The Modern Sounds
July 17, 2016
Joel Paterson - Leader, Guitar
Beau Sample - String bass
Jonathan Doyle - Reeds
Alex Hall - Drums
Joel Paterson and The Modern Sounds is a Chicago based rhythm trio featuring Joel Paterson on guitar, steel guitar and vocals; Beau Sample on string bass and vocals; Alex Hall on drumsand vocals, plus new addition of Jonathan Doyle on reeds.
This big little band is dedicated to performing traditional American music, specializing in hot jazz, western swing, rockabilly, classic blues and everything in between. The Modern Sounds are on the cutting edge of the Atomic Age—bringing you the best of the 30's, 40's and 50's.
So far as Paterson and his musical partners are concerned, it doesn't matter that some of these sounds date to the early part of the previous century: Great music is great music.
"Beau and Alex and I are kind of schizo," says Paterson, 40, referring to bassist-vocalist Beau Sample and drummer-vocalist Alex Hall, his partners in the Modern Sounds. "We love '20s and '30s jazz, I love rockabilly, I love blues from the '20s to the '60s. … We said, 'Let's have a band that plays all of this stuff, and if we get gigs, we'll do it.' "We look at ourselves as studio musicians who are stuck in the 1950s and play music of our heroes, roots music based in jazz and blues and a little bit of Western swing and country and — well, you know."
What makes the Modern Sounds different from mere nostalgia acts, however, is that Paterson and friends approach this repertoire — and the musical techniques associated with it — as if it were brand new. There's a sense of discovery when they play "Caravan" or "Tea for Two" or dip into the songbooks of Les Paul and Chet Atkins, Bob Wills and Charlie Christian.
In part, the band's work sounds fresh because of its stylistic flexibility. Swing rhythm, jazz improvisation and blues phrase-making converge in almost everything it plays, but never in the same proportions. Ultimately, though, Paterson and the Modern Sounds draw from uncounted genres in everything they play, thus eradicating firm musical boundaries. The fluidity of this approach keeps listeners guessing, while their zest for vintage repertoire cannot be denied.
All of which raises at least one question: Why call this vintage outfit the Modern Sounds, of all things?"Well, it's one of those names that's kind of a curse," says Paterson. "It started, obviously, tongue in cheek. It's hard to come up with a retro band name that's not kind of kitschy.
"It popped out from Ray Charles' record, 'The Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music.'"So I said (to Sample and Hall), 'Let's be the Modern Sounds,' and Beau said he liked it."But it's a curse, because if you see it in a newspaper and you haven't heard our stuff, you'd get the wrong idea. We're pretty retro, pretty pre-Cuban missile crisis."
Nevertheless, the ironically named Modern Sounds has been busy since it emerged a few years ago, touring in Europe, opening for Jeff Beck in Chicago and, somewhat less glamorously, playing "restaurant gigs where people ignore us," says Paterson.