Perhaps that's why bassist Jon Schwenke and drummer John McKnight are working six or seven nights every week, either as an in-demand rhythm section for hire or as the backbone of their own ensemble, the Hybrids. The pair plays this Wednesday, Nov. 7, through Saturday, Nov. 10, at Darwin's in Marietta (Wednesday with the Hybrids as hosts of the weekly blues jam; Thursday and Saturday with the Hybrids; and Friday in support of vocalist Heaven Davis). The Hybrids also play every Sunday at Pepper's in Riverdale. McKnight and Schwenke return to Darwin's every Tuesday to anchor George Price's blues jam band.
Schwenke and McKnight met at a Northside Tavern blues jam in 1998, shortly after McKnight moved to Atlanta. The musical synergy between them was immediate and obvious. "We just happened, by the roll of the dice, to get up onstage together," Schwenke recalls, "and started playing a shuffle. In the first few bars of it, we were just looking at each other, thinking, 'Damn, that feels good!'"
McKnight came to Atlanta from Altoona, Pa. His father, a drummer who was also a policeman, fueled his passion for music. "The mayor and the chief of police would be mad at him all the time," McKnight recalls. "He'd bust people during the day and then be out entertaining them at night."
By age 11, McKnight was sitting in at his father's gigs. After high school, he hit the Holiday Inn/Sheraton circuit. Later, he returned home to play locally, opening for everyone from Merle Haggard to Davy Jones. Meanwhile, he got married and launched a painting business. It didn't work out, however, so he moved to Atlanta with his heart set on a full-time music career.
Schwenke, meanwhile, is a New York native who began playing at age 14, after convincing his father to buy him a bass for his birthday. "It was a cheapo Kramer Striker," Schwenke remembers. "It was metallic candy apple red, paint chipping off, a pawn shop special. My dad thought I'd put it down in a week, but I never did."
While still in high school, Schwenke played in two or three bands, often with players in their 30s. He moved to Atlanta in June 1993 as part of a short-lived fusion band, Anonymous Fret. When the band imploded, he decided to stay.
Since meeting in 1998, the duo has worked for numerous bandleaders, including Liz Melendez, Donna Hopkins and Forrest MacDonald, and both have appeared on at least a dozen albums. McKnight also works in the Organizers, a jazz trio that performs Mondays at Billy's in Buckhead.
Despite their full slate as hired guns, McKnight and Schwenke had been looking for a band they could call their own. And they believe they've found it in the Hybrids. With Lola Gulley on keyboards and Mike Martin on guitar, the group mixes elements of blues, jazz, funk and rock. "We'd like [the Hybrids] to be our sustenance, not only monetarily but spiritually as far as playing goes," Schwenke says.
During his tenure as a sideman, McKnight says fans have frequently asked why he hasn't launched his own band. His reply was that hadn't found the combination of players in which "there are no egos, no problems, where it's just like family."
He already knew he wanted Schwenke to be part of that family. "Then I met Lola and Mike, and I thought, 'We should really do something with this. This is it. Let's do it.'"
The Hybrids perform at Darwin's, 1598 Roswell Road in Marietta Wed., Nov. 7 (hosting the blues jam), and Thurs., Nov. 8. 9 p.m. both nights. No cover. The Hybrids also play Sat., Nov. 10, at Darwin's as part of an all-day benefit for Liz Melendez. Music starts at 2 p.m. $10. In addition, McKnight and Schwenke anchor the house rhythm section for Darwin's Tuesday night blues jam. 9 p.m. No cover. And the duo back Heaven Davis Fri., Nov. 9, at Darwin's. 9:30 p.m. $5. For more information, call 770-578-6872. www.jonschwenke.com, www.johndrumer.com (John McKnight), www.thehybrids.ws.
This column is a weekly feature covering music outside the Perimeter. E-mail or mail "outside" music news to Bryan Powell, 830 Josh Lane, Lawrenceville, GA 30045.
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