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With Diverse Musical Palette, The Painters Return to Collinsville on Sept. 9

September 6, 2016 Arts and Entertainment, Community No Comments
Corey Lynn Tucker Photography

Corey Lynn Tucker Photography

By John Fitts 

Dan O’Brien, Mike Suddes, Silvain Castellano and George Mastrogiannis, collectively known as The Painters, certainly draw from a diverse palette.

Several of these gentlemen could actually paint your home and do it quite nicely but it’s on the musical stage where their art really shines. The band is making a name for itself with mostly original material that is heavily steeped in jazz but cultivates other influences, such as funk, rock and even classical.

Like many jazz artists who love to freely improvise, the group is always carefully straddling that line between traditional and contemporary genres.

“It sort of treads that (free improvisational) territory but it also treads traditionalism in some ways,” said O’Brien, a 2008 Canton High School graduate. “What I think we’re trying to do is find these middle ground areas. It deals with jazz, it deals with improvisation, it deals with rock, it deals a lot of different things at the same time, at varying levels.”

And over the past two years, the band members have really begun to find their stride, equally adept in free-form jazz or slightly more conventional realm. In addition to a steady selection of originals the band loves to put a new spin on popular music.

“I like how we kind of straddle this line between the open free and the straight ahead and we try to meet in the middle,” added Mastrogiannis, a Canton resident who is the band’s drummer. 

The band comes to the Main Street stage in downtown Collinsville from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sept. 9. In addition to originals, the audience is likely to hear Jimmy Webb’s Wichita Lineman (popularized by Glen Campbell and others), Radiohead’s High and Lovely Day by Bill Withers.

Mastrogiannis said the band loves to keep such tunes intact enough so people know what they are but at the same time make sure they sound nothing like the originals.

In the last two years, the band has rehearsed and played out out enough to really cultivate the desire to feed off of one other.

“That’s definitely allowed a lot of spontaneous stuff to cultivate,” said O’Brien, who plays tenor sax, clarinet and flute with the group. “It’s not as much sitting down or working things out or saying I’m going to bring in this extended composition. It’s more bringing sketches of stuff, and taking things we know, jazz standards or whatever, or just a groove, seeing if we can build on it and not limiting it to conventions. All of us, I think have this equal mindedness toward finding new territory.”

It was two summers ago, that Mastrogiannis called O’Brien, after hearing good things about him from music students and staff at Canton High School.

“George just called me out of the blue,” O’Brien said.

“I was looking for guys that were local and wanted to play jazz,” Mastrogiannis said. “We got together for a jam and little by little it turned into a real group. I’ve enjoyed seeing how we’ve grown together as musicians.”

“I felt it jelled very nicely from the beginning,” Mastrogiannis added.

Suddes, who plays guitar, ended up playing at one of those original jam sessions and Castellano, a bassist, and O’Brien were long-time friends that met in high school and later studied together.

The Painters rehearse at a Canton home. Photo by John Fitts

The Painters rehearse at a Canton home.
Photo by John Fitts

The band is excited to return to Collinsville this weekend. Recently the performed a set of originals at the Collinsville Farmers Market.

“People were really receptive to it,” Mastrogiannis said. “I felt that we have a certain energy and a certain sound as a group, that it’s not just like a few guys getting together and just jamming. It’s a cohesive mindset where we’re all kind of thinking on that same level and we react to each other in a way that creates music without it sounding disjointed.”

Mastrogiannis said he hopes the future of the band includes much more collaborative writing.

“I definitely want to have music that we have created together,” he said, adding that much of the material now consists of compositions each member has brought to the band. “We’re working on those things and developing them.”

“There’s definitely that aspect of mutual growth and evolution as an ensemble and figuring out ways to do that,” O’Brien added. He said he sees that growth in the form of both songwriting and other areas, such as finding new venues.

Straddling that line between straight-ahead jazz and free improvisation has its challenges but O’Brien said the band tailors its sound and selection based on the venue and the audience. And Connecticut is actually a good place to offer both, he added.

“It’s a lot more difficult in a lot of ways,” he said. “It’s sort of easy to jump ship and say I’m just doing free improvisation or no I’m sticking to traditional 100 percent. We’re finding there’s so many different gradations of where that middle ground could be and I think that’s kind of where we are not necessarily about finding a single identity but exploring all this different territory. It definitely feels fruitful. It’s been a cool couple years and I think all of us hope there’s many, many more.”

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