Jade Fire

The Future Of Asbury Park's R&B Big Band Sound?

Jade Fire possesses insightful influences and uncanny musical proficiency which belies their young age range. Their tightness, professionalism and spunk not only impresses, but wows, audiences throughout the Central Jersey area.

This group of high school students, with ages ranging from 12 to 15, have already brought swing, rock, ska and other music to Asbury Park's Stone Pony, Red Bank's Count Basie Theatre, and Jason's in Belmar, where they played their first gig in February 2000. These community performances can be tough to come by. "We had a lot of help," said lead vocalist/bassist Mike Sosinski. "We all just collaborated to find places to play, so we kind of got lucky." Luck may be part of it, but determination, both musically and in searching for gigs, is a key to their success. They've also had a lot of help from their parents, who take part in musical direction and band management.

Aside from guitarist Erik Rudic's full-throttle guitar licks, Sosinski's linear bass thumping and Scott Rosen's pulse-driven drum work, the young band also has a slick, energetic horn section, comprised of Jesse Eisemann, Tim Kauffeld, Jared Brisman and Nick Salvetti. The nine-piece band doesn't end there. Throw a conga player, Scott's brother Eric, into the mix, and a utility man, Akash Chandawarkar, who sings and also plays rhythm guitar, keyboards and saxophone.

Their young age doesn't prevent them from enriching themselves with music made popular before they were born. This appreciation for music history is apparent in their selection of cover songs. "We look for songs that have horns in them," said Sosinski. "That's why we went to 60's stuff." Their song list includes The Mighty Mighty Bosstones's "The Impression That I Get," Santana's "Smooth," Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl" and, of course, one from their fellow state mate, Bruce Springsteen's "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out."

Sometimes, deciding on the right songs to present to their audiences is a tough task. The band works these choices out logically. "If the horn section [wants a] song and the rhythm section doesn't ... if they don't really like the song that much, they'll play it because there's songs that they'll play that won't be our first pick," said Eisemann. "Somebody suggests a song and then we listen to it," said Sosinski. "We either say no or we try it. After we try it, it usually gets better than we thought it was." A little trial and error can't hurt. "Basically, if someone suggests it and we try it a couple of times, if it sounds like we can do it well, we'll play it," said Eisemann.

Jade Fire is currently in the studio working on their first original track. This process can be challenging for a big band such as this. Each member has been working out their own individual ideas to bring to the table and Rudic is building some guitar riffs to get them started. "Somebody's going to work on the lyrics, somebody's going to work on guitar parts," said Chandawarkar. "I've been kind of working on some lyrics, so we're trying to get some stuff done."

Sosinski said that without covers there would have been nothing to play, so it started them off as preparation for writing their own music. "I guess a new style will come out when we start doing original stuff," said Sosinski. The band also tries to be original when reproducing others' music. "We fooled around with changing the styles of some songs," said Sosinski. "Like 'Brown Eyed Girl,' we made it into a ska version. We also did that with 'Stand By Me.'" They also try to add variety to their cover attack by playing the same song in different musical styles. This gives them options to cater their sets to different crowd types. "It also matters who the crowd is," said Rosen. "The younger people will like ska."

A few band members want to be professional musicians when they get older. For now, Jade Fire plans to stay together as long as possible and play as many places as they can. This includes benefits for the American Cancer Society at the Toms River High School Stadium May 18 and Freehold Raceway June 1. On June 8, they are playing Freehold Day. June 23 they are at The Saint. July 25 they are at the Monmouth County Fair. Check out their website, www.jadefire.com, for schedule updates and further details about the future of this talented young group.

Josh Davidson

Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.