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North Fork residents and visitors can catch REEB at various East End restaurants and watering holes throughout the summer. (Photo Credit: David Benthal)

With another school year in the bag, most teachers are catching up on much-needed rest and relaxation. But for seven East End music teachers, summer is gigging season.

Four of these music teachers formed what grew to the nine-piece New Orleans-style jazz band East Enders know as REEB, short for Real East End Brass, after hitting it off at the 2018 Hampton Music Educators Association conference. In concert, the band fuses their bedrock influence — New Orleans jazz, be it the Preservation Hall Jazz Band first formed in the 1960s or 37-year-old Trombone Shorty — with classic and modern pop and rock hits. In between crowd-pleasing covers from Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl” to John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” the band plays numbers jazz-heads like themselves will appreciate, such as “Hey Pocky Way” by The Neville Brothers and “Do Whatcha Wanna” by the Rebirth Brass Band, as well as their own original tunes.

The band comprises music educators Tye Granger on tenor saxophone, drummer and violinist Troy Grindle, Meghan Kelly on baritone saxophone and clarinet, Jake Lorefice on bass and baritone saxophone, Chris Mandato on trumpet, newest member Joe Randazzo on sousaphone and mellophone and Shawn Ward on sousaphone and trombone. Rounding out the group are Dylan Greene on lead vocals and auxiliary percussion and guitarist and alto saxophonist Nick Silipo.

(Photo Credit: David Benthal)

North Fork residents and visitors can catch REEB at various East End restaurants and watering holes throughout the summer. At a three-set performance at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company’s Peconic location this spring, the band made one thing clear: Here on their home turf, there is absolutely no other act like them.

At the gig, the horn players and de facto frontman Greene hopped and swayed with an overabundance of youthful energy. REEB performances are far from what one might expect when they hear the word “jazz.” On stage, the teachers behave like kids on a playground; they are enjoying playtime with their friends. 

In fact, were it not for the band members’ discipline, courtesy of previous marching band and other musical experiences, one might expect their energy to cause on-stage collisions. Instead, they move perfectly in sync with the music and one another.

“Even experiences like that which shaped our music education, we’ve been able to pull from and put it on the stage,” Kelly said. “It gets a visual aspect integrated into the music as well.”

Of all the tenets of jazz, it seems the group holds improvisation paramount. No audience member can resist a show-stopping solo, and neither can the members of REEB. When one player takes a turn in the spotlight, other band members who can do so drop to the floor and watch their friend wow the crowd.

In addition to jazz, each performer has their own well of musical influences they wear on their sleeves, from funk to punk. These comfort zones inform which performer takes a solo on a particular song as well as the duration of their improvisation. 

“If someone is ripping apart a solo, going crazy, we’re going ‘take another,’ we’re encouraging them to just keep going and see what happens,” Kelly said. “It’s enjoyable as a band member to see your teammate succeeding and we want them to feel encouraged. They’ll get a look, a hand motion in a circle to keep going.”

The set list for REEB’s spring brewery performance showcased their knack for pleasing both the crowd and themselves. The band belted out big brass band renditions of iconic tunes such as Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” and “Valerie,” made popular by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, before switching genres and even instruments. Grindle abandoned his drum kit, took center stage with his violin and ripped through a raucous rendition of Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which was met with a roar from the crowd. They guaranteed their audience would enjoy their beloved “Hey Pocky Way” as much as they did by coating it with unrelenting performances of “Hound Dog” and “Eye of the Tiger,” a medley that enticed several audience members in the front to show off their best twist.

Earlier this year, REEB was busy recording some of the original tunes they play live and the group hopes to continue recording and release a full-length album. With that goal in mind, REEB will release their first three singles — “How It Started,” “What A Feeling” and “Music To Your Life” — this summer.

“They’re very biographical in a sense,” Mandato said. “They’re about how this band has kind of ignited this love of playing with one another.”

When it comes time to create new music, Greene writes lyrics, Silipo typically lays the foundations with a chord progression, Granger and Mandato bring horn melodies and everyone else adds their own flavors to flesh out the piece.

“Troy always spices it up with the drums … same with Jake on the bass. There’s no sense writing parts for those guys because they are going to hear the framework and then do something with it,” Mandato said. “Meghan and Sean are so good at coming up with harmonies and counterlines.”

“As a newer member I think one of the coolest aspects of the group is that when someone does present an idea, we’re given a lot of freedom and creativity to make it our own,” Randazzo said. “By the time a song is finalized, anybody that was there when the song was written has some sort of stake in it, it’s pretty collaborative.”

Although they picked up and continue to play different instruments, Kelly, Mandato and Randazzo all said it was the encouragement of a supportive music teacher who inspired them to play their instruments in their youth and continue to perform into their adult years. Now teachers themselves, hope to inspire their students to uphold musical performance as a cornerstone of their lives long after they cross a graduation stage and toss their caps toward the sky.

“As a music teacher my greatest wish for any students seeing REEB or knowing that REEB exists is knowing that they can make music with their friends, especially after they’ve left their school music programs,” Randazzo said. “There’s no limit to what they’re able to do with their instruments, and I hope that as REEB, we’re able to showcase that.”

“I want to show my kids that creating music can bring so much joy,” Kelly added. “Music is a great way to connect with the community … and on a more personal level, I feel very grateful to be part of this group because it brings me so much joy and I am proud of myself as a musician for getting better with this group.”