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Biography:Larry de la Cruz, saxophone; Jim Peterson, saxophone; Jeremy Steinkoler, drums
“A minimal but mighty romp!”
- East Bay Express
With its surprising and highly combustible line-up of two saxmen and one drummer, the Bay Area-based group MO’FONE has thrilled audiences at home and across the country with some of the funkiest jazz and jazziest funk being made today.
Powering its way through modern classics by the likes of Weather Report, John Scofield, Jimi Hendrix, and Earl King, along with the band members’ own high-energy compositions, MO’FONE makes a huge sound that belies its compact size.
That big sound coming from just three musicians is only one of the band’s compelling studies in opposites. Combining serious musicianship with an infectious sense of fun onstage, MO’FONE also manages to groove with abandon while keeping miraculously in balance, as each member of the band pushes his instrument well beyond its role in a more traditional trio. What’s more, MO’FONE delivers riffs and grooves that are as adventurous as anything out there, while achieving a sound that’s not only accessible, but instantly addictive.
“I was hooked from the first track,” wrote the Contra Costa Times of the band’s debut disc, Surf’s Up (Evander, 2003). “Mo’Fone proves it’s the biggest little band on the scene. On each piece, the trio finds ingenious ways of creating a full, multitextured, hard swinging sound.”
A healthy portion of that swinging sound comes from the mighty baritone sax and bass clarinet of JIM PETERSON, alternating seamlessly between walking bass lines and slinky melodic riffs. A stalwart of the Bay Area scene for more than 20 years, Jim is a veteran of leading bands like Mitch Woods and His Rocket 88s, Indigo Swing, and Motordude Zydeco.
Soaring overhead on alto sax, clarinet, flute, and other winds is LARRY DE LA CRUZ, whose own impressive résumé includes stints with Phil Woods, Bobby Hutcherson, the Temptations, and Doc Severinsen.
Completing the MO’FONE magic is drummer JEREMY STEINKOLER, “a master of second line syncopation” (SF Bay Guardian) whose orchestral approach to percussion drives the trio’s turn-on-a-dime dynamics and gives MO’FONE its third ceaselessly inventive solo voice.
As AllAboutJazz.com summed up the group’s exhilarating and cohesive sound: “Mo’Fone is jazz’s answer to rock’s power trio…. Everything’s dripping of funk. The band sounds fresh without losing sight of its jazz grounding. In a word, Mo’Fone delivers.”
WHAT THE CRITICS ARE SAYING ABOUT MO’FONE ONSTAGE:
“MINIMAL BUT MIGHTY.”—EAST BAY EXPRESS
“MO’FONE IS JAZZ’S ANSWER TO ROCK’S POWER TRIO. Jeremy Steinkoler leads on the traps, delivering a steady onslaught of jazz and funk rhythms…. Larry de la Cruz’s sax work reminds me of Sonny Stitt in his later days, cool stuff served straight-up, never self-indulgent. What surprised me, and continues to, was the third man in this group, Jim Peterson on the baritone sax. Dressed in a gray double-breasted suit and looking a little like a CPA, he blew a mean horn, jumping with the beat….
EVERYTHING’S DRIPPING OF FUNK…. The band sounds fresh without losing sight of its jazz grounding. IN A WORD, MO’FONE DELIVERS.”
MO’FONE ON DISC: SURF’S UP (2003)
“A delightful, decidedly different romp through the musical riches of the African diaspora…. MO’FONE ACHIEVES A MIGHTY BIG SOUND on its debut release.”
—SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN
“MY FAVORITE ALBUM OF THE YEAR BY FAR is Surf’s Up (Evander Music) by the extraordinary trio Mo'Fone…. I WAS HOOKED FROM THE FIRST TRACK, a buoyant, almost giddy version of Weather Report’s ‘Black Market,’ with De La Cruz’s surging bari replacing Jaco Pastorius’ lithe basswork…. Steinkoler’s orchestral approach to the trap set is thrilling. He’s a whirlwind of activity, filling up empty spaces without sounding busy. But WHAT MAKES SURF’S UP SUCH AN EXHILARATING RIDE IS ITS RANGE OF MATERIAL. From Earl King’s Mardi Gras classic ‘Big Chief’ and Abdullah Ibrahim’s savanna pastoral ‘African Market’ to Billy Cobham’s funk-laden ‘Crosswinds’ and John Scofield’s intricately grooving ‘Kool,’ MO’FONE PROVES IT’S THE BIGGEST LITTLE BAND ON THE SCENE.”
—CONTRA COSTA TIMES
“This extraordinary trio is ONE OF THE HOTTEST BANDS TO SURFACE IN A LONG WHILE…. The group has developed a stomping repertoire [and] the band’s sound is always crunchy and satisfying.”—JAZZWEST.COM
“MO’FONE SOUNDS LIKE A FURIOUS DETACHMENT OF THE TOWER OF POWER HORNS…. This curious line-up of baritone and alto sax and drums cuts across a broad swathe of grooves…and is full of meaty horn arrangements and solid stickwork. With inventive drummer Jeremy Steinkoler at the helm, the group is sure to gain wider recognition.”—EJAZZNEWS.COM
JEREMY STEINKOLER, DRUMS AND PERCUSSION
A professional drummer since age 15, Jeremy Steinkoler has crafted a fresh and far-reaching style from an expansive range of early influences: classic New Orleans second-line drumming, the hard-driving bebop of Max Roach, Elvin Jones’ “circle of sound,” the modern phrasings of Jack DeJohnette and Paul Motian, and various elements of funk, R&B, and rock ’n’ roll. His credits as a sideman include performances and recordings with the likes of Adam Levy and Lee Alexander (of Norah Jones’ band), Andre Bush (Jenna Mammina, David Liebman), and Clark Suprynowicz (Tom Waits), plus Hot Links (New Orleans R&B), Phatlip (funk-jazz), Bob Bradshaw & the Resident Aliens (rock), The Big Picture (R&B), and other groups. In addition to Mo’Fone, he leads and composes for his own J. Steinkoler Quartet, which was showcased on the critically acclaimed CD The Road Home (Evander Records, 2001). A native New Yorker and longtime Bay Area resident, he has performed at major area jazz clubs like Yoshi’s at Jack London Square (Oakland) and played touring gigs at New York’s Lincoln Center and Village Gate, along with other prominent national venues. [MORE INFO: WWW.JSTEINKOLER.COM]
JIM PETERSON, SAXOPHONES, CLARINETS, FLUTE
A 25-year veteran of the Bay Area music scene with a sound steeped in modern jazz and R&B, Jim Peterson has lent his fiery saxes and other reeds to high-profile bands like Mitch Woods and his Rocket 88's, Red Archibald and the Internationals, Steve Lucky and the Rumba Bums, Indigo Swing, Rhythm Town Jive, Motordude Zydeco, and Hot Links. A founding, ten-year member of the world-beat group Mumbo Gumbo, Jim currently leads his own trio and is also an
in-demand sideman on the international touring circuit.
LARRY DE LA CRUZ, SAXOPHONES, CLARINETS, FLUTE, PERCUSSION
With a résumé including stints with such diverse music luminaries as Phil Woods, Bobby Hutcherson, Doc Severinsen, Lou Rawls, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Steve Smith (Journey, Vital Information), Kenny Werner, and the San Diego Symphony, Larry De La Cruz is one of the most eclectic and in-demand hornmen on the Bay Area music scene. In addition to Mo’Fone’s Surf’s Up, his alternately blazing and soulful sax work can be heard on discs by Carlos Angeles, Colors, Flight 7, Allan Phillips, Aldoush Alpanian, and other outstanding artists. [MORE INFO: WWW.LARRYDELACRUZ.COM]
CDs on which Mo’Fone appears: