Brews, Jazz & Funk Festival at Squaw Valley 2018

John Brothers Piano Company
John Brothers Piano Company plays Squaw Valley’s Brews, Jazz & Funk at noon Saturday and then late night in the Crystal Bay Casino.

In what has become a mid-summer’s night dream festival around Lake Tahoe, Brews, Jazz and Funk Fest presented by Fifty Fifty Brewing Co. will return for its 17th year this weekend at Squaw Valley Resort.

The annual festival combines two of Tahoe’s favorite things — beer and live music — for two stellar days of fun from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11 and 12. Attendants will have more than 20 beers to choose from to wet their palettes in the hot August days and nights, with eight bands tearing it up on stage over the weekend. All proceeds to the event will go to the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe, which benefits maybe Tahoe’s third favorite thing: pets and animals.

As the name of the festival suggests, there will be things just about anybody can dig this upcoming weekend. If you like funk, you’ll be in for a big treat with bands such as Nth Power, Dumpstaphunk and Afrolicious getting the crowd moving. If you like brews, popular hoppers such as Fifty Fifty Brewing Co., Lagunitas and Deschutes will be sure to fill your cup. And if you like your jazz, there will be no better band to catch than John Brothers Piano Company.

There are two chances, in fact. The John Brothers Piano Company opens the Brews, Jazz & Funk Fest at Squaw Valley on Saturday at 2 p.m. on the main stage. Later, at 12:30 a.m., the band will perform a festival after-party in the Crystal Bay Casino’s Red Room.

Like many of the jazz greats that got started in juke joints, John Brothers Piano Company honed its craft in the small corners of the world that catered to its need for unadulterated musical expression, such as subway stations, street corners and dive bars. There, John Thatcher Boomer (piano, clarinet), Arlo Perlstein (piano, trumpet), Jimi Marks (drums, piano) and Dustin Smurthwaite (bass, trombone) incorporated all the different fabrics and textures of jazz —  swing, old-time, bebop and Rachmaninoff— into its constantly evolving sound, able to go from cool and smokey ballads to piping hot improvisational freak outs.

In the years since, the band has only grown in exposure and acclaim. It has released two albums, “Fastball!” and “Five,” and has enamored audiences at The Monterey Jazz Festival, the Belasco Theater in Los Angeles, the Warfield Theatre and Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, the world-famous Edwardian Ball, and countless wineries and private parties throughout the Napa Valley and Bay Area.

John Brother Piano Company Facebook

Tahoe Onstage was lucky enough to communicate over email with Arlo Perlstein as the John Brothers Piano Company made its way to Alaska, proving it will travel to far lengths in search of a musical adventure.

Tahoe Onstage: What was your first introduction to this old type of jazz music that is the core of John Brothers Piano Company? How did this become the music you wanted to pursue as a musician?

Arlo Perlstein: My grandfather’s favorite music was Louis Armstrong. He and my uncle gave me cassettes of his music when I was a little kid so I’ve actually been around this music as long as I can remember. What I like about playing it now is that one can achieve incredible variety and richness from a point of simplicity.

What I find interesting about jazz, especially stuff from early 1900s, is that it is the “out-on-the-town, dangerous, party music” that rock and roll was in the ’60s/’70s, hip-hop was in ’80s-now and EDM is starting to take over now. Have you been able to create musical experiences/concerts that connected with that type of spirit? How do you grapple with bringing music rooted 100-plus years ago to modern audiences?

The most important aspect in achieving this fundamental character of jazz, I’d say, is writing original music. As jazz has gotten more academic, I think a lot of the music has gotten too comfortable. This is a style born out of rebellion, it should be constantly transforming and overcoming itself.

On a related note, a lot of music critics are throwing lip service to there being a jazz resurgence in American music. I believe a lot of that critical talk comes from the rise of Kamasi Washington. It’s such a wide amount of sounds, Kamasi Washington and his orchestral jazz/soul is really just one aspect of that sound. Do you think there is a resurgence in jazz? Who are the contemporary jazz people you enjoy? What is striking about them?

I like that Kamasi, Thundercat, and others have been able to reach a wide audience without sacrificing integrity and seriousness, the way jazz musicians like Kenny G have had to. As far as contemporary musicians, I like Christian Scott, to name one. One thing about modern jazz I find striking is that seems to be about texture and depth more so than melodies and strict forms.

For people interested in the type of music you do, who would you introduce them to as they descended into the wormhole?

Art Tatum and Rachmaninov were too very different pianists who knew and respected each other immensely. They were both considered the greatest pianist in the world at the same time and I think we aspire toward both.

As a musician, what do you appreciate about being in John Brothers Piano Company?

Total musical freedom. No feature would be inherently off limits. That’s what I love most about the band.

 You’ll be performing “Mingus Plays Piano” by the great Charles Mingus at later shows. What is the significance of this album to you? What will John Brothers bring to the table for performing that album?

There is something unfinished about it. It’s like he was laying the groundwork, with motifs and chord changes I haven’t heard elsewhere, but never fully flushing it out. I also like its introspective nature, which is a little uncharacteristic for us and him.

You’ll be in Tahoe for a night show at Crystal Bay Casino and a day gig at Squaw Valley with Brews Jazz and Funk. Does the band have plans for hanging out and enjoying the area?

I’ve been going to Tahoe since I was a kid and love it up there, but unfortunately we won’t have much time to experience it this trip. However, playing music in that setting is certainly inspiring in itself.

— Garrett Bethmann

  • John Brothers Piano Company
    When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11
    Where: The Village of Squaw Valley
    Benefits: Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe
    Where else: Crystal Bay Casino Red Room at 12:30 a.m. for the Brews Jazz & Funk Fest after-party
  • Brews, Jazz and Funk Fest
    The Village at Squaw Valley
    2-3:30 p.m. – John Brothers Piano Company, Main Stage
    3-4:30 p.m. – Earles of Newtown, First Street Stage
    4-5:30 p.m. – The Nth Power, Main Stage
    5-6 p.m. – Earles of Newtown, First Street Stage
    6-8 p.m. – Dumpstaphunk, Main Stage
  • Sunday
    2-3:30 p.m. – Sam Ravenna Band, Main Stage
    3-4:30 p.m. – Earles of Newtown, First Street Stage
    4-5:30 p.m. – Afrolicious, Main Stage
    5-6 p.m. – Earles of Newtown, First Street Stage
    6-8 p.m. – Rebirth Brass Band, Main Stage
    Donation: $10 goes to Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe; 16 ounce beers are $5 each

    Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage
    Nikki Glaspie fuels the Nth Power.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Freshislife exchanges a high five during the Afrolicous set at the High Sierra Music Festival.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage
    Earles of Newtown
    The Earles of Newtown play both days.
    Clare Foster
    Sam Ravenna, center, and his music peers on a pier in Tahoe City.
    Dumpstaphunk is led by Ivan Neville.
    Tahoe Onstage
    The Rebirth Brass Band fills the Crown Room stage during a 2017 show.

    Kiva the golderdoodle is a frequent visitor at The Village at Squaw Valley.
    Tim Parsons / Tahoe Onstage


ABOUT Tahoe Onstage

Tahoe Onstage
Tahoe Onstage is an online entertainment and sports magazine covering Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Reno, the Carson Valley and June Lake.


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