© 2018 The Grass Roots Cultural and Performing Arts Center

THE kemp harris group

Kemp Harris could drop a pocket full of loose change on a wooden floor and make it sound compelling. He is the quintessential entertainer with an innate ability to intersect spirituality, justice, joy, pain, hope, anger and mold the emotion into a thought provoking story that is the aural equivalent of binge-watching. You can't turn your head for fear of missing the golden nuggets that accompany a Kemp Harris performance...a look, a gesture, that smile. He takes the Human Condition to an every-man level and makes you clutch on to your existence with a new found fervor for life. He is, without doubt, one of the most riveting and enjoyable musicians in a town bursting at the seams with great musicians. Yeah, Kemp Harris is an experience. A truly wonderful experience.

When he took the stage at the Fallout Shelter in November 2018 it was the group's second appearance on the Extended Play Sessions. We knew what to expect this time around. With the regulars in tow, Adam Osgood on vocals and harp, Josh Stoltzfus on guitar, Brian Verocchi on the upright and electric bass and steady Jim Lucchese on drums the Kemp Harris group added sax ace Mike Caglianone to the line-up.

Caglianone went into full on Charlie Parker territory on "Compared to What," a social commentary on the absurdity of these times we find ourselves in baked over a Ramsey Lewis-like jazz shuffle. Stoltzfus goes off as well, trading hard-bop licks with the sax while Verrochi and Lucchese keep pin-point rhythm. What you gain from numbers like "Compared to What" is that this band is every bit the essential piece that Kemp is in terms of sheer quality of entertainment. He's great as just a solo guy playing the piano, as you can see here, but when this band kicks in the songs come alive along with the singer...and the audience. A Kemp Harris show is an ebb-and-flow...much like life itself.

Kemp Harris sees injustice. Not just because he has survived injustice but because injustice molded him into an activist, a songwriter, a singer, teacher and actor that speaks truth to power and hope to despair. "Invisible" might be the second coming of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On." It's a tale that can fit neatly into most of America's backyard. Black men feel invisible, poor people, workers, women, students...all experiencing a level of 'invisibility' that emerges in fits of frustration and depression often exacerbated into despair. Like many of Kemp Harris' songs they are written on deeply personal sheets of scrap paper but speak to the truths many people are left to burden.

And then there's hope. The medley of "America the Beautiful" is the metaphor for the evening...America is a promise not being kept to Americans. Too many left behind, looked down upon, forgotten or feared. It's songwriters and singers, activists and teachers, artists and community that will pull America back from the edge. Kemp Harris, Josh Stoltzfus, Mike Lucchese, Brian Verocchi, Adam Osgood and Mike Caglianone know it and they stand up and give it to you straight, no chaser...put down your glass, wipe your chin and get in the game.

The Kemp Harris Group delivered, as we knew they would, as they always do. We're all a little better off for that.

THE KEMP HARRIS GROUP

Kemp Harris - vocals, piano, guitar
Josh Stoltzfus - guitar

Adam Osgood - harp, vocals
Brian Verrocchi - upright and electric bass, vocals
Jim Lucchese - drums
Mike Caglianone - saxophone

The Session Crew

Produced and edited by:
Bill Hurley

Cameras:
Maribeth Arena

Bill Hurley
H. Nat Stevens
Joanne Craig

Audio:
Eric Nordstrom
Connor Quigley

Mixed by:
Connor Quigley

Lighting/Special Effects:
Rick Smith

Stage Production:
Gerry Earabino

Photos:
Dan Busler Photography