Firing on eight cylinders

Bap Notes are a jamming, jazzing, hip-hop octet that electrify and synergize

From L to R: Joby Morrow, Elwood Allen, Emery Mesich, Mark Knox, Russell Brown, Cornelius Scott Daniels and Rod Morgan. Missing from the photo: Emmanuel “EJ” Johnson.

From L to R: Joby Morrow, Elwood Allen, Emery Mesich, Mark Knox, Russell Brown, Cornelius Scott Daniels and Rod Morgan. Missing from the photo: Emmanuel “EJ” Johnson.

Photo by Anne Stokes

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Bap Notes are social scientists—constantly conducting experiments, making observations and testing their hypotheses. Figuratively.

Literally, though, they’re an eight-musician jazz-funk hip-hop band—and as an octet, they need to be in sync. In their own microcosm of the music scene, the Bap Notes are hard-wired into social dynamics, noticing when things are grooving and when they’re not. Sometimes the bug is a musician’s inflated ego, a lesson on music theory—or in one case, a stage packed with uninvited musicians at Shady Lady.

They’ve been percolating into their current form since 2015. Each member has a distinct case of music in the bones—and there’s an awful lot of bones in eight bodies.

Brace yourself for Bap Notes: Rod Morgan, keyboards; Russell Brown, guitar; Cornelius Scott Daniels, drums and vocals; Mark Knox (styled Marknoxx), vocals and drums; Emmanuel “EJ” Johnson, keys; Ellwood Allen, bass guitar; Joby Morrow, trombone; and Emery Mesich, sax and flute.

That’s a lot of folks making a lot of sounds—but as the band says, they’ve got the pocket. They are pocket.

What’s a pocket?

“The pocket is a loop, but it also is the feel,” explains Daniels, sitting with the band in a cold garage lined with rows of vinyl records.

“It’s the ability to provide consistency and energy to any particular rhythm, and it’s the thread that allows musicians to know where each other are,” Morrow chimes in, “that tends to get established by the drum and by the bass.”

Whatever the pocket is, the sound of Bap Notes, especially live, is infectious—one that gets into the depths of your head and speaks to something funky in you. Like an ear infection—but the good kind. Maybe that’s a way to think of the pocket, as a head-bobbing ear infection.

The group’s undeniable talent spans multiple generations. Their ages range from 21 to 66, a fact the group celebrates and attributes to Knox.

“Mark’s the liaison between the younger part of the band and … you guys,” Mesich says. The others laugh and fill in the phrase Mesich avoided: “The older part of the band.”

They welcome the new blood—the talent, the unique musical phrasing and the energy.

“He’s a young cat, but he has flavor,” Daniels says of Mesich, “And seasoning,” Morrow adds, as Daniels continues to sing the praises of Allen, the band’s young bassist.

They’re making their band into a finely tuned music machine, and that means perfecting new elements. Their latest album Share showcases 12 Bap Notes tunes—most purely instrumental. That may soon change, as the group believes that Daniels belongs on the mic.

“He’s shy for some reason, but he can really sing,” Morgan says. “He knows all his harmonies and everything.”

Daniels explains why he’s hesitant to take the spotlight.

“For me, I’m getting back into the rhythm of musical life,” Daniels says. “It’s about coming out of my shell and opening up around these guys.”

That said, the band isn’t stressing about the addition. They treat vocals as just another instrument. They just want to make music together for a living, basking in eight spotlights.

“You think about problems in this whole world and everything: Share,” Morgan says. “That’s all you’ve gotta do to solve damn near every problem in this whole world, is share.”