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Erica Schultz Yakovetz

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Follow the Bliss Jockeys to Tammany Hall

Joseph Campbell, a giant in the field of comparative mythology, boiled down the wisdom of the ages into his directive “Follow your bliss”.

It’s not every rock band that takes its mantra from academia, but frontman Phil Robinson isn’t just a rising rock star; he’s a soul-gazer and a Fulbright scholar who takes Campbell’s advice to heart. His material brings a mystical, intelligent bent to an otherwise straight-up, playful classic-rock sound.

When Robinson rebooted his pet musical project, The Bliss Jockeys, in early 2012, it was as a folk-style acoustic ensemble, with brother Josh Friedman on jazzy guitar and a small cadre of backup singers anchored by longtime NY songbirds Ellen Weiss, Valerie Gomes and Leyla Mesic. But it took the March 2013 addition of a full rhythm section – with complex fills from drummer Casper Paludan and the driving electric groove of bassist Merter Yildirim – to bring to life the high-energy repertoire of Phil’s dreams (and start filling rock venues around New York City).

The other surprising yet classic element in the BJs’ mix is a full gospel-style all-female choir, now comprising 7 women, filling out the over-the-top sound. In August, The Bliss Jockeys took over Ella Lounge for an intimate 45-minute set highlighting new material, from the sunny “99 Days” and “Transcendental Cowboy” to the brooding “Looking for Someone” and “Through the Middle”. But the keystone of the set was an innovative cover of Steely Dan’s “Bodhisattva” (in case you’re missing the theme here of the path to enlightenment), showcasing exuberant instrumentals atop the choir’s tight, spirited harmonies.

Upcoming shows include a November 23 triple bill at Tammany Hall (with Victor V. Gurbo & Co. and Myriam Phiro’s Swing Party), and opening for the Villalobos Brothers at the prestigious Mercury Lounge on January 15. Check it out!

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Originally published November 2013 on Turnstyle Music Group's "The Buzz" blog.