Who’s Who in the Zoo

JRT photo - ryan 3Ryan

JRT photo - andy 1Andy Keyes – Drums

Andy’s arrangement and execution of percussion demands nothing short of a degree in mathematics.  Luckily, he has one.  He commands old school down home stomp on rock tinged blues like Jimi Hendrix’s Red House, yet deftly steers a set of brushes from snare to sizzling ride on Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight.  His ability to engage, groove on and expand latent improvisations of the group is simply where. it’s. at.   To sound that good he would need to craft build his own custom drums.  Luckily, he does.

Whether touring, in the studio or in the church house, Andy’s history on the kit goes way back.  What is less well known is his uncanny ability to determine person’s blood type merely by listening to their regional accent.  Speak to him long enough and he can probably also ballpark your blood alcohol content.  Rest assured when he finally advises you to stop talking, it does not indicate you lack sparkling conversational ability, rather it is simply medically necessary.  Paging Dr Andy to the downbeat.

JRT photo - mike 1Mike McOlash – Bass

Although Mike’s approach to his instrument differs somewhat from the rest of the group in that he often plays the right notes, his sound remains unique.  In lock-step with Andy’s ably crafted rhythm, Mike provides a compelling foundation of musical structure.  Coaxed into the role of low-note-soloist, Mike wails forth with an intensity that demands attention and respect.  His versatility far outstrips our little group, being equally comfortable walking a Ray Brown style bottom end to jazz standards as he is wrenching down on some Rage Against the Machine.  This group focuses exclusively on the former rather than the latter.  He has been on the music scene since the late 70’s playing with some of the best Milwaukee has to offer, both live and in the studio.

Mike was born at the age of 5 in southern Chile and immigrated to America at the age of 10, making him 5 years younger than he is and 15 years younger than he looks.  His first instrument was self crafted from a window screen, but after a close call with a malarial mosquito was returned to its original purpose.  His refusal to use the Julian calendar makes scheduling especially difficult, but his ability to read a wrist watch left handed means he is always on time.

JRT - image - bio - Alissa Weber - superhero picAlissa Weber – Vocals

Mild mannered newspaper reporter (for real) Alissa Weber is the perfect cover for metropolis Milwaukee’s newest superhero – Alto Ego

Faster than a speeding tempo, that in hindsight we might have rushed a little bit on the bridge. More powerful than Merry Clayton, Able to leap high octaves in a single bound. It’s flipping you the bird, it’s Jefferson Airplane… it’s the Milwaukee native with the Detroit sound – it’s Alto Ego.

Alissa Weber carries a powerhouse vocal knockout blow dripping with a soulful sound that is the very essence of the JRT. She is Stax, Chess, Motown and Muscle Shoals rolled into one hometown winner. An undeniable force combined with a razor sharp wit and enthusiasm for our mission – a platinum rare combination. The JRT is beyond blessed to know her, our listeners are well advised to lend an ear – check out “At Last” on the sample tracks page.

Kristi Lontok – Vocals

Kristi Lontok’s angelic voice has been responsible for steering several ships aground. As a public service, the JRT has agreed to provide her a more constructive outlet for her dulcet and crystal bell toned phrasing of American jazz standards. Her song selections have recently been diagnosed as NKC syndrome (that’s Nat King Cole, so says the AMA). We are giving her only non FDA approved placebos (tic tacs and pez) in the hopes that the condition is contagious. Consequently,.her breath is delightful and her glycemic index thru the roof.

Kristi not only exudes beautiful vocals, but also an enthusiasm for music, fun, laughs and our charity mission that endears her to every member of this little musical experiment. We’re glad she’s with us.

Dave Ciepluch – Bass

Dave Ciepluch is a stand-up guy, which is in part why he seems so tall. His strong faith and goodness provide a compass ensuring focus on our true North – charitable service through great music. His skill and acumen on the bass provide the delectable and right-as-rain funky grooves we love so much. His wisdom and experience provide ripping good tales – and lots of ‘em. Salty yarns from his encyclopedic knowledge of old school rock, blues and soul.

Dave’s solid sound likely stems from a proud lineage of musical giants – reaching perhaps even back to prehistoric times…

Ancient Dave: unfrozen caveman bassist: Dave say fire good, but fire hot – no touch fire. But old school soul and blues hot too – Dave want touch soul and blues, but Dave need tool. Og in next cave invent wheel, but wheel no make music go, and Og is jerk, never share mastodon meat… stupid Og. So Dave invent new tool – call it bass. Bass make low note go. Go low note, go. Dave bass so cool – he money. Caveman Dave next want invent friend for bass – call it kick drum. But sabertooth eat Caveman Dave, kick drum need wait.

In fact, so highly respected is Dave among his peers that when proclaiming his allegiance to the JRT, friends and family doubted the veracity of his claim – finding it incredulous their upstanding and respectable musician would associate with such wanktankerous odd-balls. But associate he does, and blessed are we to have him plying the deep frequencies. Oh, and we like his hats.

Jason Bower - bio pic (3)Jason Bower – Bass

A fugitive from melodic justice, Jason Bower is wanted in a string of killer bass solos. Authorities stress that if spotted he should not be approached, as he is considered armed and dangerous. Well, not armed, but somewhat dangerous. Well, not really dangerous, but he should eat better – I mean you gotta take care of your health – that’s just common sense.

A stand-up guy with a stand-up bass, Jason’s trifecta is the wicked-good combination of wu-tang ninja bass guitar skills, a fun loving personality, and just the right amount of good-natured dementia allowing him to blend in seamlessly with the JRT as he eludes our nation’s top lawmen… and mall cops.

JRT - image - Mark Thone er Telly SavalasMark “Kojak” Thone – Bass

Consider for a moment once-upon-a-time in America. Imagine a scene wrought in black and white, dimly lit and smokey, gritty yet sophisticated, crowded yet somehow desolate. A time and place when cool was king and jazz was cool. Real music from real musicians on real instruments in real time. Suits cut sharp as a razor and notes cut from a tradition as uniquely American as democracy itself. THAT is the jazz of one Mr. Mark Thone. It starts with hard experience, a place of joy and pain. From the heart it rockets through that time worn stand-up double bass on a direct line to its willing target. A malleable tone, it is ever adapting to the groove interplay between drummer, pianist, vocalist. Some say that scene in America no longer exists. But some… some say it can still be found surrounding Mark during especially cooking sessions of the JRT.

So much of music today is focused on making sound, blasting away on a ballistic path to a predictable and inevitable outcome. Not so for Mark. He cut his chops back in the day and possesses the improvisational sensibilities of a true jazz man. We rejoice at the opportunity to share with him music, laughs and fellowship in this thing of ours affectionately known as the J Ryan Trio.

jrt - image - reed - bioReed Felton – Harmonica

Reed’s mistaking a stray harmonica for his giant 80’s style cell phone in the waning days of the Reagan administration constituted an inauspicious foray into the world of music.  By the time his mistake was realized, he had mastered harmonica technique and had generated over $1300 in roaming charges.  Reed has yet to travel by boxcar; quite rare for a harp player.  His preferences regarding canned beans and carnies has yet to be determined.

With notes bridging our love of both jazz and blues, Reed’s harmonica is a uniquely sweet ingredient to the JRT, further ensuring our musical recipe remains fresh and delicious.  His sound is lyrical – a vocal line wrought in mournful tone, or fierce – a 2″x6″ hand held rhythm section blowing with freight train intensity.  Behind that sound is an individual who shares our humble spirit of service to those in need through music and laughter.  We are proud to call him a fellow musician and friend.