I finally made it out to the Phoenix last night to see the Brian Ruskin Band. I had told Phillip Wakefield, Brian’s drummer on numerous occasions that I was going to come by. I had seen Phillip play on numerous occasions, but never with an actual jazz group. I expected him to have killer jazz chops, as I knew that he studied with both Todd Strait and Bobby Watson.
Phillip played fantastic, just as I expected. I would describe his soloing as inventive, creative and above all, fearless. He’s definitely not afraid to go out on a limb, knowing his talented band mates will follow wherever he goes. He never seems to run out of ideas, and I swear it doesn’t seems like he ever plays the same thing twice. I found it especially interesting that he takes ideas from all eras of jazz drumming and injects them into the more modern style of the Brian Ruskin Band.
Along with Phillip Wakefield, the group features Caleb Aldrich on sax, Mark Montgomery on bass and vocals, and Brian Ruskin on guitar and vocals. The group plays standards, along with some original tunes ranging from bebop to funk. When they do jazz standards, they put their own spin on them, making them their own. To me the most interesting thing about the group is the way they blend various styles together, many times within the same song. They’re definitely trying to create something new rather than trying to just recreate the past.
I got to catch up with Phillip on their break. They then asked me to sit in. At first I was a bit hesitant as I was simply there to watch, not to play. They talked me into it though, and I had a blast.