American Babies return to Jazz Cafe with Shavertown native Justin Mazer
If you ask Tom Hamilton, he’s having a banner year in his music career, and it has everything to do with the dynamic in his band.
American Babies, which has toured relentlessly in 2016 on the heels of the critically acclaimed “An Epic Battle Between Light and Dark,” performs at 10 p.m. Nov. 25 at the River Street Jazz Cafe in Plains Township.
Hamilton, who staked his claim in the jam scene as a founding member of Brothers Past, holds a reputation as one of the hardest working musicians in that scene, playing with Grateful Dead projects Billy & The Kids and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead as well as jamtronica supergroup Electron.
But since 2010, Hamilton’s major focus has been on his original music in American Babies, for which he assembled a new band in 2015, around the time he was writing “Epic Battle.”
Touring with that group, which includes guitarist and Shavertown native Justin Mazer, has been awe inspiring, Hamilton said.
“This band has really surprised me,” he said. “It’s just such a wonderful thing that everybody has been really working hard. It’s the thing I believe in most — is working harder than everybody else, and it’s been great being with people who are willing to put in the same amount of work.”
That work ethic, Hamilton said, has led to an evolution in the songs he’s written.
“We’ve been having a very good time finding all the nooks and crannies of the songs,” Hamilton said. “We’ve been really getting into these tunes and exploring … and that’s a tall order to place with anybody. To get people who are game and willing to put in the work to learn how to do that … it’s awesome. That’s where the magic is.”
Members of American Babies even spend their nights off collaborating with other musicians.
Hamilton was recently part of the Jam the Vote concert at New York’s Capitol Theater, where he performed alongside the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, George Porter Jr. and a bill full of other celebrated artists.
He called the show a once-in-a-lifetime gathering and lauded the vision of show producer Peter Shapiro and HeadCount founder Andy Bernstein.
“It was great watching (Porter) and Ivan Neville playing with (Joe) Russo on drums, my boy,” Hamilton said. “It was special and awesome to see that.”
During Babies shows, the band recently hosted guests like Bob Weir and pianist Holly Bowling.
Mazer said he feels the band has hit its stride and he’s “super excited” to see where the band lands musically following the tour.
“There is no one that plays guitar like Bob Weir,” Mazer said. “Being on stage with that presence forced all of us to tap into a level of concentration and creativity that we never have before as a band. I’m particularly excited to bring this band to the Jazz.”
Hamilton, who said he feels 2016 is just the beginning of a special chapter in his original music career, said he is excited to get back into the studio with American Babies to see what comes of the next record.
“We’ve had 18 months of being together and knowing each other,” Hamilton said. “To get into the studio and have these guys and girl have a voice in there as well, I’m really looking forward to it.”
“It’s going to be a good year for the Babies,” Hamilton said of 2017. “And I’ve got this new band with Bobby (Weir) and Billy (Kreutzmann) from the Dead that’s happening this year. I think it’s going to be a positive year with things moving in a good direction.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO:
What: American Babies
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 North River St., Plains Twp.
When: 10 p.m. Nov. 25
Additional information: General admission is $10. Advance tickets are available at riverstreetjazzcafe.com.