Pensacola, Florida
Sunday August 19th 2018

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Jazz’s Funky New Blood

By Brett Hutchins

Never turn down a free CD. Sure, most of the time, the music will be cringe-worthy, but every now and then, you find a diamond in the rough like Captain Green. Before their two shows in Pensacola, keyboardist Ross Hoppe spoke to the IN about the seven-piece band’s unique brand of psychedelic funk and jazz, their musical heroes, and how the band approaches their live show.

IN:  Jazz isn’t usually the most accessible type of music. Were most of you guys into it from an early age and how did jazz in particular pique your interest?
HOPPE: My grandpa was always a fan of old jazz, Dixieland and big band swing. He would have it on all the time, so I always liked it. At the age of 14, I started studying jazz. We were all also lucky to go to high schools where jazz was offered as part of the music curriculum.

IN:  The band claims 85 years of combined musical experience and some of the guys have music degrees. How does that education and background help in the live show?
HOPPE: We’ve all participated in ensembles whether it be big bands, concert wind ensembles, drum lines, orchestras, etc. This helps us most with how we run rehearsals. It really helps us rehearse the small things repetitively and get them super tight. When that happens, everything just falls into place. We’ve all also played in top 40 type bands at some point or another. From that we really learned how to get the crowd involved and put out the energy they respond to.

IN:  You’ll most likely have two very different crowds at your two Pensacola shows. How do you handle playing in different settings like that?
HOPPE: Again, that comes with being able to read people and then being able to give them what they want. Sometimes it’s like getting in a hot tub, you just want to put your toe in first and ease your way in. Being able to play things more laid back like Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock to ease the crowd in before giving them our more hard-hitting stuff is something that is very valuable to us. Then again, there are times where the crowd is just ready for it, and the energy is at 100 percent from the very beginning.

IN:  Do you find it difficult to play some of the more psychedelic stuff like “Spirit Journey” to some of the bar crowds that might not seem patient enough for it? Pieces like that are what really set you guys apart, in my opinion.
HOPPE: It’s all about reading the crowd. It can be just four people, but they can be four of the weirdest people you know who love Frank Zappa, Grateful Dead and just good music, and you can go anywhere with it. Like Coltrane said, “You can play a shoestring if you’re sincere.”

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