Amy Winehouse may have lived a short life, but her music lives on, and for one night in Durango, you can hear it live, courtesy of Durango’s J-Calvin.
Winehouse exploded onto the music scene in the early 2000s with her big, soulful voice, and, unfortunately, her equally dramatic personal life: Her battles with drugs and alcohol resulted in her untimely death in 2011 at age 27.
But the members of J-Calvin want you to remember Winehouse for her talent, and they’ll be paying tribute to her Friday at Animas City Theatre.
Jesse Ogle, J-Calvin’s band leader and bassist, said there are a couple of reasons bands will do a tribute show, including potential financial gain from the built-in audience, but more importantly, the gains that come from studying the music itself.
“You’re going to gain something from getting inside these people’s music,” he said.
Ogle said that the band’s decision to play Winehouse was easy because soul, jazz and funk is what they do best.
“For Amy Winehouse, she’s the greatest female soul singer of the 2000s, and we do a couple of offshoots of it; we have a little sessions project, we just cut a new album that’s all soul and jazz and funk. So, it was right in our wheelhouse to do an Amy tribute,” he said. “She calls her music jazz hip-hop, and Sarah (Pumpian), our singer, is a perfect fit for that tribute.”
When it comes to putting on a tribute show, creativity counts, said Ogle, who as a member of Hello, Dollface, also performed the occasional tribute show.
“It’s just something a little different: You see Pink Floyd tributes, Zeppelin tributes, AC/DC tributes and Michael Jackson tributes. So, when Hello, Dollface was doing tributes, we tried to do something different,” he said. “What you gain as a band is you get inside the song structure, and I think it makes you a better songwriter and arranger, and it’s just fun.”
Along with that is a certain level of responsibility to the music – and to the artist, he said.
“I think it’s important to have a high standard of quality when you’re doing a tribute show, and do the songs justice, showcase the beauty of the artist,” he said, adding that with Winehouse, the drama tends to overshadow her music. “Sometimes, people focus on the darkness of her, which is her life path with drugs and her really toxic relationship. But, there’s so much beauty there, and she’s really a pretty authentic person and that’s important to showcase, because there’s this other side of her. ”
For Friday’s show, the core group of five band members: Pumpian on vocals, Ogle on bass, Guillaume Metz on guitar, Sam Kelly on sax and Ted Moore on drums, will be joined by Nick Menasco on sax, Ryan McCurry on piano, Sean Farley on guitar/vocals, Charlie Hall on vocals and dancer Corrina Liopart.
J-Calvin was formed in December 2017, and has already been in the studio. Ogle said the band is planning to release a full-length album in the fall, and is scheduled to play the Telluride Jazz Festival.
“Basically, our first show was New Year’s Eve and we sold out,” he said. “We just did a lot of things right: You have to have good original music, we’ve got really good musicians. Everyone in the band is an absolute pro.
“The ultimate thing to have a good band is to have chemistry. You could put the best players in the room, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have a great group,” he said. “I think what’s happening is we’ve found a really good chemistry.”
Ogle said the band has been working on Winehouse’s music since February, and the hope is that people will come out not only to hear her songs but to check out what J-Calvin has to offer.
“The idea is that with doing this show, we’re also using it to build our name, so people can see what this group’s doing,” he said. “It’s some really ambitious stuff.”