Special to the Tribune-Star
A new trio is emerging on the Terre Haute music scene. Formed this June, Papa J. Otis features a creative mix of sounds derived from the worlds of rock, blues, R&B, funk and jazz.
The band’s repertoire focuses on its original compositions, which are mainly vehicles for instrumental jamming, with a liberal sprinkling of soulful vocals from PJO bassist Jon (JMac) McKinney. McKinney is a veteran of several bands in the Muncie area, most notably the blues-rock group One Side Later with whom he regularly gigged in Muncie, Indianapolis, Bloomington and Terre Haute.
For percussion this trio relies on the solid and multi-dimensional drumming of Otter Fundip, whose background as a bassist in the local bands Lowe Tide and Ace in the Whole makes for some unique interactions with McKinney’s funk-jazz bass inflections. The third voice in the PJO triad is saxophonist (and sometimes keyboardist) PapaPatty (Paul Burkett), who has been performing as a solo street player for several years while sitting in at shows and open jams with various other artists on the Terre Haute and Brazil scenes. Despite the common association of the saxophone with mainstream jazz, PapaPatty’s high-energy sound is deeply rooted in blues and rock with some influence from the free jazz movement. This is reflected in his original instrumental compositions, which are designed to make audiences move, as well as in his jamming on McKinney’s spirited vocal numbers.
As witnesses to PJO’s recent performances at Simrells, the Rock for Brazil Festival, and at Ambrosini’s Wednesday night open jam will testify, the absence of a guitar lends an interesting openness and flexibility to the band’s sound. This allows for a high degree of creative interaction among all three band members during their sets, so that their compositions remain fresh from one performance to the next. It is a high risk strategy but so far audiences seem to appreciate the originality of the project, partly because the band’s music remains quite danceable despite being largely improvised.
PJO hopes to continue the successful navigation of its unique musical high wire on Dec. 21 at the Coffee Grounds, 423 Wabash Ave., in downtown Terre Haute (no cover charge). The band will play from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Those interested in a sneak preview of PJO’s music can listen to the live recordings and practice tunes posted at the band’s music site: www.soundcloud.com/
papajotis. Music lovers can stay up to date on the band’s latest news by checking out (and “liking”) the PJO Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PapaJOtis.