Digital label gives band new life
Mab Lab Reunion Show, Glitch Clique, Twilight Sentinels, 2:30 Band
Sunday, March 19, 9 p.m.
Tickets: $7 at the door
Mab Lab rehearses for its reunion show Sunday at the Vogue. From left, Ande Shaul, Eric Brown, Bob Wilson, Johnny Blevin, Mike Graves and Kate Lamont.
There they were, all of the original members of Mab Lab, crammed together in a small room at the back of drummer Eric Brown's Southwestside home. While college basketball played on a television in the front room of the impeccably furnished crib, Mab Lab was busy at work, preparing for their first live show in 18 months.
The premier soul/hip-hop/jazz group of the Midwest of the 1990s and early 21st century, Mab Lab dissolved in 2004 for its members to pursue side projects. The rehearsal was a trip back in time, to grooves such as "Phase One" and memories of great live shows.
Vocalist Kate Lamont's keyboard was wedged against one wall, while Brown's drum kit was wedged against the facing wall. The rest of the members - guitarist Ande Shaul, MCs Mike Graves and Johnny Blevin, beloved horn man Bob Wilson - somehow crammed into the small room.
Since their last show at the Patio on Aug. 21, 2004, much has changed among the band members. Most of them now have children. Lamont has continued with her group Blueprint Music, while the others have worked together and separately on a variety of projects.
Bringing Mab Lab back together this time is the new digital-music label, Audio Reconnaissance, started by Brown as a way to distribute not only Mab Lab's music but that of Brown's group, the Glitch Clique, the rappers Twilight Sentinels, Wilson's group the 2:30 Band and many others.
The band joked with each other between songs like the old friends they are. More than other local groups, Mab Lab was a family, and their music reflected that.
"The music is the centerpiece of the family," Brown says. "The key thing that ties the family together is the music, which is something that's larger than any of us individually or collectively. I've had people tell me how certain songs or certain shows have moved them, and that's a very heavy thing."
The Audio Recon clique, which includes Mab Lab, the Glitch Clique, the Twilight Sentinels and the 2:30 Band, poses for a family photo.
"It's like that crazy cousin you have," Blevins joked. "He's done some good things, he's done some fucked-up things, but when you look back on it, once he's gone, you miss him."
Brown approached Lamont last year about putting Mab Lab's songs on his digital label. "I was really glad when he talked to me about it," she says. "It's a way for the band's music to live on."
"It gives the band a new life," Brown says. "We can do whatever we want and the music stays alive."
"Instead of saying we're not a band anymore, we can tell people to go download Mab Lab music," Lamont says.
"With the ease of digital music, Ande's got a project, Kate, Mike and Andy have a group, I have a group and Bob has a group, and we can put it all out there," Brown says. "Before, we had to think about getting a label, having the money for pressing CDs, getting distribution. Now we can concentrate on making music, whatever it's gonna be. All those different things can come together. Everyone's going to be more prolific."
Of special interest to the label is the extensive back catalog of music from veteran horn man Wilson, who recorded not only with Mab Lab and the side project Maintaining A Common Nuisance, but also on solo records dating back some years.
"I've known Bob forever, but I've never had all his CDs, or I had them and they got scratched," Graves says. "Now I can listen to them whenever I want. Or I can listen to songs we did that I don't remember we even recorded."
"You don't have to wait to be signed," Brown says. "You don't have to wait to be discovered. You just have to make the music and put it out there."
The music will be available through Rhapsody and iTunes. Already released are Wilson's albums Dinner Music For The Not So Hungry and Out: Jazz From The Basement, a Mab Lab compilation, several 2:30 Band albums, the Twilight Sentinels full-length and a Maintaining A Common Nuisance CD.
Coming soon are albums from the Glitch Clique, another from the Sentinels, possibly some new or previously unreleased Mab Lab material and anything else that flows out of the minds of Brown and his musical family.
The live show at the Vogue on Sunday will feature not only the Mab Lab reunion but appearances from the Glitch Clique, the Twilight Sentinels and the 2:30 Band, in its first-ever live show.
Everyone attending Sunday's show will receive a compilation CD spotlighting those artists and others from the Audio Recon family. So strong is the bond between the acts that Brown insisted all of the groups from the label be photographed for the article, not just Mab Lab.
"This is the future of creativity," Brown says. "We can all work together."
In the label's mission statement, Brown says that "making it" is "about being creative, following your vision of what your music should be and releasing it to a worldwide audience."
With Audio Reconnaissance, and the goodwill and support of the wide variety of its artists, Brown and his friends plan to do those things.
All money from Sunday's show will benefit Common Ground Relief.org, a group dedicated to providing short-term relief for victims of hurricane disasters in the Gulf Coast region, and long-term support in rebuilding the communities affected in the New Orleans area.