Gritz & Jelly Butter is out to prove that the sticky foods the soulful five-piece is named after make for more than a balanced breakfast. The magic started nine months ago at Mocha Match Coffee Bar. It was the first time all five members of the band played together.
"What happened with us is like falling in love. It doesn't come around often and if you don't recognize it when it's there, you're gonna mess up," says keyboardist/vocalist J. Winston, who is joined by David "Sho-Tyme" Holmes (drums/keys/MC), Wayne "Mister" James (bass), Rory "Rooster" Edwards (percussion), and Chocolate Thaii (vocals/saxophone).
What started as a joke to call the band Grits and Hamhocks grew into a group moniker that combined the members' Southern breakfast favorite with composer Jelly Roll Morton's name, and the group's smooth-as-butter sound.
Gritz & Jelly Butter quickly expanded its brand of improvisation by backing poets and open mic virgins until its musical prowess led to a headlining event at Apache Café and playing house band to HBO Def Poet Amir Sulaiman's Cornerstone Folklore event at Sugarhill in late '07.
"The poetry community provided a platform of steady footing for us," Mister James says. "Not having to be front stage allowed us the freedom we might not have taken had we been center stage."
The members pinch-hit during live gigs, switching instruments and trading mics from MC to singer. And they transform audiences from spectators to collaborators, as the crowd helps sing the lyrics to covers such as Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing," and provides background vocals to original numbers like "Betcha," a song that causes collective head-nodding with its infectious hook.
So if you thought grits and gooey condiments could only tickle your taste buds, then you haven't tasted Atlanta's newest flavor.
Gritz & Jelly Butter perform with SNUB, Kayenne, Thandiwe and the Good Good Band at the Five Spot. 8 p.m. Wed., Jan. 16. 1123 Euclid Ave. Call for price. 404-223-1100. www.fivespot-atl.com.
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