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July 2019 - Atomic Boogaloo

Atomic Sounds with a Boogaloo Vibe from Lansing Quartet

Story by LCC Radio Reporter Philippe Goudiaby

Atomic BoogalooThey say “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but can you judge a band by its Boogaloo? Lansing jazz quartet, Atomic Boogaloo, adapted their moniker as inspired by the infectious Lou Donaldson groove, entitled "Alligator Boogaloo". A staple cover of the band. And if their name did not already give it away, the explosive jazz group has a knack an unconventional style, offering a fusion of unexpected musical influences to deliver audiences a fresh but familiar sound.

Atomic Boogaloo is comprised of four well known members of the Capital City jazz scene including Bob Bryan (drums), Andy Callis (accordion), John Gerwitz (saxophone) and Aaron Holland (guitar). Assembling nearly five years ago, each member brought with them a unique set of skills and musical tastes. Listening to one of their tracks feels like someone took Kenny G, a drum set, and a polka band and threw them all into a blender. The result? A “smooth jazz smoothie”. Or maybe a “smooth jazzie”?

Terrible puns aside, the unique sonic character of Atomic Boogaloo is what sets them apart from many jazz bands. Callis, explained that the vibe they have created came about naturally with each member consciously trying to find new sounds with their instruments. This includes experimentations like running an electric Farfisa Transicord Accordion through a Moog synthesizer.
Atomic Boogaloo Self Titled
Callis described why he believes the music is drawing people in, “Accordion is cheesy, but freeing in a way. The personality of the band is to do things in different ways...I think the audience gets a kick out of us switching between stuff that’s really out there with stuff that’s traditional.”

As with most jazz groups, keeping their sound fresh and innovative seems to be their main focus. With the group often improvising on stage, Callis remarked on how it can be a challenge “to find the right amount of spontaneity”. Whatever the right amount is, it appears the group has found it as they have received warm responses from Mid-Michigan audiences. Atomic Boogaloo’s unique style has them finding fans that cross generations and they can be found gigging across the area with Moriarty’s Pub on Michigan Ave. as their “go-to venue”. And last month, Atomic Boogaloo was voted ‘Best Experimental Musical Act’ in City Pulse’s Top of the Town poll.

With such a strong foothold in Lansing, it should come as no surprise that Lansing Community College has strong ties in the band’s roots. Holland is an LCC alum, Callis is a theater instructor, and Gerwitz is Atomic Boogaloo in Concerta band instructor for the College as well. The group wholesomely takes pride in their Lansing roots.
“Lansing has a lot of talent,” said Callis, “We are lucky to have places that pay bands, lucky to have great music stores. [There’s] a general good taste in the Lansing music scene from audiences and artists.”

When they first got started, the group booked shows so that they’d be forced to learn new songs. Nearly five years later, they plan to debut some original pieces at the upcoming OldTown JazzFest, signifying that they have truly come full circle. This band is anything but square and they are rejuvenating Lansing’s jazz scene with their experimental and outlandish style. Atomic Boogaloo’s self-titled release can be found online, or if you want to roll old school and get an actual physical copy of the album, at Flat, Black and Circular in East Lansing. You would definitely be doing the band a solid if you did as Callis jokingly added they printed “way too many". Still, with an album released, accolades piling up, and an upcoming appearance at OldTown JazzFest on the way, Atomic Boogaloo is set to boogaloo away the summer.


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