TERRE HAUTE —
The formula appears impossibly magical.
A handful of former high school buddies, scattered by life to three different cities, remain the core of a blues-funk-jazz-R&B band. Their sound is tight, yet fluid and spontaneous. They reunite just a few times a year, like an alignment of the stars, but turn in crowd-pleaser performances.
Maybe their band name supplies the magic — The Leonard Washingtons. It’s based on a stoic, trash-talking, World-Series-of-Dice-playing character from the old “Dave Chappelle Show,” who is “very confident and stone-faced,” as drummer Al Doti put it, with a laugh. “Those little snippets, we’ve kind of taken to heart.”
Despite the comedic inspiration, The Leonard Washingtons are serious about their music, as fans of Terre Haute’s annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival know quite well. Their confidence flows from years of practice, performance and improvisation together and individually. For lead singer-keyboardist Will Foraker, tenor saxophonist Alex Sperellis, trombonist Mike Nearpass, and Doti, their history dates back to high school and then their Plastic Heroes band in college. That familiarity makes their rare gigs seem seamless.
The Leonard Washingtons will display their unusual blend as one of a dozen acts performing at the Crossroads — the historic intersection of Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue — this weekend. Five acts take the stage Friday night, beginning at 5:15. Seven more play Saturday, starting at 3 p.m., including The Leonard Washingtons from 9:15 to 10:45.
The seven-piece band gathered again in Terre Haute last weekend, playing a fundraiser. Two traveled from Chicago — Nearpass and alto saxophonist Natalie Lande. Sperellis trekked from Indianapolis. Doti, bassist Eric Schatz and guitarist Tim Doyle live and work in Terre Haute. Foraker resides here three months a year and spends October through spring entertaining vacationers as a singer-pianist on the Celebrity cruise ship line. The reassembling of these musicians is special.
“For the seven of us, it’s really pretty rare,” Foraker said.
The time and distance melt away as The Leonards roll through the hectic groove of “Sweet Little Miss Massey,” the ’70s soul feel of “Myself to You,” or the smooth “Hannah.” They recorded those original tunes and six others in the summer of last year for their second album, “Honest Drangle’s Wino Hat,” and unveiled them at the 2012 Blues at the Crossroads Festival. They’ve lived a year with those songs and know them more intimately now, as the 2013 blues fest crowd will hear, along with some choice covers.
“We’ll bring a little bit more of a raw energy,” said Doti.
Their secret? “A lot of it comes from all the years we’ve played together,” Doti said. “That, and we use as much technology as we can.”
Technology bridges the geographic gap. Their originals typically begin with Foraker penning the lyrics and basic chord structure. The rhythm section — Foraker, Doti, Schatz and Doyle — builds a fuller number, as the melody, bridge, verses and chorus take shape. Then, they send a recording to Nearpass, who develops the horn section parts, and he relays those to the others. They practice individually, mulling possible ad libs. It all unfolds on stage.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Foraker said. “It’s very kind of ad hoc, but we found a way to make it work.”
The end result resembles a mix of the Allman Brothers, Tower of Power and John Mayer, at least in Foraker’s opinion. Structure and free-form jamming coexist.
It works through “improvisation and the ability to go with the flow,” Doti said. He saw that skill revive in last weekend’s performance at Jacobpalooza, a benefit show. “It was really impressive to see us all come together as a unit.”
What happens after Saturday remains a bit enigmatic. Foraker leaves for his cruise work next month and returns early in 2014, “but I’ve got an album’s worth of ideas,” he emphasized. With ages ranging from 24 to 30, The Leonard Washingtons’ lives now include marriages for some, jobs and graduate studies. Tricky as reuniting has become, they enjoy the moments, Doti said.
“So that’s just kind of our thing,” he said. “We don’t really get a lot of time to practice, so we just play our hearts out when we do get together.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or email@example.com.
Terre Haute-based band bringing mix of blues, funk, jazz and R&B to the streets
TERRE HAUTE —
The formula appears impossibly magical.
‘Dinosaur Zoo Live’ brings prehistoric creatures to life
Kids of all ages will have the chance to get up close and personal with a menagerie of prehistoric creatures at 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday when Erth’s “Dinosaur Zoo Live” comes to Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Hatfield Hall for two shows.
Gallery presents ‘Halcyon Days’ exhibit
Halcyon Art Gallery is presenting the regional juried exhibition, “Halcyon Days 2014,” on view from Friday until March 28. The opening reception will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday. This is the ninth in a series of juried exhibitions showcasing the best of contemporary art in all media.
See dinosaurs, Dr. Seuss characters at Children's Museum
On Sunday, March 9, Terre Haute Children’s Museum guests will be in for a special treat. Prehistoric creatures from Erth’s “Dinosaur Zoo” will be roving the museum, and Dr. Seuss characters will come to life when the Children’s Theatre of Terre Haute presents “Seussical Jr.”
Make a toast March 7 to benefit Susan G. Komen
The community is invited to drink in the sights of the restored Indiana Theatre at “A Taste … A Toast … A Cure,” an event to benefit Susan G. Komen of the Wabash Valley.
Dinner/auction event March 9 to benefit heart patient
“A Heart for Dustin” benefit will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 9, in AMVETS Post 222 on Fifth Avenue in Terre Haute.
March library exhibit inspired by ‘Magnificent Ambersons’
Artists from River City Art Association and the Wabash Valley Art Guild in Terre Haute will feature works inspired by the 2014 Wabash Valley Big Read selection, “The Magnificent Ambersons.”
White Violet Center to host March 8 nuno felting class
A new fiber class at White Violet Farm Alpacas, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence, was so popular the organization is offering it again in March.
Country singer/songwriter from Illinois to perform at The Verve
Up-and-coming country singer/songwriter Troy Stone of Paris, Ill., will perform from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. March 14 in The Verve at 677 Wabash Ave.
Meet and greet March 7 at Tater & Joe’s Coffee Grounds
An informal meet and greet at the new Tater & Joe’s Coffee Grounds ,423 Wabash Ave., begins at 6 p.m. on Friday.
- Museums/Exhibitions: March 6, 2014
- Concert listings: March 6, 2014
- Theater listings: March 6, 2014
Party New Orleans-style at Swope Mardi Gras celebration
The Swope Art Museum’s fifth annual Mardi Gras celebration is this weekend. Enjoy a visit to the Big Easy on the museum’s third floor from 8 p.m. to midnight Saturday.
‘A complete meal of classical music’ at Central Presbyterian
Beethoven composed his masterpieces nearly two centuries ago. George Gershwin wrote “Rhapsody in Blue” a few years after World War I.
Lizzy Long, Little Roy Lewis to perform at Union Christian Church in March
Lizzy Long and Little Roy Lewis are scheduled to take the stage at 7 p.m. March 28 at Union Christian Church, 5350 E. Hulman Drive.
Final Fridays: Lunes Domingo at Verve
Lunes Domingo returns to the Verve this Friday with special guests The Brown James.
The show starts at 10 p.m. Admission is $3.
- Theater listing: Feb. 27, 2014
‘Les Miserables’ tickets available Feb. 27
Tickets for Lincoln Trail College’s spring production of “Les Miserables” are now available to the public.
Performances of “Les Miserables,” written by Alain Boubil, Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Herbert Kretzmer, will be at 7 p.m. March 28, 29, April 4 and 5 in the Zwermann Arts Center Theater. In a break from tradition, there also will be two Sunday matinees, at 2 p.m. March 30 and April 6.
Sing Our Jingle winners announced Feb. 27
Winners in ISU Credit Union’s Sing Our Jingle Contest were Jonathan Boes, first place; Jennifer Turner, second place; and Solly Burton, third place. Cash awards were given to the top three places.
Paint ‘Spring Rain’ March 4 at Gaslight Colony
For over a year, Gaslight Art Colony has introduced painting to many groups of adults and children with a class called Canvas at the Colony. The next session, “Spring Rain,” will take place at 6 p.m. CST on Tuesday at the gallery, 516 Archer Ave., Marshall, Ill. The fee is $35 if paid in advance, or $45 at the door.
- Live events listings: Feb. 27, 2014
FACT fundraising breakfast set for March 8
The Fontanet Action Community Team will serve a fundraising breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon March 8 in the FACT team building at Fontanet.
St. Patrick’s Irish Dash walk/run March 15
The Irish Dash, now in its 11th year, is a 5K run/walk and a one-mile fun run down Ohio Boulevard in Terre Haute. This family-friendly event will take place on March 15. It serves as a fundraiser for the St. Patrick’s School class of 2015, and is part of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration at St. Patrick’s Church.
Be part of on-the-spot portrait exhibit March 14-16 at Indiana Historical Society
The Indiana Historical Society will offer its guests the opportunity to have their portraits both taken and incorporated into an on-the-spot exhibition with #300in3. The free event will take place March 14 through 16, from noon to 4 p.m. each day.
The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center, home of the IHS, is at 450 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis.
- Concert listings: Feb. 27, 2014
Clay Theatre to present dinner show Feb. 27-March 1
The Clay Community Theatre in Brazil will be presenting “The 1940s Radio Hour,” a dinner theater, today through Saturday.
Dinner will be at 6:30 p.m., with the play at 7.
- Museums/Exhibitions: Feb. 27, 2014
Shawnee announces summer lineup; youth theater offerings
The Shawnee Theatre in Greene County announces its Summer 2014 season filled with timeless tales and American favorites.
Eric Bibb, Ruthie Foster to bring ‘Joy!’ to Rose-Hulman
He has been compared to blues greats like Taj Majal and John Lee Hooker. Blues Revue said she sings with a “full-on blast of soul.”
Yara to bring international sounds to ISU performance
Sarah Stone, a mezzo-soprano and alumna of the School of Music at Indiana State University, will perform works by international composers with her ensemble Yara at 7:30 p.m. Sunday in the Recital Hall of Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts.
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