Sam Cooke. Otis Redding. Solomon Burke. Durand Jones knows he’s punching heavyweight these days. But in a time when soul/retro soul acts have seemingly hit the saturation point, Durand Jones & The Indications stand head and shoulders above the vast sea of their likeminded peers.
With only one album (and eight quick songs at that), it’s far too early to tell what the future will hold for Jones and his fantastic backing band.
But up until this point, it almost seems as if outside forces have been guiding this project into the spotlight.
Jones, originally from New Orleans, is a classically trained saxophone player. Although planning to enroll locally, Jones left the Crescent City to attended grad school at Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music.
Having sworn off singing, Jones only relented (in the name of Marvin Gaye) for IU’s famous Soul Revue when they were short of vocalists. One of his future bandmates happened to be there to hear it.
The sound engineer in class that day was Indications guitarist Blake Rhein. After hearing Jones sing, Rhein asked Jones to hang with him and another future Indication, Aaron Frazer, to do nothing more than listen to old 45s and soul records.
Soon they were composing their own originals, and the eight songs found on the band’s 2017 self-titled debut were only earmarked for feedback. But like most stories involving those who seem meant to do it, the album was released and the band has been touring ever since.
The band is currently working on the follow-up to their debut, and much like that scene in Princess Bride where Indigo Montoya learns that the Man in Black is also right-handed, have yet to fully unleash Jones on his instrument of choice.
PACIFIC recently spoke with the reluctant bandleader ahead of his band’s throw-down at Soda Bar on Saturday night.
PACIFIC: Who knew? A soul band from Indiana.
DURAND JONES: I had plans to go to another school. Then Otis Murphy, the saxophone teacher at Indiana came and did a residency at a school in Louisiana. He heard me play and he offered a spot in his studio with an assistantship. I immediately told my teacher in Louisiana and he said, “You’ve gotta go!” Jacobs is like one of the best music schools in the country, arguably the world. There are just so many endowments and the resources there are quite incredible.
But I totally didn’t expect the music scene to be much of anything. Down south, where I’m from, if you’re a musician in school, the objective is not to just learn from school, but also learn from being out and about in the area – learn both sides of the trade.
When I got there, I was pleasantly surprised. The music scene isn’t as big as New Orleans, but it’s also not a touristy destination. So unlike New Orleans where people expect you to play things like When The Saints Go Marching In, Bloomington has so much more artistic creativity. And the music scene shows so much reverence for camaraderie and collaboration. It was really, really cool to me.
And now you’re fronting a soul band.
It’s really more than unexpected. I had no intention of singing when I moved to Indiana. This has all just really kind of felt like fate. I was in the classical music side of the school. The other guys were in the recording arts program. We just happened to meet through a class when I was running horn charts and the director randomly asked me to sing.
I reluctantly said yes. And that’s how we really got together. We started hanging out on Sundays just writing soul tunes for the fun of it. And it led into an album unexpectedly – on my part at least.
Why the reluctance to sing?
In a way, I never thought I was all that great at it (laughs). So when I moved up to Indiana, I told everyone that I worked with that I strictly wanted to be a saxophone player from here on out. But fate had other plans for me.
So you had at least done some singing before.
I sang. But it was always on the side. Being a saxophone player down there, you can always market yourself in a more appealing way if you can also sing. So I did small things here and there.
You ever think what you’d be doing if you chose not to go to the University?
I’d be in New Orleans, grinding it out on Frenchmen Street playing music, for real, trying to find a place where I could fit in and really contribute as an artist.
Do you have a timetable for the release of your sophomore album? Might it feature you playing more sax?
We don’t. We’re touring from March to May and will be looking at studios for sometime towards the end of the year. And I don’t want to give anything away, but we definitely want to incorporate me playing horn more. For sure (laughs).
We’ve learned some stuff, but we’re still pretty green. I’m really introverted when I’m not on stage. I really push myself and reach out of my comfort zone to make it work. But I really do see this as a great opportunity and a really awesome wave to ride. And I’m gonna ride this thing as long as I can.
Durand Jones & The Indications w/ Sure Fire Soul Ensemble
When: 8:30 p.m. March 24
Where: Soda Bar, 3615 El Cajon Blvd., Normal Heights.
Cost: Sold out