Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band
7 p.m. Sunday. $12 (18 and older). Smith’s Olde Bar, 1578 Piedmont Ave., Atlanta. 404-875-1522, www.smithsoldebar.com.
Those who know the name Jaimoe Johanson immediately connect him with The Allman Brothers Band, the Southern rock behemoths who recruited him in 1969 to be the band’s drummer.
Like everything with the Allman Brothers saga, Jaimoe, as he prefers to be called, had a tumultuous tenure with the group. He splintered off to help form Sea Level in the late ‘70s, then rejoined the Allmans. Left in the ‘80s, then returned later that decade.
A steady member since, he still plays regularly with the band – including their fabled Beacon Theatre shows every March – but also stretches his chops in his moonlighting gig with Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band.
Though he’s lived in Connecticut for 19 years, Jaimoe (pronounced jay-moe), spent 19 years in Macon followed by three in Atlanta in the early ‘90s.
His time in Atlanta wasn’t just a like-fest, but a love affair.
“Man, I loved living there,” Jaimoe said. “I miss the food. I miss going downtown watching the women go to work and going back there in the afternoon and watching them go back home. I didn’t do a lot of playing there. Nobody would hire me because they figured I’d be going off with the Allmans in a few weeks. The only people who hired me were jazz musicians.”
Jaimoe, 67, will be behind his trusty drum kit when he makes his Smith’s Olde Bar debut on Sunday with his Jasssz Band in tow, a crackerjack lineup of Junior Mack (vocals, guitar); David Stoltz (bass); Reggie Pittman (trumpet, flugelhorn); Paul Lieberman (sax); Kris Jensen (sax).
The amicable Jaimoe chatted Friday from a tour stop in Florida about his band’s new studio album, “Renaissance Man,” his relationship with the Allman Brothers Band and this year’s Beacon shows.
Q. You have a very unique spelling for your band’s name. What’s the reasoning behind it?
A. I found out that that’s the original way jazz was spelled, but I didn’t know it at the time [of naming this band.] My friend Jackie Avery keeps calling it Jaimoe’s Jazzy Ass Band. I saw this thing on TV, the Ken Burns miniseries on jazz, and there’s this guy standing by the bass drum and on it, it said ‘jass.’ I couldn’t wait to show my wife. But when I first saw the show, I thought, the first thing I’m gonna hear is people are going to say this is where I got it from. So I did what the Beatles did and mixed up the spelling and put a ‘z’ on the end. It gives it its own originality.
Q. You have a really interesting version of “Melissa” on the album. Why did you choose to re-do it as a bossa nova?
A. Because it was a bossa nova! Junior did it on his gig at a place in the Village in New York and he played it as a bossa nova. When I heard it I said, ‘Man, we gotta play that tune.’ When we did the CD in the studio, I said let’s put down ‘Melissa.’ We put it down and there it was.
Q. How did you hook up with Junior Mack?
A. We was at the Beacon one night and this friend of mine, he used to shine shoes at the barber shop that was connected to Capricorn Studios, he said to me, ‘You need to get Junior Mack to play in your band,’ and I said, ‘Junior Mack? I don’t who that is.’ He said, ‘OK, you gotta meet him.’ So one night Junior came to the Beacon for one of the Allman shows and I said ‘Man, you got a CD or something I can listen to?’ He got it out of his pocket before I could get the words out of my mouth!
I said, ‘OK, man, thank you.’ It must have been six weeks before I l listened to it and I thought, ‘That’s pretty cool.’ I called him up and said, ‘I want to do a gig and this is what I want you to do.’ We went to this Double Down Grill joint [in Connecticut] and I told everyone to write songs on a piece of paper and we’d play what everyone knew.
I told Junior, ‘Man, you play different. You play different than Derek [Trucks] and Warren [Haynes] and a lot of people.’ I said, ‘Man, I haven’t heard anyone play like that since I left Mississippi.’
Q. Will you be at the Grammys next month to accept the Allmans Lifetime Achievement Award?
A. Yes, I will.
Q. Are you excited about it?
A. Excited is an understatement. A Grammy is cool, but a Lifetime Achievement Award… that sounds like, [expletive] man, wow. I’ve got to tell you this funny story. When I was in high school, from the 10th grade to graduation, I think God sent Downbeat Magazine to 33rd Avenue High School to little Johanny Johanson. That’s me. I read that magazine from front to back. I read everything in it. My band director would read an article every now and then, but the library let me check it out even though you weren’t allowed to check out magazines. But nobody read that one except me, so they let me. I finally figured God sent it down for me.
Q. It seems as if you and Gregg [Allman] still have a strong relationship since you’re opening some shows for him. Do you have a good relationship with the rest of the band?
A. Um…I have a good relationship with everyone except Dickey Betts. He don’t want to have a relationship with nobody.
Q. When was the last time you spoke to him?
A. I last spoke to him in arbitration in 2001.
Q. Do you think he’ll come to the Grammys?
A. I think someone said he’s gonna come to the Grammys, but I don’t know for sure. I just know I’m going to get my award. Anything else that goes on there, it’s business.
Q. You’ve played with so many notables – anyone left on your wish list?
A. I want to play with my band, our band. This band is not even an embryo yet. There’s a lot of music that’s gonna come out of this band. You invest in what you believe in.
Q. Are the Beacon shows the highlight of your year every year?
A. We do a lot of playing at the Beacon and play with a lot of different people. I always call it ‘The Ed Sullivan Show.’ We get to play a lot of music with a lot of people and make a lot of money.