Music News & Reviews

Tin Can Buddha: chasing the eclipse and following an indefinable muse

Tin Can Buddha performed in the Grand Theatre Frankfort in 2014. At the center are Lee Carroll (keyboard), Rodney Hatfield (harmonica) and Gail Wynters (singing).
Tin Can Buddha performed in the Grand Theatre Frankfort in 2014. At the center are Lee Carroll (keyboard), Rodney Hatfield (harmonica) and Gail Wynters (singing). Photo by Andrew Brinkhorst

Tin Can Buddha

7 p.m. Aug. 19 at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St. $20. 859-225-0370. Lexingtonky.gov/black-box-theatre.

If past history has tipped us off to anything about Tin Can Buddha, it’s that there is no telling when the Kentucky-based musical collective will surface, who will be in its ranks or even what its artistic agenda will be.

“When we started, we decided we didn’t want all the hassle of a band,” said keyboardist and group co-founder Lee Carroll. “We didn’t want to have any band meetings, we didn’t want to have any rehearsals. So we just got together on occasion to play for the joy of it.”

Those beginnings stem back to 2008 with a trio that boasted Carroll, harmonica ace and longstanding visual artist Rodney Hatfield (based in Louisville) and Pennsylvania-based guitarist Mitch Ivanoff. For many, a 2010 showcase concert at the Kentucky Center for Arts in Louisville, subsequently filmed for KET, served as a formal introduction. That show presented something of a rarity for Tin Can Buddha: a specific musical theme built around the history of blues piano. In 2011, a second Kentucky Center show with Lexington native Zach Brock on violin was staged.

Saturday night after our show at the DAC, we’re going to Hopkinsville and park the RVs next to a distillery to watch the eclipse on Monday.

Lee Carroll, Tin Can Buddha

But the Tin Can Buddha lineup varies with each of the group’s infrequent performances. For its Saturday concert at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center, an ensemble of local, regional and out-of-state players will gather, with the catalyst being something altogether removed from music.

“All my friends heard about the eclipse (the total solar eclipse taking place on Monday),” Carroll said. “They said, ‘Well, we want to come to Kentucky.’ These are really excellent musicians. Jonathan Ragonese and Alex Lore are coming from New York City and they’re respected young jazz musicians. We have a trumpet player coming from Amsterdam, Jan Dekker. Rodney is coming down from Louisville, and then we have our regular folks (which will include such local mainstays as guitarist Willie Eames, vocalist Gail Wynters and percussionist Tripp Bratton).

“Now, here’s the crazy part. My friends and I have rented two RVs. So, Saturday night after our show at the DAC, we’re going to Hopkinsville and park the RVs next to a distillery to watch the eclipse on Monday. They’re going to let us set up a bunch of tents. In exchange for that, we’re doing a show in Hopkinsville. It’ll be a little looser, where we’re essentially playing for our parking spot.”

So what will all this translate into musically on Saturday? A bit of blues perhaps? A touch of jazz? A soul serenade for a solar eclipse?

“It’s pretty open,” Carroll said. “The people that come to hear us, these are our people. They grew up in the ’70s and just love music. They get it. They’re not coming out for a particular song we wrote. They’re coming to see what the hell is going to happen. One thing guaranteed is that the level of musicianship will be very high. We turn everybody loose. If somebody takes off on a tangent during a song, the rest will follow. We try to allow people to express their creativity as much as they can.

“Sometimes we go down a dark alley, sometimes everything lines up.”

Steely Nightflying

He has been singing the exquisitely odd songs of Steely Dan for over 45 years. But this summer, Donald Fagen is out on his own with a new band of 20-something players he discovered near his home in upstate New York. Dubbed the Nightflyers after Fagen’s 1982 debut solo album, “The Nightfly,” the resulting entourage will play two regional shows next week, on Tuesday at the Louisville Palace, 625 South Fourth Street in Louisville (8 p.m. $49-$325) and Wednesday at the Taft Theatre, 625 South Fourth Street in Cincinnati (7:30 p.m., $39.50-$125). The performance will be split between Steely Dan tunes and music from Fagen’s four solo records, the newest of which is 2012’s “Sunken Condos.” For tickets to either performance, call 1-800-745-3000 or go to Ticketmaster.com.

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