Guitarist David Linaburg is at least a solid 6’4″, maybe more, with his floppy afro lifting off of his head. When he and fellow CofC jazz majors Nick Jenkins (drums) and Gerald Gregory (organs) first formed as the trio Morimoto last fall, their practice space was the attic of a friend’s downtown home. Several times a week, they’d haul their gear up four flights of stairs, set it up, practice, then break it down and haul it out. Linaburg had to hunch over just to play in the low-ceilinged room. “It was hot as hell,” he says.
Morimoto’s infancy in the attic is long gone, but not too long ago. They were born in September, but play Cumberland’s this Thursday hot off the heels of an East Coast tour behind their forthcoming album in the future…, an impressive display of rock-jazz fusion instrumentals. The tour took them to Washington, D.C. and New York City, playing at several clubs in each, including “a weird tiki bar in the East Village where we were playing before this transsexual country band.” Talk about a double booking…
Although Morimoto as a band are a recent incarnation, the three are no strangers to each other on stage. Jenkins and Linaburg are both members of singer Lindsay Holler’s band, The Dirty Kids. All three have regularly played with local songstress Elise Testone. Sometime in 2004, the trio recorded a demo together under the moniker Vantage Trio, but never followed it up with a live gig.
Last August, they again came together to accompany singer Leah Suarez (of Toca Toca) to Denmark, where they showcased her Brazilian jazz in a six-week residency during the Copenhagen Jazz Festival. The boys had to share one hotel room, an experience they say brought them closer together as friends, personally and musically.
“I’d say Morimoto formed in Denmark,” says Jenkins. “That’s where we started writing songs.” After returning, they began a biweekly gig at the downtown Yo Burrito!, mixing their own originals with covers like the theme from Indiana Jones and a raucous take on Weezer’s “Say it Ain’t So.”
Nowadays, they generally stick to originals and musical charts. Linaburg may occasionally drop to his knees, fingering rapid-fire jazz licks into the fretboard while daring the amp’s feedback to squeal free, but they’re not going to bore you with a 10-minute meandering jam. Their compositions, with names like “Every Other Waltz” and “Hundred Kroner Bill,” are carefully orchestrated pieces, the clear product of three jazz majors.
“Even the music that we’re reading, we’re improvising the majority of the time. The charts are kind of like a road map,” says Linaburg. “We’re a rock band with jazz tendencies.”
Band practice today is a far cry from the steamy attic last summer. They normally gather in organist Gregory’s living room, often going through entire numbers singing, clapping, and banging on things. One member brings an idea and they arrange them together. “We’re more of a family band,” says Jenkins. “We actually hang out and eat breakfast together.”
Gregory recently purchased a 1998 Astrovan for touring, complete with bumper stickers reading “U.S. Navy” and “Annihilate Terrorists.”
“We’re not getting pulled over,” he says. If the new vehicle gets them home safely from New York, Thursday’s show should be a showcase of one of Charleston’s most promising young bands. “If anything,” says Linaburg, “the van and Gerald’s mustache set us apart.”
Check out this story at www.charlestoncitypaper.com to see video of Morimoto performing at the New Music Collective benefit on April 5, 2007.