The evening was billed as a celebration launch for Jazz by Genre with the incredible Roy Ayers and a great evening was to be expected. But the biggest surprise was the stellar opening act, KUSH. The Toronto collective put forth a musical explosion of new age Jazz, Funk, and electronica for the audience’s musical palette. This presentation was so unique that it left us at AfroToronto.com wanting to know more about what makes KUSH so entrancing. Is it the afro beats, the saxophone solos the pounding bass lines or simply the energy put forth on stage?

Well, band leader Etric Lyons took the time to speak with us about this one of a kind collective.

How would you describe KUSH?

Kush is a collective of five to six musicians: Robert Sibony on drums and percussion, Eddie Bullen on keyboards, Bryden Baird sometimes replaced by Nick “The Brown Man” Ali and myself Etric Lyons. When we play live all the music is improvised and created on the spot, and I tend to direct the music as we go, it is something you have to see live to appreciate. It’s anything from down tempo to soulful house.

How was the collective formed and what was the reason for starting such a group?

The concept of Kush and the execution of Kush has been around since 2001, the collective was put together by me in 2002. The whole idea of putting it together in the first place was really to put a project together that toyed with the idea of mixing electronica with live performance in an improvised manner.

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Since it is all improvised, how do you guys rehearse?

We don’t really rehearse. All the players in the band are very well developed musicians and have an arsenal of material and a really strong sense of composition to the point we can actually do that on the spot. It’s a challenge, a musical adventure. It’s not for the weak of heart, you really have to have control of your instrument and control of your enthusiasm so you don’t overplay. There are a lot of challenges but it can really work and quite frankly it’s not necessary to rehearse just by the design of the project.

How does it enhance your work?

It keeps it very, very fresh since the musical adventure that happens with the musicians and the audience is authentic. The way the audience responds and the way the musician responds complete affects the musical outcome and that’s what makes it so exciting. You’re a part of the process; it would be too elaborate to rehearse that.

Since everything is improvised, how do you account for your signature sound?

I would say KUSH has a signature approach. Playing with KUSH one thing you can count on is that you don’t know what will come next and it’s not going to fall comfortably into any one genre.

You have been called everything from lounge to NU jazz to down temp, how would you describe your sound?

My intention was to create music that was genre bending. Is that good for categories in a record store? No. Is that good for a listening experience? I think so.
I like the idea of creating music that is sort of fluctuating seamlessly between genres.

The Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards recently nominated Kush for group of the year, what does this mean for you?

It means that a project that was fundamentally an experiment is validated. It validates what we’re doing and it’s an opportunity to open doors that normally wouldn’t.

Kush will be playing at THe Gypsy-Coop (817 Queen St. W) on Friday February 17, 2006 at 9 pm. Tickets are $10. Also The Canadian Smooth Jazz awards will be held this April, voting ends this February 28th. For more information on Kush and how to vote for this innovative band visit www.kush-music.com

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