Making Jazzy Funk fun from Sex Machine to Sanford and Son
Relix Magazine by Mick Skidmore
Playing guitar in Godfather of Soul James Brown’s band would probably provide more than enough creativity for most people, but not for Damon Woods. In his spare time he has formed the formidable jamband Harmonious Junk. Because of Woods’ JB touring commitments, Harmonious Junk plays pretty much exclusively in the Denver area, he notes, adding, “We’ve played most of the venues in Denver to decent success, but now we are looking to branch out and progress.” Based on what I’m hearing, the band has plenty to offer. Since forming in Las Vegas in 2001, it has released the superbly crafted Space Cadet, which sees the band exploring a plethora of instrumental textures with some unusual twists. Not surprisingly there’s an underlying funk edge but in a jagged sort of psychedelic fashion: Witness the sassy opener “Sweet Delight” and the percolating riffs of “Bubbledown.” Elsewhere the band flits from melodic jazz-rock (not unlike Steve Kimock) to the beautifully haunting title cut, which features pirouetting leads counter-pointed by delicate piano work that really highlights the sophistication of this ensemble. Woods says that in a live environment he and his bandmates are apt to improvise more, melding songs. “We do Stevie Wonder’s ‘Sir Duke’ but without vocals… We also take ‘Sex Machine’ and segue into the theme from Sanford and Son just for fun.” Woods and fellow band members are each accomplished and exciting players that like to take risks and turn things around (Woods in particular can whip out funk riffs, blues solos and jazz fills with ease and finesse). The band is currently working on its sophomore effort. www.harmoniousjunk.com
"Harmonious Junk does'nt fake it. Their roots and their joy clearly connect to playing a solid blend of funk, jazz, and R&B. The group is enjoying local fame and critical success for their first disc, 'Space Cadet'. There certainly is some Stevie Ray Vaughn in Wood's guitar work, but there are also healthy doses of Allman-esque riffs and Hendrix improv, and even sprinklings of Walter Becker. Wood clearly has the chops to bring it, but Harmonious provides him and the rest of the band an outlet to show off a wide variety of skills. Harmonious has gained a well earned reputation as the party band du jour." Colorado Springs Independent Aaron Retka
More funk than junk
Damon Wood’s music career has taken him many places with many people, but his experiences with James Brown always rise to the top.
It was during a performance honoring the Godfather of Soul that Wood found himself performing “Sex Machine” with Brown and Michael Jackson.
“In L.A., when James Brown was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, Michael Jackson jumped out of the wings and read a speech to give him the award. Then he jammed ‘Sex Machine’ with us,” Wood said. “Me and the bass player looked at each other and were like, ‘Is that Michael Jackson on stage with us?’”
Wood was a lead guitarist in the James Brown Band and played with the legendary musician for almost eight years.
“He’s real intense, and I had a lot to learn from him. He’s probably the greatest entertainer I’ve ever seen at work,” Wood said. “He definitely knows a lot about the business. He put out his first single in 1956.”
Wood now leads the band Harmonious Junk, a funk-rock based ensemble that takes a jazz approach to improvisation.
“We take you through a lot of different styles within one set. If you hear 10 songs in a set that are all in the same genre, it gets kind of old,” he said. “And people are more picky now with, ‘Take me here and take me there.’”
When Harmonious Junk improvises on stage, the band members do it with a “group mind” — everyone listens to one another and takes turns leading.
“We look at it as how we create our art on stage, and that’s bigger than all of us individually,” Wood said. “It’s one of the funnest aspects; it’s more deep and fulfilling and meaningful — almost spiritual.”
When working on the soundtrack for the movie “The Tuxedo,” Woods had to get used to changing things around.
“We recorded ‘Sex Machine’ with Jackie Chan in the DreamWorks Studio with us,” he said. “And James Brown, as usual, changed the whole arrangement on the spot.”
One of the highlights of Woods’ career was when he toured Japan with Brown.
“The Japanese people are so appreciative, and in Japan, they all know your names and have gifts for you,” he said.
The people who set up the shows for the band impressed him even more because of their helpfulness and attention to detail.
“They had everything completely set up before you even get there,” Woods said. “The guitar pick you lost at the show the night before, they found it, and put it on top of your amp.”
But no matter where or whom Wood plays with, his goal is always the same.
“You have to figure out what’s going to make people get off,” he said. “And we have to make sure we get off, too.” By Allison Plean
Oriental Theater Showcase
Music Buzz Magazine
Those in attendance at the Oriental Theater on September 6th were the ones in the know. The newly renovated venue hosted three talented Front Range bands that night: Poontucky, The High Five, and Damon Wood's Harmonious Junk. Damon Wood's rock star stylings were in full effect for the final set of the night. Fueled by funk-driven improvisations, the former lead guitarist for the James Brown Band led his Harmonious Junk band through classic covers and recent originals. With several years of touring around the world and performances with many well known musicians under his belt, Wood knows how to put on a show. His band is full of ultra-talented musicians willing to take risks, and this group is not afraid to extend jams to the cosmic outer reaches. The Junk got everyone up and dancing and Wood's spectacular stage jump to close the show left everyone wanting more. By Katie Flannery Oct. 06'
Harmonious hits hard on debut CD Space Cadet
The Marquee by Monica Banks
Harmonious Junk began as a side project by James Brown guitarist Damon Wood, finding influences and inspirations from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Phish and more. The band was supposed to serve as a forum between tours with the Godfather Of Soul, but has grown into much more.
The debut album is packed with the spontaneity and the creative material Junk's performances are known for. In 2005, Westword voted the band Denver's "Best Jamband," a title that fits well for the quartet.
Best Jam Band-Harmonious Junk
While not entirely a straight-up ramen act (though lead guitarist Damon Wood can noodle with the best of them), Harmonious Junk pulls together savory parts funk, jazz, blues, psychedelic, soul and jam. The versatile outfit is equally comfortable pumping the groove at a Colfax smoke hole or loosening wallets and hips at more upscale clubs downtown. Composed of members of James Brown's band (yep, that James Brown) and local outfits Cocktail Revolution and the Byron Shaw Projex, the band likes to keep it "old school, organic and boogieable." Expect classic covers, fresh originals and the sweet sounds of real talent.
Leaving James Brown
Summit Daily News by Carolina Thibaud
Only last week, after eight years of playing with the James Brown Band, Damon Wood decided he wanted to take some time off and focus his energy on his own band. Harmonious Junk has been playing together since April 2003 after Wood left his hometown of Las Vegas and moved to Denver. "Leaving James Brown was not an easy decision," Wood said. "Half of it had to do with the desire to work on my own band, but at the same time, it got a little stagnant after a while; there are no new records, no new songs..." He said the experience was unbelievable, though. "I've done of all his concerts since '99. We even performed at Woodstock '99," he said. "The international traveling was very new to me too. I guess it's the kind of experience where you just hold on tight and enjoy the ride." Wood's move from Las Vegas to Denver in October '02 was part of a search for a richer and more varied music scene. The music scene in Vegas was too "one-directional" for him" and he did'nt want to be a part of the casino world. "Denver, on the other hand, seemed like a very fertile environment. There are a lot of different scenes with a lot of good bands in them," he said. "I thought I could get a good band and keep it," he said. Well he got it, is keeping it and is making the music he wants to make. He says "making it" comes down to people's talent, to having a creative vision and to sticking with it. "You have to work harder than anybody you know," he said. A little over a year ago, Harmonious Junk released it's first cd, 'Space Cadet'. The album got them named "Best Jamband of Denver" by Westword. Wood described the album as a "kind of psychedelic journey." Chad Aman on keyboards, Jack Alterman on bass, Derek Aman on drums, and Justin Jones on saxophone round out the band, which will play on Saturday for their first time in Frisco. "It seems like the audiences in Summit County are very much into music and very open to trying new things," Wood said. "There seems to be a different crowd every time though, which makes it more difficult because you have to win them all over every time." The band performs Saturday at Upstairs at Jonny G's.
Harmonious Junk:Space Cadet
Jambase.com by Nick Hutchinson
It's easy to like the musical byproduct of James Brown's axeman Damon Wood and his Denver posse Harmonious Junk. Wood struts his road-tested guitar stuff on Space Cadet and demonstrates creative songwriting ability, weaving diverse influences into a musical tapestry that recalls classics like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimi Hendrix, Albert Collins and Jimmy Herring. Despite old-school influences, the music feels new and bares a unique stamp. Keywork by Chad Aman (also of Denver's Cocktail Revolution and Byron Shaw Projex) simmers and shines throughout, while bass ace Jack Alterman keeps the low end tight and thumping. The disc goes out strong, stringing together four very solid cuts: "Gimme Gimme," "Only True Friend," "Magic," and "Luster."
Bouncing between psychedelia, funk, blues, jazz and reggae, Junk's guitar-driven sound is tight, even when venturing on flights of improvisational fancy.
"We try to keep it sort of old-school," Wood says. "Just musicians. No DJs. No tracks. Just an organic setup that allows us to stretch out, but also something that's danceable and that's boogieable. We try to create a mix that entertains people but also entertains us. And we try to appeal to people of all ages, whether they're fifteen or fifty."
Wood says he enjoys playing for erudite listeners. He says he often receives positive feedback along with a few kernels of insight, whether he's laying down tunes by Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, or one of his own compositions. "I love it when people know their stuff and have a broad knowledge of musical history," he enthuses. "That's the kind of crowd I like to play for." Between Soul Brother Number One and Harmonious Junk, Wood is well positioned to stay in front of the musically well-informed, though he takes nothing for granted.
"The JB lineup has been stable for a while, but I'm the last person to have gotten in, so that keeps me on my toes, you know. I like playing for JB, but I take advantage of my off time to work on Harmonious Junk. It's definitely nice to come home [to Denver] and be in my own band."
JamBase | Colorado
Go See Live Music!
Harmonious Junk rise from Godfather's shadow
Vail Daily by Ben Quirk
It's not everyday you get to play with funk and soul legend James Brown. That is, unless your name is Damon Wood. Of course Brown has'nt been constantly on the road, and while the Godfather's away the guitarists will play. Harmonious Junk was originally a side project that allowed Wood to explore his own musical avenues in between tours with Brown, but the band has now taken on it's own momentum and has seen its profile rising steadily. Fresh from the studio, Harmonious Junk promise to play an array of original material spiced up with some obscure classics saturday at the Sandbar.
Westword Magazine by Nick Hutchinson
Touring with the Godfather of Soul can get a little heady. One minute you're at the Apollo in New York, and the next you're performing in such far-flung locales as Turkey, Greece or the Caribbean. Yet for Damon Wood, who plays guitar in James Brown's band and fronts his own outfit, Harmonious Junk, a stage is a stage, no matter where the bus is parked.
"I like to have fun when I'm playing," Wood says emphatically while pacing around his Congress Park apartment. "That's really what it's all about."
And he does have fun -- usually. Not every show is a love-fest, Wood says. He tells of gorgeous theaters at which he and the JB gang are treated royally with choice food and luxury accommodations. But when the band plays, it's to a relatively staid audience that is required to remain seated. Fortunately, these stodgy outings are offset by peppier crowds at more relaxed venues.
"We'll play other shows where the perks aren't so good but the crowds are great. Personally, I'd rather eat a shoddy meal and change in a cramped space to play for an amped audience."
But back in the suburbs of Las Vegas, long before Wood was backing the hardest-working man in show business, his patrons consisted mainly of Weedwackers and the occasional mouse. "It was basically a garage thing that never left the garage," he says of his first musical vehicle. And while his next project was more of a hot rod, it still wasn't all that road-ready.
"We were inspired by bands like Yes and Rush, maybe a little Zappa. We wrote songs that were so involved, we couldn't even play 'em," Wood recalls with a laugh. "We all knew a little bit about theory, but mainly, we'd just write these weird, complex parts just because we thought that it was cool."
After a while, prog rock lost its luster. Determined to find a band that was going places, Wood and a drummer friend posted ads in some local rags. One of the people who responded was Jimmie Van Zant, the first cousin of Lynyrd Skynyrd's late vocalist, Ronnie Van Zant. After some initial tinkering and a little rehearsal with the group, Wood finally hit the road.
"We played Skynyrd covers and had about a dozen original blues and Southern-rock tunes," Wood remembers. "We played thirty states, traveling in a motor home with a trailer attached. We went through four of those. One of them actually burned up. The engine had flames coming out of it when we pulled in to return it. We were workin' it pretty hard, but we made okay money, and there was a party every night. We were just trying to get to that next level."
After year four with Van Zant, the excitement wore thin for Wood, and by 1995, he was back living with his parents in Sin City. The time spent on the road made for some good war stories and minor-league bragging rights, but ultimately, he was at a career crossroads. He spent his days working as a delivery driver, and to keep his chops up, he spent his nights working on a dock -- so to speak.
"I was backing a few different singers in the evenings, and Las Vegas being Las Vegas, they mostly wanted to cover time-tested stuff like 'Sittin on the Dock of the Bay' and classics like that," says Wood. "Vegas is a show-business town, so lots of people go there. But the music scene is a little more confining."
His after-hours efforts in Vegas eventually led him to a soul/rock outfit fronted by a female vocalist named Tomi Rae. One evening, a visiting James Brown happened to catch the act and was smitten by Rae (to whom he is now married). Brown also liked the sound of Rae's band and invited the outfit to play a pre-Grammy party at the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles. "We did a bunch of Janis Joplin covers at that gig," recalls Wood. "Tomi has a smoky voice that's really good for that kind of material. We also played 'I Feel Good' with James Brown sitting in." Mr. Dynamite enjoyed the performance so much, he asked the band to open a few shows for him. Those outings provided propitious exposure for Wood. Brown later called the young slinger and asked him to join his legendary outfit for a European tour. "I was getting ready to go to work one morning when I got the call. I was supposed to be with them for just part of a tour, but I'm still doing it five years later," he says, grinning.
Usually clad in a blue or red tuxedo while slashing for Brown, Wood seems more at home in his band, Harmonious Junk, as a batik-sporting soul cat with a beatnik-like frizzy goatee and longish hair tucked into a '70s-era leather cap that would make Huggy Bear proud. Wood first formed Junk in Las Vegas while he was between tours with Brown. He tapped a friend to play bass, found a drummer they both liked, and the initial incarnation of the group fell together. In September 2002, Wood moved to Denver, where he decided to re-create the band with Mario Di Bona on drums, Jack Alterman on bass and Chad Aman on keys.
The group recently holed up in the studio and is poised to release a disc of its diversely influenced material in early spring. Bouncing between psychedelia, funk, blues, jazz and reggae, its guitar-driven sound is tight, even when venturing on flights of improvisational fancy.
"We're trying to keep it sort of old-school," Wood says. "Just musicians. No DJs. No tracks. Just an organic setup that allows us to stretch out, but also something that's danceable and that's boogieable. We're looking to create that mix that entertains people but also entertains us. And we try to appeal to people of all ages, whether they're fifteen or fifty."
Wood says he enjoys playing for erudite listeners. He says he often receives positive feedback along with a few kernels of insight, whether he's laying down tunes by Billy Preston, Stevie Wonder or one of his own compositions."I love it when people know their stuff and have a broad knowledge of musical history," he enthuses. "That's the kind of crowd I like to play for." Between Soul Brother Number One and Harmonious Junk, Wood is well positioned to stay in front of the musically well informed, though he takes nothing for granted.
"The JB lineup has been stable for a while, but I'm the last person to have gotten in, so that keeps me on my toes," he says. "I like playing for Brown, but I take advantage of my off time to work on Harmonious Junk. It's nice to come home and get in my own band."
Damon Wood also appears in the Dreamworks film, The Tuxedo, with Jackie Chan, The James Brown DVD Soul Survivor, The New Orleans Hurricane Relief album 06', Live 8 DVD 06', and contributed guitar tracks to the multi platinum Black Eyed Peas album, "Monkey Business" 05'.
Visit Harmonious Junk at www.HarmoniousJunk.com, www.myspace.com/harmoniousjunk, and www.sonicbids.com/harmoniousjunk or check us out on YouTube.
Damon Wood- Guitar and Vocals, Sam Smith- Bass, Jeff Brink -Drums, Pete Wall - Saxophone, Chad Aman - Keyboards