By Jesse Bertel
AJ Lee & Blue Summit is a San Francisco Bay area-based bluegrass band led by singer, songwriter and mandolinist AJ Lee, with Sullivan Tuttle and Scott Gates on steel-stringed acoustic guitars, Jan Purat on fiddle and Forrest Marowitz on upright bass.
The band draws from influences such as country, soul, swing, rock and jam music, using the lens of bluegrass as a vessel to express themselves musically.
Tuttle, a founding band member, spoke with Across the Street staff ahead of their upcoming performance at 7 p.m. Sunday, March 19 in the Mackin Building at the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo Grounds, 840 Rodeo Drive, Prescott. The following interview was edited for length and clarity.
What is the main response from audiences that come
to your shows?
It all kind of depends on the audience, but a lot of times when we’re playing like festivals and standing crowds, people get really into the fast stuff. We have some songs we play really fast and high energy and get the crowd dancing. So a lot of times it’s a good response.
What do you like most about playing bluegrass?
It’s a really fun genre for jamming and for improvising and soloing over. The chords to the songs are usually pretty simple, but in terms of playing solos, you can kind of go anywhere. You can really do a lot instrumentally in the genre. It’s really up to the player. You can be as creative as you want, really.
What separates you from other bluegrass bands?
We’re a little bit different than a straight bluegrass band because we don’t have a banjo and we have two guitars. So, that’s one thing that just right away kind of makes us slightly outside the genre to begin with, because the standard bluegrass instrument lineup would be guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and bass. So we, instead of a banjo, have a second guitar, which changes the sound, and kind of allows us to play certain genres outside of bluegrass. Then, AJ’s originals, she has a lot of originals that are sort of not bluegrass and sometimes we make them bluegrassy, sometimes we don’t. So, we’re a little different than a straight-up, traditional bluegrass band.
What is the hardest part
of playing bluegrass?
There can be some challenges with regard to what counts as bluegrass and what could still be labeled bluegrass. It’s always a gray area with what band is a bluegrass band and what band is not. So, there are some challenges. I guess that’s just a challenge with the label. That’s not really with the music. Musically, bluegrass is interesting. It’s usually fairly easy in terms of the chords and ability but it can go really fast, so it can be physically demanding at times.
For tickets, visit worldsoldestrodeo.com/events-schedule.
Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.