When we last caught up with Ryan Weisheit, “Pokey LaFarge sideman" was new to the musical resume of the co-founder of New York City’s hot jazz ensemble Sweet Megg & the Wayfarers.
Just back from another tour with the fellow Twin City native, Weisheit said touring with LaFarge was the impetus to move Sweet Megg into the touring pipeline.
“It’s just a different experience when you’re out touring and playing a different city each night,” said Weisheit. “I’ve had a blast playing (saxophone) with Pokey and at the same time bringing Sweet Megg & the Wayfarers up to that level of touring.”
During that February conversation, Weisheit was bubbling about his first extended tour and picking up pointers from what he considered LaFarge’s well-oiled touring machine. The learning continues.
“One thing easy to forget while planning longer tours are basic things like accommodations,” said Weisheit. “When you’re out for three weeks, comfort becomes a big thing because it’s generally lacking. Having good food options and things that seem inconsequential at the beginning of a tour contributes to the morale of the band, and morale is huge when you’re out for so long.”
Sweet Megg & the Wayfarers are now on its first extended tour that has already swung through the Carolinas and Tennessee. Busting out of New York City and turning their regional base into a national awareness is the next step for the band.
When Sweet Megg makes a return engagement at Jazz UpFront in Bloomington on Wednesday, Oct. 25, they’ll be sporting a crisp new self-titled album with an audible step-up in production quality and even performing intensity from previous releases. Weisheit said the band’s first recording in what he characterized as a “proper recording studio” upped everyone’s game.
“We realized we needed to bring it,” explained Weisheit. “We were paying money and the stakes were higher than usual. So yeah, I think we all brought an energy we maybe didn’t have on our previous recordings.”
Vocalist and fellow co-founder Megg Farrell is having more fun than ever on this album, and the number of up-tempo covers probably contributes to that. “Cloudburst,” "Hear Comes The Man With The Jive” and the very New Orleans sounding “Too Hot For Words” showcase Farrell’s playfulness and move at a pace that surely keeps the dance floor crowded.
Weisheit shows off his chops on his new baritone sax on a number of cuts on the eponymous release. He said a recent appearance on the Conan O’Brien show with Pokey LaFarge forced his hand.
“I didn’t even own a Bari until I got the gig with Pokey,” said Weisheit. “He said, ‘You know the saxophone chair has a Bari part.' I said, ‘I don’t have a Bari so I better start looking around for one,'” he laughed. “So yeah, I bought it specifically for the gig.”
And now he’s adapted it for Sweet Megg & the Wayfarers and will show it off at Jazz UpFront, a room he says the band loves to play.
“It’s great because it’s not stuffy but it is a listening room. It’s fun to play for people there just to listen to music. We can play a wider range of emotional content because people are there for you and there willing to go in any direction the music is headed. It’s also very cool to be in a Jazz club in the town where I grew up,” said Weisheit.
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