human being.
Tell us about the material you have planned. Any tunes you’re especially anticipating playing?
TM: We will be covering stuff from In A Silent Way, Bitches Brew, A Tribute To Jack Johnson, On The Corner plus more.
I DEFINITELY can’t speak for him but I believe Miles would be more honored by us playing the music honestly, the way WE play than to try to sound like the recordings.
What do you think is important about Miles Davis’ music from 1968 to 1975 and why do you think it is sometimes overlooked?
TM: I think this period either gets overlooked by people as playable music or you hear it played by a band and it either sounds like a wall of noise or smooth jazz.
Sanctuary plays infrequently, but always seems to come together again for another show. What keeps this project going?
TM: This project keeps happening (although only about once a year) because I love this music and with all the great musicians I get to play with all the time, there are tons more that I want to play with. We are ridiculously gifted with musical talent in Columbus.
Anything else you’d like to add?
TM: I can’t tell you exactly what the music will sound like because we will all be improvising in real time, in reaction to each other, the audience, the energy…
What I can tell you is that this is going to be a night of spectacular night of music that will never be repeated. You don’t want to miss this.