Mark Hoffmann - guitar, vocals; Kent DeFelice - bass, vocals; Gene McCormic - keyboards, saxophone, vocals; Joe English - drums, percussion, vocals; Steve Marcone - trumpet, flugelhorn; Earl V. Ford, Jr. - trombone, vocals
At the dawn of the 1970s, the Columbia Records label was enjoying monumental commercial success from their signings of Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority, two North American bands that had integrated horn sections into a modern rock context. The widespread appeal and chart success of these groups led the label, and its partner label, Epic, to actively pursue other groups which were following a similar path, which led Epic to the horn infused rhythm and blues/funk sextet, Jam Factory. Based out of Syracuse, NY, Jam Factory formed in 1968 and established their reputation as a popular regional band over the next few years. They eventually opened concerts for many high profile national and international acts, picking up fans along the way, many of them fellow musicians.
Epic released Jam Factory's debut album, Sittin' In The Trap, in 1970 and the band took to the road for the next several years performing on the same bill as many of the greatest groups of the era. They became friends with members of The Allman Brothers Band and soon relocated to Macon, becoming active within the thriving Southern Rock scene then revolving around the Allmans and the other talented artists involved with the fledgling Capricorn label.
Other than Jam Factory's obscure Epic album, and a rare single featuring two non-album tracks, recordings of the band are virtually non-existent, which makes this live recording somewhat of a holy grail for fans. Recorded in 1971, when Jam Factory opened for Rita Coolidge and The Byrds at the Richmond Arena, this set not only captures the group near the peak of their powers, but also features most of the original material destined for a second album. With the exception of the set-closing "Mr. Slow," which they perform by request, Jam Factory's set consists entirely of material yet to be recorded.
The set kicks off with the funky rocker "You're The One," beginning with the core quartet establishing the groove and the horns easing in shortly thereafter. Stylistically, the closest comparison may be to the great west coast band, Sons Of Champlin, who were pursuing a very similar path as the Jam Factory takes here, both vocally and instrumentally. "The Ballad Of Maxine," a deep grooving vamp about an aging prostitute, follows. The centerpiece of the set is an epic modular piece, possibly titled "Bright Blue Trips On Sailing Ships." Recalling early Chicago, here Jam Factory ventures into more psychedelic territory, featuring compelling horn arrangements and a hot instrumental break. The rhythm section of Joe English and Kent DeFelice are particularly tight and propel the group through this lengthy composition and throughout the remainder of this set.
Joe English's powerful drumming kicks into the short celebratory number, "I'm You're Friend," featuring a southern-flavored vocal arrangement and swirling organ from Gene McCormic. This sounds right at home with the early stages of Southern Rock, sounding not unlike a precursor to Sea Level, the band formed by keyboardist Chuck Leavell several years later, of which Joe English eventually joined. "Doctor Freeze," which follows, returns to the funky rocking that kicked off the set and transitions into a dramatic speed-jam near the end.
An audience member requests "Mr. Slow" and the band obliges to close their set. The only non-original performed here, this song was featured as the closer to their Sittin' In The Trap album. Written by John Houston, a friend from the band's Syracuse days, the storytelling lyric builds into a hot jam that showcases the various factions in the band. It begins with bass and horns. The guitar and drums join in and slowly build up the momentum. Following the bridge, with its lyric of "take off for the moon," the group launches into a fiery jam, featuring propulsive drumming and blazing guitar runs. Eventually this high-powered jam shifts into a bluesy framework that fades into the ether as the tape stock ran out.
That flaw aside, this is an excellent example of Jam Factory in their prime, performing before an appreciative audience. The band would soon evolve into the Tall Dogs Orchestra of Macon, before the extraordinary drummer, Joe English, would be recruited by Paul McCartney to join Wings. With McCartney, English recorded several hit albums and toured extensively, before joining Sea Level and eventually pursuing a career under his own name.