Mike Dillon is often compared to Frank Zappa, who he readily admits was one of his favorites when he discovered music as a teenager.
“My music is not anything like Zappa’s, other than we both love odd time signatures and marimba and xylophone, but there is a lot of humor in my music, too. Sarcasm: he was the original king of it, making fun of everything. And Zappa was known for having the baddest band on the planet.”
Dillon, too, has assembled a pretty badass ensemble, the most notable in the group a brazenly visceral trombone player, Carly Meyers.
“You can’t stop her,” Dillon said. “She’s like a wind-up bunny. I have a great time just watching her. I call her ‘Super Carly.’ ”
Super Carly plays the horn, her boyfriend Adam Gertner is the drummer and their best friend, Patrick McDevett, is on bass. The three grew up in Denver. Considerably older than the others, Dillon is the frontman on vibraphone.
“It’s like the ‘Partridge Family,’ ” Dillon said. “We’re the ‘Partridge Family’ of funk. I’m like the Art Blakey of punk jazz. … “These guys have gotten so good that they are starting to kick my ass pretty thoroughly now, so I am having fun with them.”
For 30 years Art Blakey showcased young talent in his band the Jazz Messengers. The ‘Partridge Family’ was a mythical television band managed by Reuben Kincaid, who was eccentric enough to go to bed in a sleeping eye mask but was not out-and-out avant-garde like punk-rock-jazzman Dillon.
The Mike Dillon Band, which played the December Crystal Bay Casino after-party for the New Orleans supergroup Dragon Smoke, returned to the Red Room Friday, April 4.
“We had a good show,” Dillon said. “All the Dragon Smoke (concertgoers) were checking it out. A lot of people spilled over. A lot of people knew me from playing with Garage A Tois and Les Claypool but this was the first time playing up there with my band and the reaction was excellent. It merged into a great big ball of energy.”
The band members are based in New Orleans and have close ties to Stanton Moore, who drums with Dragon Smoke, Galactic and with Dillon in Garage A Tois.
“Adam has been taking lessons from Stanton since he was 12 or 13 years old. The first time I saw him he was taking a lesson from Stanton after a Garage A Tois sound check. I would see him and his dad at shows and his parents were super supportive. And then this little girl with glasses started showing up and I heard she played trombone. Both went to New Orleans for college and they went to every JazzFest show. I’d see them all the time.”
Eventually, Dillon began to give Meyers marimba and songwriting lessons in exchange for coffee from the café where she worked.
“Then Les put Primus back together and Garage A Tois was not playing much and I could tell (Dillon’s other band) the Dead Kenny Gs was going down. I thought, ‘Well, I better get another band together.’ I saw her play in New Orleans and she was not the super polite little girl, or should I say young lady, anymore. She was onstage, sweating like crazy. She had 200 people going nuts and my jaw was on the ground. I thought, ‘This is little Carly? Holy shit.’ ”
Mr. Kincaid, er, Mike Dillon says he enjoys his new, young band. He’s happy to develop the sound in rehearsals, which older, veteran players often are reticent to do. The band’s newly released second album, “Band of Outsiders,” is a superb and manic mélange very much representative of a live show.
“It’s always cool to be with people who are on tour for the first time,” Dillon said. “It’s the dawn of their careers. They are buying music, every day checking things out. It reminds you of the enthusiasm of a beginner’s mind. I have teachers I still take lessons from in New Orleans, Johnny Vidacovich and James Singleton. That’s a cool thing about New Orleans in general. There still is that jazz tradition of people passing that on.”