The Jennifer Tefft Band rocked the Black Box Theatre in Franklin, Massachusetts last Saturday night. It was the Tefft group’s CD Release Party for their new Cutting For Stone disc, and they left their most diehard fans feeling satisfied.
A killer show, it emphasized many of this outfit’s strengths. Tefft’s rangy vocal, from subtle to powerful, was on full display as she made her way through years of her band’s material. Guitarist John Parrillo offered up his usual range of techniques and probably created a few new ones in the process. Bassist Jeff St. Pierre was a steady presence as he injected each song with something driving and palpable. Drummer Phil Antoniades kept the band in motion with many fine fills and rolls and killer beats. Backing vocalist Carolyn Rae added nice textures to many verses and choruses throughout the night.
Opening track “Follow Me Through,” from the new Cutting For Stone CD, was a sweeping current of energy, breezy changes in an uptempo pace giving it a perfect sense of motion. “Too Late,” also off of the new disc, chugged along with a swagger in the groove and cool charisma in the lead vocals.
Another new tune, “Silence,” featured more of the power of Tefft’s rangy vocal. Yet, it was her other worldly presence in her more subtle new offering “Breathe” that kept her audience quietly focused on her. With colorful guitar tones to capture the imagination underneath her more whispery approach, the tuneful number was a treat for the ears. When she sang even higher, forget about it. She had the audience completely in the palm of her hands. She could entrance and hypnotize with her coos.
Just when one might have thought this Tefft outfit couldn’t get any more impressive, Tefft went into her new, lighter rock ballad, “Air,” complete with backing vocalists, tasteful keyboard touches, and this singer’s fine sense of quiet drama. It was amazing that the band could capture the sorrowful magic of this piece so well in a live setting. It has a special mood and a sense of timelessness that must be hard to recreate.
“My Own,” off of the band’s Shift album, had a sense of twisty despair, with Tefft’s icy cool vocal just lightly tweaking the mood to great effect with every little inflection or change in dynamics. Before you knew it, the subtle approach had been switched out for a rushing gush of energy.
“Uncomfortable,” from their 2007 Time Is A Thief album, was an eerie, mid-tempo piece and a study in contrasts. While the song flowed forward smoothly, it also managed to be loaded with oomph in the groove. Jeff St. Pierre’s palpable bass lines added plenty of pluck while drummer Phil Antoniades slipped in extra smacks of the skin to keep this one enflamed, empowered. The entire song perfectly conjured foreboding, dread, and fear of the unknown.
New song “Cooler Than You” got a boost from some youthful singers that Tefft knows from her community. There was also the seasoned veteran Scott “Scooter” Reynolds on backing vocals. An “I’m-I’m-I’m Cooler Than You” chorus became a three dimensional treat with the multitude of voices carrying it forward.
This band has a knack for creating and controlling moods and atmospheres in their songs. “No Trial Runs,” also from the band’s Time Is A Thief disc, had a dropped backbeat that kept it chugging as Tefft sang the hell out of it. Tense, atmospheric guitar work from John Parrillo added waves of excitement, a unique, driving rock sound that could cut glass with its sharp, edgy sound. Likewise, the climbing force of “Unnerved,” from Shift, found Tefft drawling sensuously over a mischievous groove and sly, high guitar notes that created a feeling being scattered.
“Queen,” from Shift, found the band taking their considerate time building something feisty that Tefft could soar over vocally. Its brisk, forceful musicianship made it a fun rocker before the band started their slow dance moment with “Let Me Be,” another quiet rock ballad from the new Cutting For Stone effort. It had subtle, nimble bass work, a simmering lead guitar, and consistent, considerate drumming. The band captured the feeling perfectly from their album, each emoting something special to hit the listener in a tenderly felt place.
“Beyond This,” off of Shift, kept the room in a mellow mood with its sprinkles of instrumentations and vocals that suddenly grow wider and louder during a fetching chorus. The guitar was on fire on new song “Rollercoaster,” a scattering of six string techniques keeping it real and complex. Drum fills a plenty and a bass guitar that travels in a fast line each kicked it forward with animal force as Tefft unleashed her wiry lead vocal charisma.
Needless to say, The Jennifer Tefft Band were soon called back to the stage for an encore. Through hard work, they offered up an exciting close out mash up of songs that had the audience wishing their concert was twice as long, which they could have pulled off as they now have five full length albums under their belt.
Opening act Grand Evolution from Providence, Rhode Island showed a lot of promise. They have a guitarist named Ray Celona who offered up wiry phrases and dark atmospheres with the greatest of ease. Lead singer Sarah Kenyon has a serious, understated presence at the microphone while bassist Greg Bromberg pumped out intricate low end lines that were bordering on melodic. Drummer Scott Kenyon was one of those steady musicians who kept the band on track with some sparks of his own tossed in when he felt the moment was right.
Grand Evolution opened with “Resistance,” a lean, sparse song that this band expanded far and wide with their rangy talents. “Hopes Ands Dreams” shifted gears a bit into a neo hippie vibe as Ms. Kenyon kept it tastefully restrained, letting out just enough vocal power at a time, easefully building it into a strong anthem. “Escape” from the upcoming album had an intriguing guitar line with sweet vocal work. Another new one,” Whisper,” cleverly shifted dynamics to inject a multitude of colors and tones.
Grand Evolution closed out with another upcoming cut, “Wish You Well,” that made the most of their melodic rock-dynamic shift-colors and tones approach. Many in attendance last Saturday night at the Black Box Theatre are likely now awaiting this band’s new album.
It was a great night of original rock and roll at Franklin’s Black Box Theatre, a venue that really makes room for a band’s sound to breathe while offering a comfortable atmosphere for people who like classy entertainment. More original bands should have their CD Release Parties there so it can be turned into a rock and roll destination place. It’s easy to find off the highway. The Jennifer Tefft Band made a strong statement with their new material and Grand Evolution managed to whet a lot of peoples’ appetites for their next release.