Touted “Generation Next” by Billboard Magazine during their first ever New York City performance, Michael Bellar and the AS-IS Ensemble seem to defy description as they take the stage. This ber-hip electro-acoustic group blends sounds from jazz, rock and world percussion into their own unique form of alt-jazz. As the former house band for the legendary BLUE NOTE club, the band has spent years refining their chops to a level near perfection and has shared the stage with artists like John Scofield
and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey
, and performed at venues such as LINCOLN CENTER and KENNEDY CENTER. Drawing on this experience while simultaneously charting into new territory, the AS-IS Ensemble certainly doesn’t disappoint on their third release, Turned On Turned Up
The diverse sonic landscape of Turned On Turned Up
takes the listener through a cavalcade of sounds and textures. Frontman Michael Bellar seamlessly melds sounds ranging from Hammond organ spun through churning Leslie speakers and screaming synth leads to more subtle sounds on Rhodes and piano. Not afraid to take risks, Bellar even ventures into unexpected instruments like accordion and harmonium. Under this sonic panorama, the AS-IS Ensemble holds down grooves including straight ahead funk as in the opening “Squashing Pollyanna,” to odd-metered Middle Eastern jams like “Fur Turban.” However, the band is equally adept at delicate musings like “Yoga For Prison Girls” and “Sublime.” While most of the disc contains original material, Bellar also offers unique interpretations of Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop,” Bjork’s “Unravel” and Ben Folds’ “Fred Jones Pt. 2.”
Michael Bellar is the current keyboardist for Amos Lee and has already had a hand in assisting musicians from many genres, including Art Garfunkel, Howie Day, and Wheatus. The core lineup of the AS-IS Ensemble consists of Brad Wentworth (Aretha Franklin, Zs, Ryan Keberle) on drums and assorted percussion and Rob Jost (Imogen Heap, Bjork) on acoustic and electric bass. Guest percussionist Robert di Pietro (Norah Jones, Jessie Harris) joins them on the album playing assorted ethnic instruments. The band is currently touring in support of Turned On Turned Up
, including upcoming shows opening for TEA LEAF GREEN and MEDESKI, MARTIN AND WOOD.