This Wednesday, the Edmonds Center for the Arts is going to be swingin’ and groovin’ to one of San Francisco’s hottest bands. Royal Jelly Jive will bring their high-energy, genre-defying music to Edmonds.
How can I adequately describe RJJ? Their music is diverse. Paying homage to classic swing, night club/cabaret jazz, often enjoying a strong rock back beat, at times soulful and funky — words like dance party and hard groove also spring to mind.
Front-woman Lauren Bjilde’s voice? Imagine a blend of Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin, with a touch of Edith Piaf — there’s even a Tom Waits influence. Comparisons tend to be banal and can only approximate — but like the music she and partner/keyboardist Jesse Adams write together, she is original.
Take Dear Mr. Waits, for example. It begins with a terrific rhythm jam — a sweet descending bass line with a snare knocking out syncopated rimshots. Keyboards sprinkle in some mellow chords. The volume builds, electric guitar joins the bass line, then more crescendo. Now, Bjelde (pronounced Bee-Yell-Day) jumps in with her sultry, seductive voice. Before it’s over, a guitar solo, trombone and sax accompaniment and an ensemble of voices have said their piece. It’s an exceptional song, one of many notable cuts on their album Stand Up. (2016)
Snooping around on the internet, I came across Bjelde waxing eloquent about the beauty of kelp in its ocean environment. The sextet’s name itself “Royal Jelly Jive” refers to an interesting epigenetic phenomenon wherein a particular nectar that worker bees feed a larval bee has the effect of creating a queen. Bjelde has drawn an analogy to this — her “royal jelly” being music, art, passion and inspiration.
Given her interest in such things,I wasn’t surprised to discover Bjelde had a strong anthropology background — she studied art and anthropology at University of San Francisco as several of the other band members slaved away in the practice rooms of the music department nearby. No surprise there either — this band can play. I’ve got nothing against bands that only know three chords filling stadiums… well, maybe I do. But my point is, this ensemble is tight, their music is fresh and energetic, they’re tearing it up in San Francisco, and they’ll be playing here Wednesday. Good tickets are still available!
Here’s a great one to whet your appetite:
— By James Spangler