All jazzed up
Before Dawn brings variety, spontaneity to the stage
Whatever you call them, don’t call them static. Or boring. Jazz band Before Dawn revels in diversity, and it shows. There are always new names, new faces and new sounds associated with the six-member group. There are even radically new haircuts. One day, conga player Cody Remaklus looks like a hippie with a mass of long curls, and the next day he’s proudly sporting a mullet, much to the chagrin of his band mates.
When I met up with the band at Silver Peak Brewery, Remaklus’ hair was not the only source of controversy. There was plenty of good-natured taunting among band members, as well as some friendly disagreement over, among other things, how to categorize Before Dawn’s style of jazz. I heard the terms “Latin” and “fusion” tossed around, and then rejected in favor of “groove-oriented” and “loco.” At least one band member believes that Before Dawn plays something akin to “smooth jazz.”
The potluck of labels arises not so much because the Before Dawn guys are bereft of musical direction, but because their styles—and members—are continually in flux. Keyboard player Daniel Rostrup and bassist Sam Minaie started the Old School Jazz Combo, a traditional jazz ensemble, last year when they were in high school. Trumpet player Tony Cataldo and saxophonist Jonathan Phillips became the third and fourth members—don’t ask who was third and who was fourth unless you want to start another argument—and drummer Caleb Dolister came on as the fifth member. At this point, the band was christened Five Before Dawn. Then Remaklus joined last November, upsetting the group’s arithmetic. The six-man band dropped the “Five” and became simply Before Dawn.
As Before Dawn has gained new faces, it has acquired a smoother sound, which, band members say, may throw some listeners off guard.
“I think our fan base problems come from the fact that in the last year, we’ve been in a state of transition,” Minaie says. “People might still be expecting straight-ahead jazz, something less pop. They might not know exactly what we’re doing.”
The band might not always be sure, either.
“When we start a song, we may not know who we’re going to solo, who’s going to follow, how it’s going to end … if there’s going to be a percussion drum break in the middle, until we actually do it,” Rostrup says.
Minaie says that if the band continued to do shows for the next few months, they could probably gain a wider fan base. But alas, the band, as Remaklus says, is destined to break up. Remaklus and Rostrup are leaving to study abroad at the end of the summer, and although the other four members will continue to pursue music in one form or another, Before Dawn will have breathed its last breath come September.
I’ll be sorry to see these guys part. The band may lack direction at times, but its members clearly have great chemistry. When Rostrup says that communication has been the lifeblood of the band, the other five members are, for once, quick to agree on something.
“We’re friends before we’re a band," Cataldo says. "Anything that we do after [our friendship] is a bonus."