At this point in the school year, many teachers are likely counting the days until summer vacation, their time for rest and relaxation. But for seven music teachers on the East End, summer is gigging season.
Four of these music teachers formed what grew to the nine-piece New Orleans-style jazz band East Enders know as REEB, short for Real East End Brass, after hitting it off at the Hampton Music Educators Association conference in 2018. In concert, the band fuses their bedrock influence — New Orleans jazz, be it the Preservation Hall Jazz Band first formed in 1960’s or 37-year-old Trombone Shorty — with classic and modern pop and rock hits. In between crowd pleasing covers from Van Morrison to Ed Sheeran, the band plays numbers jazz-heads like themselves will appreciate, such as “Hey Pocky Way” by The Neville Brothers and “Do Whatcha Wanna” by the Rebirth Brass Band, as well as their own original tunes.
The band is comprised of music educators Tye Granger on tenor saxophone, drummer and violinist Troy Grindle, Meghan Kelly on baritone saxophone and clarinet, Jake Lorefice on bass and baritone saxophone, Chris Mandato on trumpet, newest member Joe Randazzo on sousaphone and mellophone and Shawn Ward on sousaphone and trombone. Rounding out the group are Dylan Greene on lead vocals and auxiliary percussion and guitarist and alto saxophonist Nick Silipo.
While REEB has a single gig slated for this month — Saturday, April 29 at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.’s Peconic location — they frequently play East End restaurants and watering holes as well as private gigs throughout the summer. While it may be hard to keep track of all the three-to-five piece bands who liven the summer with their guitars and drums, the marching band moves of REEB’s front line of horn players is pretty unmistakable.
“Even experiences like that which shaped our music education, we’ve been able to pull from and put it on the stage,” Ms. Kelly said. “It gets a visual aspect integrated into the music as well.”
In addition to jazz, each performer has their own well of musical influences they wear on their sleeves, from funk to punk. These comfort zones inform which performer takes a solo on a particular song as well as the duration of their improvisation.
“If someone is ripping apart a solo, going crazy we’re going ‘take another,’ we’re encouraging them to just keep going and see what happens,” Ms. Kelly said. “It’s enjoyable as a band member to see your teammate succeeding and we want them to feel encouraged. They’ll get a look, a hand motion in a circle to keep going.”
Earlier this year, REEB has been busy recording their original tunes, and they hope to continue recording to release a full-length album. This summer, the band will release their first three singles: “How It Started,” “What A Feeling” and “Music To Your Life.”
“They’re very biographical in a sense,” Mr. Mandato said. “There about how this band has kind of ignited this love of playing with one another.”
When it comes time to create new music, Mr. Greene writes lyrics, Mr. Silipo typically lays foundations with a chord progression, Mr. Granger and Mr. Mandato brings horn melodies and everyone else adds their own flavors to flesh out the piece.
“Troy always spices it up with the drums … same with Jake on the bass, there’s no sense writing parts for those guys because they are going to hear the framework and then do something with it,” Mr. Mandato said. “Meghan and Sean are so good coming up with harmonies and counterlines.”
“As a newer member I think one of the coolest aspects of the group is that when someone does present an idea, we’re given a lot of freedom and creativity to make it our own,” Mr. Randazzo said. “By the time a song is finalized, anybody that was there when the song was written has some sort of stake in it, it’s pretty collaborative.”
Although they picked up and continue to play different instruments, Ms. Kelly, Mr. Mandato and Mr. Randazzo all said it was the encouragement of a supportive music teacher who inspired them to play their instruments in their youth and continue to perform into their adult years. Now teachers themselves, they hope to inspire their students to uphold musical performance as a cornerstone of their lives long after they cross a graduation stage and toss their caps towards the sky.
“As a music teacher my greatest wish for any students seeing REEB or knowing that REEB exists is knowing that they can make music with their friends, especially after they’ve left their school music programs,” Mr. Randazzo said. “There’s no limit to what they’re able to do with their instruments, and I hope that as REEB, we’re able to showcase that.”
“I want to show my kids that creating music can bring so much joy,” Ms. Kelly added. “Music is a great way to connect with the community … and on a more personal level, I feel very grateful to be part of this group because it brings me so much joy and I am proud of myself as a musician for getting better with this group.”