My Top 10 Highlights of 2015

2015 could be summed up in just three short words: WHAT A YEAR!

From sitting in with heroes, to new albums, to attendance breaking festivals, to opening for several notable acts, breaking some personal records, to ALL the driving; it's been a big one.

Here are my ten favorite moments: 


I could make a list of my top 10 Tanqueray's shows, but decided to group them all together for writing's sake.  Whether it be every Thursday with Leisure Chief, the occasional Sunday with Ancient Sun, other nights with Control This, Holey Miss Moley, or Evan Taylor Jones, or sitting with The Groove Orient, Beebs and a laundry list of others; Tanqueray's has provided a plethora of special moments this year!  It is easily the venue I performed at the most this year (67 times to be exact) and is a gem in the midst of a chaotic downtown Orlando.  From sharing the stage with local heroes, to welcoming excellent out of town acts such as Naughty Professor, Loose Willis, Serotonic, etc., debuting new instruments, or jamming with the drummer of Motörhead (that happened!), there are just too many to list.

Thanks to Dan for providing one of the few true outlets for original music in Orlando and to Jereme, Dave, John, Heath, Brad, Scott, Jenni, Crystal for always taking care of the musicians and patrons.


AS @ HOB.jpg

I've sat in with a lot of bands over the past few years and am often mistaken for being a part of said band (TGO and BAHMM, to name a couple).  However, there is one group that teeters the line and that is Ancient Sun.  I've played 5th Beatle with these guys for a couple years and it's always a pleasure to share the stage.  They are some of my best friends and I've happily been a part of several notable occasions in their history.   When they joyously completed their Kickstarter to fund their debut album "In The Fold", and were asked to be a part Dropa Stone's EP party at the House of Blues, it was time to unveil this thing on the big stage.

After recording on a majority of album and doing numerous shows, we were poised for the moment and brought the house down.  We played the album top to bottom and the crowd was nuts.  I've never signed as many things as I did after that night, and I was glad to be a part of Ancient Sun's milestone.  Props to funkUs for having jam on their closing set that followed.

BONUS:  We went to Tanqueray's after the show ended for some after party festivities with The Groove Orient and Captain Green.  Captain Green is one of my favorite touring acts period and I've had the pleasure of hosting them at Red Lion, in addition to sharing the stage at other venues during the Florida stints.  I brought my horn into a packed house and was immediately invited to play.  I had been listening to their recent CD and it payed off in trying to stay afloat with their crazy (in a good way) arrangements.  Perfect cap to an already great night, culminating to one of my top highlights of 2015!


LC @ On the Come UP.jpg

Over the 1st half of the year, Leisure Chief started tapping into Orlando's hip hop community.  At Tanqueray's we often feature many of O-Town's top emcees on the mic including E-Turn, B True, Swamburger of Solillaquists of Sound and our 9th member, Damez.  We opened up for the only and only E-Turn in June for her album when afterword, Swam approached us with a new idea for the Orlando music scene.  His show format would be called ON THE COME UP and would feature one main local act and promote/treat them like the touring headliner they will eventually become and build a stacked lineup of heavy hitters in other circuits all in efforts to build hype for the local band scene.  We were the first band on his list and were honored to take part!

This show was extra special as it marked the debut of Leisure Chief's full band with horns and percussion.  For years we had wanted a horn section to complete the sound of the band as I can only do so much myself, and we found the perfect fit with Gabe Carson (tenor sax) and Paul Chong-You (trumpet).  Add in local legend Ito Colon of Shak Nasti and Con Leche, and a real force was born!

Table For Three was as solid of an opener we could have wanted and playing with our soul brothers in Fat Night is always a treat.  After SKIP's return to the stage, we closed out the show with a bang!

ON THE COME UP is to date our most successful local show attendance and numbers wise, and we are thankful to have started the trend!


Charles Neville Mind Blow.jpg

This picture says it all, (Thanks Arielle)!  To have been able to host and play alongside a legend of New Orleans was truly special.  If you do not know Charles Neville, he is the 2nd eldest brother and saxophonist of the famous family known as the Neville Brothers.  That's Art Neville who is founder/keyboardist of The Meters, Platinum R&B recording artist Aaron Neville, Cyril Neville who is the percussionist and vocalist of The Meters and Charles who has toured with the likes of James Brown, B.B. King, Ray Charles and Dr. John.

When I was first approached by Gent Treadly's management to book this show, I seriously thought it was a joke.  A Neville at Red Lion?  Lo and behold, it was true and I brought my alto and flute hoping to sit in on a tune. To my surprise, Charles presented a very down earth and humble demeanor and we talked about music and life for roughly an hour before the show (see picture above).  After genuinely getting to know him, he invited for a couple tunes on the first set and then the entire 2nd set after that. 

Saying it was pretty cool wouldn't be giving it justice, but this moment was most definitely a highlight of the year.


LC Lion's Den Opening.jpg

For those who don't know, my family owns Red Lion Pub in Winter Park, FL.  I tend to keep my booking/family duties off my site as they are separate entities.  However this year marked a huge step for their business and my musical agenda.  We leased out the adjacent room next door and decided to bring a new music venue to the greater Orlando area building an intimate stage hall known as The Lion's Den.  I was asked to take the reigns as the booker and coordinator of the events and had no idea what would transpire nor what to expect.  Since April of this year we have had a roller coaster of moments in trying to create a new scene.  This show on April 10th marked the official start of it and my venture as a venue manager.

I brought forth 3 of Orlando's brightest up and coming bands in The Groove Orient and my own groups Holey Miss Moley and Leisure Chief, combined with the two main DJ's of the underground movement known as BODY//TALK in VSN QST & GRÜV to bring the heat.  We crammed nearly 200 people into Red Lion and it went as well as I could have hoped, setting a mark on the FL scene and to myself and my family's relief, that this new endeavor was possible.


Sitting in with Cope @ GOJ.jpg

When Kenny Blair asked me to be an Artist at Large after Gov-Fest in February, I told him that I would set a new personal record for sit-ins come July.  Until that point, the most I had was at Bamboo Jamboo in 2014 with 13 total sets, whether with a group of my own or being invited to the stage.  The goal I spread around would be 20 sets for the weekend and with 33 bands on the list, and already having a commitment during for Thursday night of the festival, I had my work cut out for me!  Fast forward to July 4th weekend and I was ready to strike horns blazing.

After the weekend was said and done, in addition to sets with Leisure Chief and Holey Miss Moley (rain delayed to a 3am start!): I took the stage with Jahman Brahman, Cope, Squeedlepuss, Flat Land, S.P.O.R.E., Savi Fernandez Band, Displace, Row Jomah, Unlimited Devotion, Endless Flow, Legacy Orchestra Collective, The Happy Campers, Post Pluto, Wild Root Music, Sarasota Steel Pan Band, Dem Lil Econ Boyz, Este Loves, Jimmy Rector, and Black Peters.  This amounted to 21 total sets in 3 days, just outdoing what I set to accomplish.  I could write an entire post all those experiences alone.

To this day, I still have encounters of fans after shows floored by how much they saw me on stage that weekend.  It flew by so quick, I'm not even sure how it all happened.  But it did, and that marked a tremendous highlight for me.


Serotonic opening for Motet.jpg

Let me start by saying this: Serotonic is my favorite active band in Florida.  I first saw them at Orange Blossom Jamboree 2 years ago after they were the contest winner to perform at the festival, and they blew me away!  Individually, they were all stellar and their music captured the vibe of some of my favorite groups like Soulive and Snarky Puppy.  Since that time, I've become good friends with them and have always had the utmost respect for them.  With that all being said, when I was asked by my good friends to fill in for Jon Tucker on saxophone for this big show, I was honored!

After a couple stints in the saxophone chair just prior (Tanqueray's in Orlando and Ringside Cafe w/ Leisure Chief and Row Jomah), simply learning their tunes off Youtube, I was excited to get a solid rehearsal in and be put to the true test.  Fast forward to the night of, we were ready and the show was packed.  Also joining us was drummer/percussion extraordinaire Adam Volpe, who is another stellar musician in the funk/jazz circuit to complete the sound.

Simply put, it went off and I had one of my personal best performances to date!  With all these factors combined, this show was easily one of my favorites of the year.

3. SUWANNEE HULAWEEN -- 10/29 - 11/1

Shak w: Nick Casserino @ Hula.jpg

By far one of the best stretches of 2015 was Suwannee Hulaween.  Spirit of Suwannee Music Park is hands down my favorite place to play music.  Big event or small, every experience is nothing short of beautiful.  Bear Creek in 2011 was my first ever musical festival and in short, it changed my life forever.  This year I was able to perform there on 5 different opportunities and this marked the biggest one yet.  Not only did I have the pleasure of kicking off the festival with Leisure Chief and winding down Sunday with Holey Miss Moley, but it was also the extra performances that made Halloween weekend one to remember forever.  I also had the pleasure of sitting in with Beebs and Her Money Makers, Come Back Alice and The Groove Orient in additional to some epic late night jam sessions.

Each night with the Leisure Chief crew, we set up guerrilla jams at our camp as soon as the stage music discontinued to packed audiences.  Thursday we brought a hip hop set with Damez, Friday Con Leche took the reigns and then Saturday was absolutely off the chain!  We performed a NASTI CHIEF jam with us and the one and only Shak Nasti that brought some serious thunder and one of my all-time favorite moments.  It was nearly 4am in the morning (with Daylight Savings losing another hour mind you), and we were at the peak.  Just at that moment we were joined by none other than Nick Casserino from The Nth Power (pictured above).  To play with someone of that magnitude (my love for Nth Power is well known) with the cast of musicians on stage on my favorite Shak tune was absolutely surreal for me.  Add in many of my musician compatriots from other bands in the audience from Orlando, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and beyond witnessing this occurrence?  


It felt so rewarding to have taken full advantage of what became Spirit of Suwannee's biggest event ever!  I didn't even mention the great music I got to see/hear myself throughout the weekend, which alone was wonderful.  If you have never been to SOS Music Park, do yourself a favor and go!


Soulquarian Revue - Next Movement.jpg

It's still hard to believe this happened in the same year.  What transpired at Little Econ this past March was one of the best moments of music career.  When Trey Miller approached me on having my own set at the 2nd Little Econ Love Fest, I wanted to put on a show that no one had ever seen before.  Immediately I thought of the all-star sets I have seen at Bear Creek over the years and wanted to do something like that but on a central Florida scale.  But how and what would we play?

Here is where my revue concept was born and I thought of bringing together musicians from all the various groups I've performed with and encountered on the Florida festival circuit since I started on the scene.  That still left the question of what would we play?  Many who know me, know well my passion for jazz, funk and groove music.  I could have went a predictable route but then I thought of my all influences and decided to take a left turn.  

Until I amassed this project together, not many knew my love for hip-hop.  More specifically the neo-soul, east coast hip hop era known as the Soulquarian movement at Electric Lady Studios in NYC.  This collective featured D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, J Dilla, Mos Def, Q-Tip, Talib Kweli, Jill Scott, and others that launched a new breed of groove and soul that have directly and indirectly influenced a ton of artists today from all over the world.  Before I discovered this music, I was admittedly dismissive of hip hop when I was younger, only knowing the "rap" on the radio.  My whole perspective changed after I heard Common's Like Water For Chocolate, followed up with Badu's Mama's Gun and THEN D'Angelo's Voodoo.  Through these classic albums, my listening palette expanded immensely!

All of this lead to me grouping together 26 musicians from 13 bands between the I-4 corridor, paying tribute to the Soulquarians.  With this many cats involved rehearsals all together would be impossible, so I divided the set into 4 groups to each major artist of movement and had one of my bands bare the brunt of each.  Ancient Sun did Erykah Badu, Holey Miss Moley did the Roots, and Leisure Chief did Common & D'Angelo; all joined by guest vocalists, emcees horns, and percussion.

I put forth roughly 6 months of total preparation into this one set planning, organizing, writing charts, arranging the songs, etc.  When the night came, I was a little on edge which is rare for me nowadays at least on stage.  Maybe it was coming off back to back sets with LC and HMM just before, but I rushed to the main stage after leaving early during HMM's encore to round everyone up and line check.

What transpired was nothing short of remarkable, and with all things considered it turned out about as well as it could have.  Everything flowed so well and it was almost like time was still during it's entirety.  It's difficult to put to words in seeing a project like that come to fruition but it has been one of most rewarding projects I've done.  People literally came to me in tears, it moved them so much.

Without a doubt one of the best moments I've experienced.

You can listen, learn more and relive the set in it's entirety on my bandcamp page.   February marks revue #2 where I take on Frank Zappa!


Roosevelt Collier Trio @ Red Lion.JPG

If you would have told me a few years ago that I would be sharing the stage with some of my biggest local idols in my family's bar with the cream of the crop in Orlando's scene witnessing the magic, I would have said, "In my dreams!" . Then throwing in, "By the way Victor Wooten, one of world's best musicians, will also be in the building"; I would have said "never a chance".  Well, long story short that all happened on the magical evening of October 2nd!

I was elated to host Roosevelt Collier Trio + Brown Note, who have each given me numerous inspirational moments over the years as a musician.  This alone was going to be fantastic.

We kick things off and Brown Note is on all cylinders, when Rosie comes up to me saying a special guest will be gracing our presence tonight.  Victor Wooten had a clinic at Sam Ash that same day and Roosevelt went there and invited him to the show.  Now, I had told many friends who went to invite him out but for it to actually be happening at my event, in my family's establishment?  Whoa.

When he arrived, I thanked him for being here and let him inside through the back of the room by the sound so he wouldn't get bombarded by all the musicians in the crowd.  I was then immediately called on stage with special guests Bobby Koelble and Ito Colon already joining the trio.  What a lineup!

Just after I finished taking a solo, I thought I was done for the night.  It actually became quite the opposite.  After Matt Lapham tore up the bass with a solo himself, and the band teased some Michael Jackson, he quieted the band and addressed the audience, claiming there was a special guest in the audience.  When I learned Victor Wooten was initially coming, I had hoped he would grace the stage but never did I think it would be while I was up there too!

Matt hands over his bass and the Doctor simply says "C#...1, 2, 3, 4" and the first down beat that ensued between Victor Wooten and Anthony Cole on drums was nearly too much to handle!  Never had I been a part of a pocket so deep, a groove so tight.  The vibe of the stage and the music went to an unthinkable level for me.  It's hard to describe all the emotions that channeled at that moment.  Everything up to this point in my music and recent booking career lead to this.  Needless to say, I did not sleep that night and since

Thanks to all the musicians involved for that moment!  I will cherish it for the rest of my life.  You can watch for yourself below:

There you have it folks: WHAT A YEAR!

Here's to the Hometeam New Year's Rally this weekend to kick off 2016 and what's in store for the future for all of us!

- Christian