In 1981, an unusual thing happened in the “Pop Jazz” market. A band named Kilimanjaro emerged from the unlikely state of Vermont to become a dominant voice in Jazz Radio airplay. Kilimanjaro’s self-titled debut recording quickly rose to #3 on the national Jazz Radio Airplay charts. That led to appearances at some of the most prestigious jazz festivals in the world, including the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Newport Jazz Festival (aka The Kool Jazz Festival), the Atlanta Jazz Festival and San Antonio’s Riverwalk Jazz Festival.
In 1983, the band’s second release, Kilimanjaro II, rose to #5 on the national airplay charts, leading to several U.S. tours, appearances at many of the country’s most prestigious venues, and a year on the road with blues legend Paul Butterfield which included appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival and Denmark’s Roskilde Festival. The band would open the show as Kilimanjaro and then show their amazing versatility by “changing hats” and becoming the Paul Butterfield Blues Band for the second half of the show. What audiences didn’t know was that by the age of 20, Chicago-born guitarist Paul Asbell had performed and recorded with such blues icons as John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Junior Wells and Muddy Waters. Nor did they know that bassist Tony Markellis (who in recent years has done five U.S. tours with Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio) had been a member of the David Bromberg Band (incidentally, Paul was Trey’s guitar teacher, which undoubtedly earns him a place in rock ‘n’ roll history!). It was during this time that Kilimanjaro joined forces with B.B. King alumnus Big Joe Burrell to form a highly popular blues band that soon became a regional phenomenon of its own for many years, taking them on a detour from their lives as international touring artists.
Sadly, in 2005 Big Joe Burrell passed on at the age of 81. That year Burlington’s Flynn Centre chose to honor Kilimanjaro with a grant for the creation of new compositions, which would be debuted in a “reunion concert” at the June ’06 Discover Jazz Festival. The concert was a huge success, necessitating the addition of a 2nd show. This enormous response also catalyzed a recording plan, which recently culminated in the release of Homecoming, the band’s first CD in almost 25 years!
Homecoming was recorded, co-produced, and engineered by Kilimanjaro keyboardist and veteran recording engineer, Chas Eller at his own Charles Eller Studios in Charlotte, Vermont. Chas, who was also partners with Trey Anastasio at Trey’s infamous studio “The Barn,” recently joined forces with Putumayo Records’ Jacob Edgar, at his Charlotte facility, which is a story in itself.
While Tony, Paul, and Chas, have shared the stage for over 30 years, “newcomer” Lucas Adler joined the band ten years ago, and that not only brought stability to the rhythmic element of this powerful sounding band, but also a welcomed stability to the drummer position. Lucas’ contributions to the Homecoming CD have already earned him endorsements with Sabian Cymbals, and the acclaimed Canopus drum company. A multi-talented guy, Lucas has also recorded with the likes of Joey DeFrancesco, Scott Ambush (SpyroGyra), and Steuart Smith, (The Eagles, Shawn Colvin, and Roseanne Cash.)
Having set the bar extremely high for their first two Indy Award winning albums in the early ‘80s, Homecoming was designed to display the band’s growth and maturity resulting from over three decades of performing together. While “reunions” seem to be the popular thing these days, it’s rare for a band to have actually played together continuously with almost entirely original members! Early reviews and fan raves prove beyond doubt that Homecoming is Kilimanjaro’s best work ever!