Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Ripple FX wants to widen the 'FX' of musical fellowship all around town

Kenny Phelps believes more needs to be done to promote musical cross-pollination here.
As a business,  rippleFX: Studios in Broad Ripple focuses on music for advertising, but on March 10 its promotional emphasis was wider-reaching and more idealistic. The idea? Throw a party and jam session and thereby get the sometimes balkanized Indianapolis music scene to form both social and artistic bonds.

So early Monday evening, musicians of all ages and various genres poured through the doors of the sprawling two-story building, roomier inside than it looks from Ferguson Street.

Hank Hankerson (sax) and Nick Tucker (bass) at Monday's session.
"We should talk to each other," said drummer and studio co-owner Kenny Phelps, briefly interrupting the music-making. "It starts with us coming together. This is a group of like-minded people. We want it to be something (in these sessions) that can bring musicians and club owners in."

The marketability of a wide span of genres in local music — gospel, funk, rap, blues, pop, jazz, and so on — is what Phelps and his business partner, studio founder Bill Mallers, have in mind.

So there was lots to listen to in spontaneous music-making ranging from high-school musicians all the way up to such veterans as Hank Hankerson, saxophonist and longtime jazz educator. The participation of underage musicians is especially important to Phelps since there aren't opportunities for them to jam with professionals in places where liquor is served.

The result of the ongoing program is hard to predict, but to learn more, Phelps made available a one-page questionnaire (along with a hot supper to encourage participation) to the attending musicians. In addition to naming the sessions,  the survey is designed to receive information on what the musicians believe can be accomplished by these sessions, ideas as to their best format, and — not as routine a matter as it might seem — how often Phelps and Mallers should schedule them.

The popularity of Monday's event suggested to Phelps that a larger "neutral" site — not a nightclub or a church, for instance — be found for future get-togethers.  That would swerve around what Phelps is at particular pains to avoid: the notion that such-and-such a place is somebody else's turf and thus "not for me." Instead, broad networking with no idea of abandoning where a musician is coming from should be the focus, he indicated. As a much-admired drummer in various genres, Phelps himself is poised to mastermind such an outreach.

Far ahead would be new recordings on the Owl Studios label, which Mallers and Phelps acquired in 2012 from founder J. Allan Hall. But there's a lot of spadework and careful nurture to undertake before these jam sessions bear such fruit.