Between the three of them — that is James Benard, Michael LeClerc, and Bosco Michne, who make up the mostly-instrumental, mostly-jazz trio The Unsung Heroes — there is at least a Eubie Blake’s lifetime worth of musical experience.
“I’ve been playing since I was like five years old,” Michne said. “My whole life.” The other two have similar timelines. Michne, the guitarist, like Benard (drums) and LeClerc (bass), frequently sits in with other local singer-songwriters and their bands. All three are pinch-hitters of extraordinary versatility.
“We cover local gigs, but our original music is mostly instrumental,” said LeClerc.
And it’s a pretty far cry from most of the sets they sit in on, which are usually of the rock/blues variety. Their own album, which was recorded at Cynthia Daniels’s Monk Music Studios in East Hampton, is jazz lounge music at its finest, a combination of bossa nova rhythms with complex fretwork, “a combination of jazz, rock, and Latin grooves,” LeClerc said.
“If we showcase our music, like we have at the Talkhouse or the Sag Harbor festival, it’s this stuff,” said Benard. And they will be doing just that at the Sag Harbor American Music Festival at 4 PM on Saturday, September 28, when they play in front of Provisions.
“I’m a jazzer,” Benard said. “I mean, I was born and bred on rock and roll, but you start by listening to Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin, and then you hear Chick Corea and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, the fusion bands of the ’70s. You hear the drumming and you think, ‘I want to play like that!’”
So how did the three of them find out this common interest and form The Unsung Heroes? LeClerc laughed. “It was actually at a senior citizens’ luncheon that I was asked to provide a band for,” he said. “I was playing with a Southern rock band at the time. And then I remembered, years back, James and Bosco and I would just sit around with ‘Real Book’ charts” — compilations of jazz standards — “and I thought, ‘Let’s put a little trio together.’ And then we just kind of kept going.”
Michne came up with some originals, then Benard, then LeClerc, “and then it just grew from there,” LeClerc said.
What inspires them? Apparently, from their answers, basically everything from jazz legends to hard rock to funk and R & B.
“We’ve been sidemen for a long time,” Michne said. “We sub for musicians who can’t make it, so you’ve got to play everybody else’s tunes, and classic rock tunes, which we like, but we’ve been playing for the last 50 years.”
So as a sort of antidote, “we get together in Bosco’s little studio,” Benard said, “and we just kind of mess around with anything. These guys are great because I can just say, ‘Let’s try something in a nine-time signature, here’s a beat,’ and they’ll just start playing stuff. There’s no limits, no boundaries.”
“You’re not restricted by any parameters,” LeClerc added. Michne agreed, “With so many gigs, you need to work within the box,” he said. “And I was looking for a creative outlet, so that when I did these cover gigs, I could play by the rules, and work within the parameters, without getting bored or frustrated or whatever. I’ve known Michael and James forever, and I knew they liked the same kind of stuff.”
They jam, tunes evolve, and ideas come.
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