By Sheryl Aronson
On Saturday, July 16th, the smoking hot funky band B.I.G. (Brothers Igniting Groove) tore the house down twice on the Garden Stage at the Jazz Fest West Festival in San Dimas, California.
On Saturday, July 16th, the smoking hot funk band B.I.G. (Brothers Igniting Groove) tore the house down twice on the Garden Stage at the Jazz Fest West Festival in San Dimas, California.
They performed at 1pm and 3pm, as the crowd danced and partied to their soulful cover songs. Here’s the group’s motto: “There’s something you need to know when you come see B.I.G… if you did not come to hear funk, you came to the wrong place…if you did not come to hear old school R&B, then you came to the wrong place…if you did not come to hear soul, old school get up and make you dance even if you don’t feel like it…you came to the wrong place.”
B.I.G displayed their versatile repertoire of soul music from a Prince tribute to a melody of dance songs including a Roger/Zapp medley, Atomic Dog, to Superstition, and many more. After their last set, I caught up with the band for an interview.
How did B.I.G. get together and what inspired the name?
Marcus “Slim” Shaw (bass): We got together in 2002/2003. What inspired the name was the group originally had 9 members, so we were “big”. We’ve shrunk it down to the five of us now. I am one of the founders of the band plus the keyboard player John Bell, then our drummer Andrew Jaimez, and our lead singer Jon Mykal joined, and finally Bullet, the guitar player, is our newest member.
What was your goal as a group?
Marcus “Slim” Shaw: Our goal was to play really good music and sound smoking, plus create a family feeling among us.
Talk about how much you enjoy all the people dancing to your music.
John Bell (keyboards): The band feeds off the energy of the crowd. If the crowd is moving that just takes us up to the next level. It’s very important, especially for the type of music we’re playing, for the crowd to be dancing.
Talk about your singing with the mouthpiece while performing.
John Bell: The mouthpiece is nothing more than a wireless microphone feeding into a talk box. I have to play the note to get the pitch and tone I want, then I use the microphone to verbalize the specific words.
Addressing the guitar player – I like your wa-wa’s and your funky style. What is so exciting about playing guitar for this band?
Robert “Bullet” Harris (guitar player): What’s exciting about playing the music with this particular group is that everyone plays off of one another… we never know what’s going to happen. I’ll hear Marcus play something on the bass and I’ll go, ‘Wow’ to myself and vibe to what he just did.
Your band has such a funk groove. Who’ve been some of your inspirations?
Robert “Bullet” Harris: James Brown of course as far as rhythm. Sly Stone…who I had the opportunity to play with and learned a lot from him…and listening to all the greats growing up.
Addressing the drummer – What do you see your role as, and why do you like playing with B.I.G.?
Andrew Jaimez (drummer): Playing with this group allows me to play the way I love to play. In this band I get to do what comes natural for me rather than alter what I feel to make the situation right. I’m not a busy drummer. I like to stay home and protect home and hold the pocket down. I think that’s the kind of drummer that fits this band the best.
Addressing the vocalist – You’re getting everyone dancing and inspired. Talk about why you like playing with this group.
John Mykal (vocalist): I like playing with this group because they’re all impeccable musicians. They’re all astute and masters of their craft. They’re all able to put the song together and make sure the people in the audience hear it, and feel it, the way it was intended to be heard and felt. I like being part of that puzzle. When I can give them that vocal delivery that matches the accuracy and intensity of the music that these guys play, I am satisfied, I’m just a cog in the wheel.
Let’s talk about the music that you’re playing. You’re carrying on the tradition of the soul music from days past…
John Mykal (vocalist): We’re all students of this music. A lot of us grew up in the 60’, 70’s and early 80’s listening to a lot of the R&B music. The music that people are listening to now all comes from somewhere. We like to pay tribute to the artists that paved the way like Stevie Wonder, Charlie Wilson…the people that actually wrote a lot of this great music that we’re sampling from. When we give it to people, we give it in the way it was intended to be heard and felt. If you go on our website: www.bigband4u.com you’ll see a lot of clips that we don’t have time to play today. You can find the calendar where you can come out and join us where we are playing. We like to pay an honest tribute to the men and women who wrote these songs.
Addressing Marcus “Slim” Shaw – Are you in the studio now working on anything?
Marcus “Slim” Shaw: Yes, a little bit of all of us are on the upcoming record that is called Choice , and I hope to have that released in the next few months. There’s a lot of funk influence with the smooth jazz and a little R&B. I am also going to release a single called Choice which is a bass led song and it’s about choosing this take on music rather than that take on music.
Is this the first time at the Jazz West Festival?
Marcus “Slim” Shaw: Yes, it’s our first time here and we hope to be back again next year.
If the audience today was any indication of the success of B.I.G.’s igniting the groove to fuel a party atmosphere, not just once, but twice in the afternoon, then I think B.I.G will be back again next year so everyone can hear “soul, old school get up and make you dance even if you don’t feel like it” music.
Marcus “Slim” Shaw – bass
John Bell – keyboards
Andrew Jaimez – drums
Robert “Bullet” Harris – guitar
John Mykal – vocals
More information on B.I.G.’s music and performances go to:
Photo Credit: Sheryl Aronson