No End of Now, Palm Harbor, FL
Fully embodying the “live in the present” concept behind their clever, provocative moniker, Tampa based musical collaborative No End Of Now is the ultimate avant-garde fusion band, embracing every moment as an opportunity to electrify, expand and revolutionize the many genres they draw from—jazz, rock, funk, blues and world music for starters.
Alternately trippy/expansive and hard driving/infectious, the hard to peg vibe created by Rex Shepherd (guitars), and various other regional musicians has been described by their growing regional fan base in a lot of colorful ways that open a door into the experience they share on their new full length collection Some Music We Made. Some dub No End of Now as “hippie Jazz,” others as “psychedelic fusion.” Shepherd’s favorite comparison came from a guy in a bar where they were playing one night: “Robin Trower meets Miles Davis,” a spot on observation considering that Shepherd’s guitar influences range from Trower and Hendrix on the classic rock side to jazz greats Jim Hall and Bill Frisell. Still others get drawn in beyond the point of no return and are left almost speechless, save for “What the hell was that? That was cool.”
Before moving to Central Florida about a decade ago, Shepherd was a long established musician on the jazz circuit in Cleveland, primarily playing the Telecaster and doing straight ahead jazz. Over the years, he began finding new ways to meld jazz with his foundational love of rock and also began incorporating more exotic sounds from his growing interest in Indian music. He started gigging heavily around Tampa, where he met and ultimately joined creative forces with Tschirhart, a Detroit native (and fellow enthusiast of both jazz and rock) whose upright bass was in high demand on the local scene. The duo’s chemistry went over well at numerous local venues, from clubs to coffee shops, hookah bars and a hip pizza joint in New Port Richey, where they scored the longest running jazz gig (a year and a half) that the restaurant had ever had.
After a long deserved creative break, Shepherd was inspired to start making music again after the unexpected passings of his grandmother and mother within a six month time span; he pays tribute to them on Some Music We Made with the coolly ambient improvisational meditation “Lunch With The Departed,” inspired by a dream he had about a reunion with his loved ones. He began writing some of what he calls “the best music of my life” and called up Tschirhart to see about hooking up again. After six months of searching for the perfect drummer/percussionist, which included many false starts, they found Stander, who blew them away at his audition. “He showed up and killed it,” Shepherd says. “He doesn’t sight read so he would have to listen to us playing the tune. He would play it back so tastefully, and he was so responsive to what was going on in the songs, that he quickly became our third voice.”
One of the hottest drummers on the Southeast Jam scene, Stander’s recording and touring work with Worldwide Zoo and Green Sunshine have made him a sought after performance and session player when deep grooves and creativity are called for. Shepherd was impressed at the self-taught drummer’s colorful, “conversation like” approach, which is the result of a deep and profound appreciation for the roots and possibilities of music. Stander’s private studies have included work with drummer greats Billy Martin (of Medeski, Martin & Wood), Don Capone (a longtime student of Elvin Jones and Alan Dawson), Stanton Moore and Johnny Rabb. Stander’s thoughts on improvising were perfectly in line with that of Shepherd and Tschirhart: “You gotta keep your ears open, no matter what the sticks are doing. It has to have meaning...”
Prior to Stander’s joining in mid-2011, Shepherd and Tschirhart recorded and later released an album under the No End of Now name called Pieces Together; the more languid, sonically expansive but lower key collection featured their friend Justin Wierbonski, a hand percussionist who later moved to New York. Shepherd considers the vibe of that recording a different but essential thread in the colorful tapestry of music he strives to create under the name No End of Now. Their ultimate goal is to continue expanding the boundaries of both Rex’s personal and the band’s collective creativity, generating more music that is increasingly expressive and adventurous.
“The most exciting thing about having this incredible lineup for this particular recording is our ability to play not only some of the songs I had previously written out, but also to naturally improvise on the other tracks that didn’t have an initial roadmap,” says Shepherd. “Working with John and Jason gives me a chance to express the edgier side of me that I never got to show when I was playing straight ahead jazz. Our chemistry lies in the listening each of us does, the ability to have the others hear what one of us is doing and then respond to it and take off in unexpected directions. Especially in the live setting we might not necessarily play a chart, just have a few of the chorus sections in mind and then jump off from there. The main thing is that we never play inside the box, which for some groups might lead to disarray. For us, it’s great because we’re all about having the conversation, listening to what the other is doing and responding and building the song or track from there.”
Coming up with the prosaic title Some Music We Made allows the trio to engage in wildly fun musical exchanges, some adhering to and riffing off identifiable melodies and pocket grooves, some not. “42” is a fiery instrumental rocker driven by Tschirhart’s propulsive basslines and Shepherd’s distorted electric guitar, which uses a UniVibe phase shifter like Hendrix used on “Voodoo Chile.” Shepherd originally penned it as a straight ahead jazz tune, but as the form changed it started to reflect the Trower influence. The dusty, rolling, steel guitar fired “The Cowboy Song” is a distinct departure from Shepherd’s jazzier tendencies which started out with the ambling basslines. As it took shape, it began reminding him of old Clint Eastwood movies he had watched as a kid. The funky and hypno-melodic “The Good Life” edges from blazing rock guitar strum to a moodier vibe between verses. Shepherd says, “This tune started out with a simple blues riff and wound up as a rock song inspired by a particular evening with my family. My wife and I and our younger son were practicing yoga to Nine Inch Nails and our older son was hanging out with us, and I had a moment of awareness of how sweet life can be and how the simplest things are the most profound.”
This kind of simplicity drives the hard rocking jazz fusion jam “In and Out,” the next “in the pocket” track in the set. It’s basic electric blues courtesy of Shepherd’s crunchy guitar taken to the steroid level via the bombastic grooves of Tschirhart and Stander. The title refers to the timing of the piece as originally written, with a change from 4/4 to 3⁄4. The time change lost momentum as the funk jam took over. The last semi conventionally structured “tune” on Some Music We Made is the sparsely arranged, ambient and dreamy “Witch,” whose origin Shepherd explains humorously: “This song was written for my wife before we had started dating, to try to impress her - she says it worked! It was originally written for a larger ensemble that included a string trio but performed previously as a duet piece by John and I it seemed to work well with the guitar arpeggiating the chords to fill the space and John bowing the upright. To clarify, I’m frequently asked who ‘Witch’ is, to which I reply ‘my wife,’” soon followed by the typical response of ‘What did she do to **** you off’” to which I reply, ‘Does the music sound like I’m pissed off?”
Just when listeners are locking in, opening their minds and thinking they’ve got a beat on what No End of Now is, the trio throws out wild curveballs that begin with an essential idea but are largely improvised (often in an avant-garde fashion, with a kitchen sink worth of sonic oddities) as they evolve. These “out there” but somehow compelling expeditions include the richly textured, expansive seven minute dreamscape “G Minor Mishap”; the slow building but ultimately blistering and occasionally cacophonous jam “Meditation on the Occasional Uselessness of a Guitar Pick” (almost nine minutes); the wandering, hypnotic spaced out (and ultimately, powerful and cacophonous) “Wrong Angles”; and finally, the raw, crunched out garage rocker “Soy Mash,” which romps along a jazzy path with ultimate explosive rock intentions.
Typical of these wholly improvised, remarkably conversational jams, “Wrong Angles” and “Soy Mash” began with basic ideas jotted down in what Shepherd calls his “idea book.” He says, “Wrong Angles is another scrap that neither John nor Jason had heard prior to recording day. The whole process of finding the tune from the idea scrap took about 30 seconds and we were off. I played the primary melody idea and Jason and John brought in a killer swing, in spite of the fact that I don’t swing naturally and generally don’t like to do so. As with the other improvisations on the record, this tune, ‘G Minor Mishap,’ ‘Meditation...’ and ‘Soy Mash’ were done in one take and found life as a whole piece only through the interplay of the three of us during the recording. Also, I got to use the Theremin in this tune which had been a recent addition to my arsenal of noise making devices and it took the tune in a new direction.”
As for “Soy Mash,” Shepherd continues, “The idea was to try to make noise musical. I am a huge fan of experimental music and in general of almost anything that strays from the all too beaten path. I do, however, like when things I perform or write seem to go somewhere, even if that somewhere is not known until after we have arrived - as was the case with this performance. The title was derived from an unfortunate dining experience at a ‘health food’ restaurant after which none of us felt very healthy. This tune was the first thing we did after lunch and when finished we all knew that it had to take the name of the odorous concoction that had befouled Jason’s digestive tract. Our music is really about being able to express what we know. For me personally, especially after a nearly two year layoff from making music, it’s like having that great ongoing conversation with people who know where I’m coming from.”