Joe Marcinek: Connecting with Space

Jeff Tamarkin on October 13, 2021
Joe Marcinek: Connecting with Space

Every time that guitarist Joe Marcinek plays a gig, and each time he records a new album, he sets out to switch things up as much as possible. That means not only assembling brand-new band lineups, but also shifting musical directions—often radically. The Indiana-based musician’s third album, 2018’s JM3, was a trio set featuring organist Wil Blades and New Orleans drummer Terence Higgins. That one followed Both Sides, Marcinek’s 2012 debut, and 2016’s Slink, a nonstop party that prominently highlighted Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell in his final recorded performance.

In concert, too, Marcinek always seeks to surprise— Meters bassist George Porter Jr., JGB keyboard mainstay Melvin Seals and New Orleans fixture Ivan Neville have all joined him onstage over the years

Marcinek originally didn’t have any intention of calling the Joe Marcinek Band’s newest release JMB4, but, in the end, it felt like the only choice. He explains: “I wanted to get away from the numbers and shift gears. But I like the way the B and the 4 read together. JMB4 contains the word ‘before,’ and that word took on new meaning with the pandemic.”

Marcinek wanted the new album to continue the momentum—the energy—that had powered his creativity before everything came to a crashing halt in 2020. As an artist who is used to playing as many as 300 gigs a year, in his time away from the road, he found what he calls a “silver lining,” using the break to compose new music and plan the follow-up to his previous trio recording. The eight-song JMB4 meshes jazz, blues, rock and funk seamlessly, with Marcinek and new compadres like bassist Tony Hall, drummer Nikki Glaspie and Snarky Puppy’s Shaun Martin kicking up some serious dust.

Once again, several guests add depth and coloring to the proceedings, including guitarist Eric Gales, pedal-steel man Roosevelt Collier, Lettuce trumpeter Eric “Benny” Bloom, The String Cheese Incident percussionist Jason Hann and the Ron Haynes Game Changer Horns.

In recent months, Marcinek has made his first tentative steps back into the live-music scene, his most natural habitat. “The first time I played again, just a patio gig, I couldn’t even play the first couple of songs because it was so powerful,” he says. “I really can’t imagine what it has been like for the musicians who waited a year or still haven’t played yet. We don’t realize how much it impacts the fabric of our lives. Every little thing we do is involved in music, and the performance aspect is like therapy for a lot of us. It’s the most amazing feeling of all time.”