Boston’s Weekly Dig – “Llama Rhymes” review

I love seeing the Chandler Travis Philharmonic live. They have a wide-awake presence, even if they wear pajamas on stage. Individually, they are some of the area’s finest musicians, but together they add up to something so much better. Bandleader Chandler Travis gets credit for finding such great musicians who love to play, for writing incredibly fun songs and for doing the choreography of who/when/what. But ultimately, CTP is a team effort. Chandler, who also leads The Casuals, “oohs and ahs” about his luck with bandmates. “People like Keiichi, Keith and Rikki are all absolute geniuses as far as I’m concerned. Dinty is my absolute soul mate, and Mark Chenevert has been absolutely invaluable leading the horn section; and John is so quick – they all are, really – that we’re able to do stuff amazingly well completely off the cuff, or at least off the charts, which I never used to write in The Casuals. All this is a miracle to me.”

There have been CTP shows when I’ve had to force myself to go out, times I’ve been down in the dumps. But by mid-show I’m dancing, singing along and tapping my feet. The best thing I find about CTP is, quite simply, they make me happy. CTP’s music is self-described as “Alternative Dixieland.” It reminds me of an old-fangled big band. Imagine a 1930s big band playing rock & roll, dixie, blues and everything in-between, being led by the crooner of all local crooners, Chandler himself. The ever-changing three-piece horn section blows strong and in perfect coordination with each other and, in addition, are on-the-spot backup singers. Drummer Rikki Bates drums with passion, always wearing an enormous smile while she plays.

Unpeeling the wrapper of CTP’s Llama Rhymes, I was anticipating a lot. CTP has put out some mind-blowing CDs, and I didn’t expect the band to let me down. LR went into my old Sony. First, I heard a single horn, and, I must admit, it kind of annoyed me. But it took a mere second and a half for the band to join in and fill my ears with happy sounds. My personal favorites are “My Old Man” and the newest version of “Fluffy,” with special guest stars Suzi Lee, Ramona Silver and (long-time pal of Chandler) George Carlin all chiming in. There is plenty of variety within the 15-song CD, from kooky to sentimental to down right bizarre, and a sort of psychedelic nostalgia feel. It’s all very much its own wacky cartoon world. But we’re invited in.

What’s the craziest story you have about touring with CTP?
Dinty Child: The night we played at Tipitina’s in New Orleans with Ernie-K-Doe and Aaron Neville. There was a typhoon raging outside, the place was packed and going nuts, waving towels, the whole bit. Water started coming under the door. We loaded out in the heaviest rain I’ve ever seen, drove through about a foot and a half of water, hit a manhole blown open by the flood and cracked the front wheel bearing on the van. I recall the night evolved into a lot of beer drinking (it’s the law in New Orleans). God, I love New Orleans.

What are both your favorite and least favorite things about Chandler?
Bob Pilkington: Best: his charts. Worst: his charts. His charts are cryptic. It takes a few times playing before you figure them out. But if you don’t like what he wrote, you can play whatever you want. That’s the magic of the band; Chandler’s cool about that.

If you could have three wishes for the band, what would they be?
Ken Field: 1) Health and happiness for all the band members, friends and fans; 2) Lots of people get to hear the new CD; and 3) We all just get along.

(Cher Koor)

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