John Brothers Piano Company Quintet

Photo © Brian Edward Kenny

The John Brothers Piano Company is an art collective formed by John Steven Morgan, John Thatcher Boomer, and Max Moriyama in San Francisco’s East Bay area.

In early 2010, John Morgan and John Thatcher Boomer were a few months out of college, that is, they were without any real job prospects. They spent their days burning through their record collection ranging from Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev to Eric Dolphy, Thelonious Monk, and Wayne Shorter, but also developing and honing their own compositions. On St. Patrick’s Day of that year, they had enough material for a street show and hauled their Wurlitzer spinet to the closest BART subway station. A few months later they had a cover story in the art section of the San Francisco Chronicle and were playing shows across California, including the Belasco Theatre in Los Angeles, the Warfield and Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, several vineyards in Napa Valley, and the 2011 Monterey Jazz Festival. By this time, the duo--which had been an act of alternating pianists--now featured Boomer almost exclusively on clarinet.

In late 2011, Arlo Perlstein and Jimi Marks, longtime friends of and frequent collaborators with the John Brothers Piano Company, joined the band full time as their trumpet player and drummer, respectively. Together, the four of them played an after-hours speakeasy from 2:00 a.m.- 6:00 a.m. every Friday night for a year. Soon after, taking time away from his solo career (The Gris Gris, Greg Ashley Band) and work in his own recording studio, Greg Ashley picked up the much-needed bass for the John Brothers Piano Company and the quintet was formed. Anchored in Morgan’s stride piano and early New Orleans jazz leanings as well as Ashley’s un-busy bass playing, their original music is often drawn towards klezmer and gypsy music by Boomer, while Marks and Perlstein, who had previously formed an Afro-Cuban ensemble (Los Puros), also impart a Latin influence.

However, the definitive quality of this quintet does not lie in the genres they bend or blend, but in the fact that the performance has always been their rehearsal space. From the first sidewalk street shows to the weekly speakeasy, an audience has been present throughout the development of their sound. As the five musicians give direction to the group, the listener has also had his say. Thus, while the John Brothers Piano Company often explores and unfolds new musical possibilities within their compositions, the music never idles or devolves into the esoteric, for the constant audience demands their unrelenting energy and runs an electric current through everything they produce.

The John Brothers have released two albums, The John Brothers Piano Company and WORK. Their third album will feature the quintet and will be released in the summer of 2013. 

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