Funk’n’jazz’n’rock’n’roll high school

J.S. Cha

How far would you go to rock ’n’ roll? Alex Korostinsky, Justin Sager and Nick Drozd run all the way to the North Pole to prove the versatility of their band, J.S. Cha.

How far would you go to rock ’n’ roll? Alex Korostinsky, Justin Sager and Nick Drozd run all the way to the North Pole to prove the versatility of their band, J.S. Cha.

Photo By David Robert

J.S. Cha’s live CD, Live From the Depths of Hell, is available from Modern Guitar, 575 E. Moana Lane, and Soundwave CD’s, 971 W. Moana Lane.

“Our old guitar player bought this Korean-made guitar, and it had this sticker on it that said ‘inspected by J.S. Cha,'” bassist Nick Drozd says, explaining the origin of his band’s name.

J.S. Cha, the band, not the guitar inspector, is a trio of high school students who play instrumental “reggae-funk-jazz-rock,” as drummer Alex Korostinsky describes it. Besides Korostinsky and Drozd, the group features guitarist Justin Sager. In addition to the three core members, there are two auxiliary members—Alex Slotnick on trumpet and Lee Hampton on guitar, who each play one song with the band.

J.S. Cha has released a live CD called Live From the Depths of Hell, and the band will soon begin recording a new disc. All three core members of the band have creative input, and they write material individually and as a group.

“It’s different every time,” Korostinsky says, explaining the band’s working method. “Sometimes I have a melody in my head, and I just blurt it out scat style. … Sometimes [Sager] comes up with ideas late at night—while he’s naked.”

Though, up to this point, the band has been almost entirely instrumental, the musicians intend to incorporate vocals in the near future.

“I write a lot of lyrics; I just need to bring them in,” Sager says.

“Our new CD is going to have a lot more vocals,” Korostinsky adds.

The music isn’t as confused as the “reggae-funk-jazz-rock” label may suggest. Basically, they are a slightly eclectic, instrumental rock band.

Their instrumental “Naval Beans (Beans from the Sea)” is a two-chord, minor key jam with a reggae feel.

“Satan’s Child,” probably the least representative of J.S. Cha’s songs, featuring vocals by Drozd, is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Devil’s own music, heavy metal.

“Droppin’ Dimes” is an up-tempo, heavily syncopated number with dense jazz chords, and unison melodic playing between the guitar and bass. Korostinsky and Drozd wrote a version of this tune for a big band, an arrangement that has been performed by the Reno High Jazz band.

The jazz-band version of “Droppin’ Dimes” hasn’t been the only cooperative effort between J.S. Cha and Reno High. The band was also commissioned to write a song for a school drama production called Edge.

“We were told to write this song that sounded like the Blue Man Group,” says Korostinsky.

So J.S. Cha is keeping busy. Despite being under 21, the band has little trouble booking shows. And as well as placing second in the most recent Reno High talent show, the guys competed in the Applause! Youth Music Awards last October.

“We ended up winning that. First place for the bands, out of six or seven,” Korostinsky says, though conceding that overall, they came in second to a solo performer.

So is all the attention going to their heads?

“We got $100 for winning, so we were really happy,” says Korostinsky.

“We bought that mic and mic stand,” adds Drozd.

So they’re reinvesting the profits in musical equipment. J.S. Cha, the guitar inspector, would want it that way.