The Players do not play Jazz-Ska!
Interview by Abram Jones

The Players are a DC-based traditional Ska band that really rips it up onstage. Because they have an incredibly tight horn section, some folks have labeled them Jazz-ska. I have made it my personal mission to disprove this theory, and as you can see in the text below, the guys end up doing it for me. Most of the comments below are from Andy Schneider.












"The Players have put out 'Instrumental' and I would say that this was a must listen for all those who enjoy ska-like music. They are clearly an accomplished organization with a tight sense of the groove and easy skankin that makes such music so damn good. This is one that I am keeping for sure and I suggest that you go out and check them live, for such bands as this do not come into being very often and what they can do with music is phenomenal."
Laurin Wollan, Nov. 2001, Music Monthly

Abram: What's the scene out in DC like? I read on that there were a few good acts in Virginia and the District, but what's the real deal from someone who lives and plays there?

Andy Schneider:The DC scene is pretty dead. If we want to play any big shows in the area we typically have to set them up ourselves and bring down bands like our friends the Toasters, or the Slackers. As far as DC/MD ska bands goes, I can only name two that are still together besides us: The Pietasters and Eastern Standard Time.

Other than that, some national acts come through town about once every three months. We opened up at DC's 9:30 Club's five-year anniversary celebration along with the MIghty Mighty Bosstones in front of a sold-out crowd. The Bosstones are also playing this January and I've already put our name in the hat. Hopefully we'll get it. In our first year, we have been showcased at the 9:30 club on four separate occasions opening for the Bosstones, Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, the Pietasters, and the Toasters. The Joe Strummer show was huge. It was the first date of their US tour and I saw them on Letterman the night before.

At Fletcher's in Baltimore City, we opened for the Pietasters in front of yet another sold-out crowd. And, in November of '00, we played in front of 12,000 participants at the Ralph Nader Rally (no affiliation!) held at the MCI Center in Washington, D.C. National CBS Radio and Fox TV covered the performance. The Pietasters also performed that day. They still pull in huge crowds locally.

AJ: Many people call the Players Jazz/Ska. I am quick to reply that improvisation and a tight horn section do not equal Jazz/Ska (a la NYSJE). If you wre to pigeonhole yourselves, how would you typify your music, and what kinds of music did your members play before this band?

The Players, in Mezzotint AS: So many people think that if a band has horn players they must be jazz. I beg to differ. When you see our trumpet player jumping up and down on stage all crazy while smashing his $900.00 trumpet to bits and pieces and then throwing what's left out to the crowd I call it Rock n' Roll. Our aim is to use our music to leave you absolutely drained. If you can get to see us live I think we do just that. On many occasions we have had guest soloists join us onstage. A few different times we have had a lineup as follows:

  • Bob - Trumpet
  • Dave - Trombone
  • Mike - Bari Sax
  • J Ledney - Tenor Sax
  • Jeff (Bucket) - Alto Sax
  • Buford O'Sullivan - Trombone
  • Sledge - Trumpet
  • Vinny - Trombone
Those shows were amazing. All those guys would join us for our version of "Confucius". Just amazing.

It's pretty hard to describe our music, but I'll give it a shot. With humble beginnings in traditional ska, we have successfully combined a number of musical genres to create a sound all our own. Our unique sound is a rhythmic blend of high-energy music, characterized by the use of horn and percussion, accented off-beats, and the influence of a variety of musical styles, including rock, ska, reggae, and hip-hop. That's it.

Our members come from very diverse backgrounds. Three of our members go to school full time and study music. Two of our horns grew up playing a lot of classical and jazz. Besides that, our influences range from old school ska (Skatalites) to reggae, funk, hop-hop, jazz, second wave, even zydeco.

AJ: In speaking with jazz musicians, I'm often surprised to find that with a little gentle prodding they are willing to admit that they support ska and rocksteady music. In your experience, do you think this holds true for jazz musicians far and wide?

AS: Yes. The link manifests in the form of improvisation. Improvisation is the key to groovy ska and jazz.

AJ: What do you think it takes to do a good cover of a classic ska tune? The Players do a great job with the two I've heard, but so many acts churn out tired renditions of once-great songs in uninspired note-for-note covers that fall short of the mark.

The PlayersAS: We would listen to the original and then use our own tastes, preferences, and ideas to create that new sound all to our own. This way you keep your listeners more on their toes. It also helps playing with people who are serious about music. For most of us it is a lifetime calling. After playing as long as we have, learning a new cover usually takes about fifteen minutes.

My favorite rendition that we play almost every show is "Confucius". Not many frills but tons of energy. our live show is all about high energy; whether we're playing reggae or rock we want and expect everyone to be jumpin'.


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