The seven members of Baton Rouge jazz-funk-fusion band Captain Green are all distinct artists with their own special skills and talent. But when they come together to perform their band’s inventive, ambitious music, the seven become one.
They become Captain Green.
Formed in January 2010, Captain Green plays thoroughly composed music that nevertheless makes room for solo music adventures.
And there’s nothing random about the music. Even when a Captain Green piece stretches to 15 minutes, the musicians have a destination.
Tenor and baritone saxophonist Darin Jones is one of the band’s three horn players.
“What we do is not really jam music,” Jones explained. “It’s orchestrated music with space for improvisation. So when someone steps up for a solo, the band acts as one thing, creating space for him to move around in.”
Because Captain Green contains seven distinct instrumental voices, Jones sees the group’s possibilities as endless.
“Everybody contributes,” he said. “We have a sound, but it’s up for interpretation every time. There are guidelines but there are no rules. We’re phrasing toward checkpoints in the music.”
“Sometimes,” bassist Bob Kling added, “there’s more space between the dots, and sometimes the dots are closer together.”
Even during solos, supporting players accompany the soloists in creative ways, Kling said. “We dig in and make it almost as interesting as whatever the soloist is doing.”
Having supporting players so engaged was something new for Captain Green’s newest recruit, guitarist and LSU theater graduate Andrew Davis.
“The way I had viewed the soloist, it was like, ‘All right, it’s your time. It’s all about you,’ ” Davis said. “But now the band is listening attentively to the soloist and keeping its band engine running. The band is the vehicle, the soloist hops in and drives. But we’re all propelling the music forward, so the audience can hop on our train and take that ride, too.”
Kling, keyboardist Ross Hoppe and saxophonist Matt Bizot met in high school. They later attended LSU and, during a summer break, decided to jam together.
“The group was never intended to be a group,” Jones, another LSU-educated musician, explained. “It was just an outlet for us to get together and play with kids our age, instead of being under the supervision of professional jazz musicians at LSU.”
At first, the future Captain Green played non-original music.
“That’s how you get to where you can play with people you don’t know very well,” Jones said. “I showed up with my horn and listened to what they were doing and tried to play along.”
The still informal ensemble later played a Wednesday night open mike at North Gate Tavern near LSU, essentially moving its practice session to the club’s patio music stage.
“People dug it,” Jones recalled.
The positive response at North Gate Tavern, Kling said, encouraged its members to get serious. “We were like, ‘All right, people like us. This is something we can do.’ ”
The band began writing original material and developing its sound, a process its members see as ever evolving.
“Realistically,” Jones said, “it’s gonna take us every day.”
In addition to Jones, Kling, Davis, Hoppe and Bizot, Captain Green features trumpeter Dave Melancon and drummer Charles Brooks.
The band’s upcoming appearances include Captain Green’s Christmas Carnival on Saturday, Dec. 15, at Chelsea’s Café. It’s a free show, featuring guest vocalists Christien Bold and Sarah Ritsch singing holiday selections, free food and the debut of new Captain Green music. Those who donate five or more cans of food to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank will receive a free Captain Green poster.
Besides Baton Rouge engagements, such as a September opening act slot for George Porter Jr. at the Varsity Theatre, Captain Green appears at Maison in New Orleans every few months. The group’s next gig at the Frenchmen Street club is Friday, Dec. 21.
“They like having us back,” Jones said of Maison. “We have a good time there. And it’s amazing to feel the energy in New Orleans, the energy for and from musicians. A lot of New Orleans bands harnessed that energy and took it across the world.”
Like those globe-circling New Orleans bands, Captain Green wants to tour extensively.
“With the touring experience,” Jones said, “the idea is that we’re going to reach new levels with our music and the way we communicate this particular language.”
“I want to play Japan,” Kling said. “I want to play Europe, but it’s gotta to start smaller.”