Jordan Burchel is a Gainesville, FL based songwriter and producer who mythologizes the mundane and under-observed environs of modern life. Through the montage of sounds he creates in the studio and on stage, Burchel elevates spilt milk and conference calls to the higher realm of say, a sunset over the Rockies or meeting one’s true love on a subway platform (or in a Subway restaurant, he supposes).
Y’all better hold onto your butts, cause The Slims are gonna make ‘em shake.
Avi Bortnick’s Cornpone
Aside from being a founding member of Gainesville’s legendary What It Is, in 2000 Avi begin a long association with jazz guitarist John Scofield, recording/co-producing 3 albums and touring worldwide. Avi’s band Cornpone features three of his stellar New York City sidekicks: Andy Hess (bass – John Scofield, Gov’t Mule, Black Crowes, Larry Carlton, Roben Ford), Daniel Mintseris (keys – St. Vincent, Marianne Faithfull, Trixie Whitley), and Tony Mason (drums – John Scofield, Joan Osborne, Norah Jones, Charlie Hunter, Martha Wainwright, Leo Nocentelli, Amy Helm). As Cornpone, they play Avi’s original music – blending rock, jazz, funk and techno – from his album Clean Slate and beyond.
Little Jake & The Soul Searchers—that’s what you get when you combine Jake with The Silver-Sonic Horns and a powerful rhythm section. The band recalls authentic R&B stagecraft in support of a classic repertoire of soulful songs. Depending on the venue, Jake and the band treat audiences to sights and sounds seldom seen or heard since the golden age of R&B: opening singers, Tran “The Piano Man” Whitley and drummer, Hal “Halag8r” Saylor; a dynamic, audience-walking lead singer; a strolling horn section; a full-time emcee/announcer, Kenny “The Conductor” Eunice; and one of the funkiest rhythm sections around. The band’s roots are deep, featuring sidemen who worked with Ike and Tina Turner, Billy Joe Royal, Ernie K Doe, Hues Corporation, and other R&B and rock pioneers.
Sooza Brass Band
Sooza Brass Band is the future of instrumental music. Blending the genres of funk, jazz, and metal, the six-piece brass outfit is capable of lighting up any venue. With hundreds of live performances under their belt, they have their sights set on uniting more and more people with their music. For them, no stage is too big and no show is loud enough.
For twenty years, Morningbell has been an integral part of the Gainesville music scene. The band has played Bonnaroo and SXSW, been featured on television and film, and toured the country many times over, but it is the connection to Gainesville that always comes first. Morningbell’s sixth album, the critically acclaimed Boa Noite, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.
What It Is
What It Is formed in 1994 in Gainesville, Florida, when a group of local musicians and newcomers from California came together. The band, which included Jerry Kennedy on vocals and bass, Avi Bortnick on guitar, Russell Tillitt on keyboards, and Tom Hurst on drums, quickly established a reputation for their funky performances and engaging stage presence. They were soon the talk of the town, attracting capacity crowds at their shows, with horns and a DJ supplementing the core members.
As word of the band’s unique sound spread through the Southeast, they hit the road to meet their fans, playing to sold-out audiences in major cities like Atlanta, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, and Tallahassee. They soon expanded their reach, winning over fans in the West, particularly in San Francisco, where they were warmly welcomed in June 1996 and made the Bay Area their new home. While they became instant favorites in the local music scene, they also toured the West Coast, playing to packed venues from Seattle to San Diego.
What It Is’ talent quickly caught the attention of the music industry. They headlined Central Florida’s annual musical extravaganza, The Harvest Festival, and opened for acclaimed acts such as the P-Funk Allstars, Maceo Parker, Dee-Lite, the Time, The Roots, and Dag. The band also headlined Slim’s in San Francisco and was the featured performers at the Webby Awards.
Their recorded work was equally impressive. Music Connection hailed their debut album, When Groove Was King, as “amazing” and “top-notch,” praising Jerry Kennedy’s soulful vocals, often compared to Stevie Wonder’s, and Avi Bortnick’s guitar work, which provided “unshakable grooves that prove magnetic and intoxicating.” Their follow-up album, Soul Pop, was highly anticipated and lived up to the hype, showcasing a matured What It Is with songs ranging from fun and funky to slow and sexy, and groovy and danceable, satisfying even the most discerning critic. Fans of the band’s live shows and recordings continue to follow their music, as it’s simply What It Is.
What It Is performed regularly until the early 2000s. Since then, the band members have remained musically active. Jerry Kennedy is a highly sought-after bassist and vocalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Avi Bortnick moved to New York after joining jazz guitarist John Scofield’s Uberjam band, a collaboration that resulted in three records and co-writing/production credits. Russell Tillitt resides in San Francisco and has played with several bands since What It Is, released two solo albums, and continues to do session work and play regularly around the Bay Area. Tom Hurst, living in Nashville, is a music educator and an accomplished touring and session drummer, having played with many well-known artists, including Easton Corbin, The Backstreet Boys, Wang Chung, Tiffany, and Tracy Lawrence since 2015.
After not performing together for over 20 years, What It Is reunites for one special show to celebrate WMBT radio for their Wombash 2023!
Originating from Gainesville, FL, Sister Hazel is comprised of five gifted, seasoned musicians whose well-spring of natural talent has been called “one of the Top 100 Most Influential Independent Performers of the last 15 years” by Performing Songwriter Magazine. Song “All for You” topped the adult alternative charts during the summer of 1997 and the success propelled their album to platinum status.
In their first showing on the country music charts they made a strong debut with “Lighter In The Dark” at#4 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, #6onBillboard’sIndependent Albums chart, #30 on Billboard’s Top Current Albums chart.
The band landed on Billboard’s Top Country Albums Chart again in 2018 and2019 with Volumes I, II,III, and IV of a clever EP compilation series titled “Elements.” In February 2018, “Water,” landed on the Billboard Country Albums chart at #9 and at #2 on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart along with making their debut on the most revered stage in country music, the Grand Ole Opry. In September of 2018, “Wind” landed at #1 on iTunes country page and #11 on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart. In February 2019, Vol. III “Fire” landed at#5 on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart and #46Billboard’sTop Country Albums Chart. The collectible compilation series ended with “Earth” which again landed at on the charts at #15 on Billboard’s Americana/Folk Album chart.
Living up to their fan-centered reputation, the band hosts annual events like “Hazelnut Hang,” that focuses on fan involvement and was a pioneer in themed cruise experiences by co-founding “The Rock Boat,” a cruise featuring nonstop opportunities for fan/artist interaction. Sister Hazel has been equally attentive to connecting with their audience through social media. They have since made their Grand Ole Opry debut and shared the stages with country music superstars at The CMA Festival, Tortuga Music Festival, among others. In addition to the events and touring, the band also gives back with “Lyrics For Life.” Founded by singer Ken Block and the Band, the charity unites musicians and celebrities for concerts and auctions to benefit cancer research and patient-care charities.