AJ Lee and Blue Summit unleash a cornucopia of bluegrass, folk, jazz and rock

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AJ Lee has been writing and playing music since he was a child. Soaked in bluegrass, she has always had a particular fondness for acoustic music.

By the time she reunited AJ Lee and Blue Summit in 2015, which was based in Santa Cruz at the time, she and her band were broadening their influences to also include blues, folk-rock, soul, and jazz. Their debut album of 2019 Like I used to do emphasizes that, and even incorporates some rock instrumentation not part of the live band.

“We didn’t have a full-time violin player. We had electric guitar on a few songs. We thought maybe we could add the electric guitar to the concerts. Maybe we could have a part-time drummer, ”says Lee. “I still really like the old album. It’s just such a different sound.

With the members now spread throughout the Bay Area, the group is releasing their second album. I’ll be back, which they will present at Felton Music Hall on Saturday 30 October. Although partly experimental, the new record is a throwback to Lee’s acoustic and bluegrass roots. Many of his songs were written by Lee at the age of 15 and were never released.

Violinist Jan Purat accompanied the group on a song during Like I used to do, and joined the group full-time shortly thereafter.

“When Jan joined the group, it was obvious. We should be doing what we do best, which is acoustic music. We’ve all been playing it for years, ”says Lee. “With the violin, not to say that he puts his finger on one genre over another, but it was just like ‘I’m fine with that. We should do more.

Highlighting the bluegrass elements brought out the improvisational elements of the group.

“It’s always fun playing these songs, especially when we play them as much as we do on tour. Sometimes, maybe 10 days in a row, you’ll play the same song, but it’s still fun to play because of the influence of bluegrass. We like to improvise and refresh things, making them interesting not only for the audience, but also for ourselves, ”said Lee.

In 2020, the group gained momentum as a touring actor until the pandemic hit. They stayed engaged with their fan base by doing virtual “Sofa Sessions” concerts. And the audience they’ve built online seems to have translated into the world of post-Covid touring – on a recent East Coast tour they sold several shows.

“With the live broadcasts, me, Sully, and Jesse, almost every Sunday or Monday broadcast for about an hour, just kind of scrambling. Browse a bluegrass jam book and interact with fans, ”says Lee. “We’re really happy to have a lot of dedicated fans everywhere.”

When they met in January to follow I’ll be back, the challenge was to make sure they could do everything on the album live. For example, the title song opens with a weird, almost psychedelic, looping sound effect that blends well with the song’s root elements – and it can be done during their shows.

“We’re trying to experiment with the limits of what we can do with our acoustic instruments,” says Lee. “I think it gives the acoustic sound a fresher feel. The thing that we are doing with the new album is real organic sound, so if you listen to the album you know that you will basically get the same when performing live.

AJ Lee and Blue Summit perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 30 at Felton Music Hall, 6275 Highway 9, Felton, $ 20. 831-704-7113.


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