STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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They’re out jamming in public at least four nights monthly.
A West Chester band that calls itself “The Sermon!” uses vintage instruments to perform a distinctly retro jazz-funk sound, which can be heard every second Friday of the month at Time Whiskey Bar in Philadelphia, every third Friday at Vudu Lounge in West Chester, every fourth Friday at the Fenix Bar in Phoenixville, and the first Thursday of every month at West Chester’s Sidebar.
Their name comes from an album by notable jazz organist, and Norristown native, Jimmy Smith — which you’ll discover when you search for the band’s music on iTunes.
Not available on iTunes, however, is The Sermon!’s third and latest album, “Covers.” Drummer Mike Lynch explained in a phone interview that iTunes still has to clear permission from the composers of the songs that The Sermon! remade in their own style. And besides, he said, the band makes more money if you buy the CD directly from them at a show.
With around 1,600 likes for their Facebook page, The Sermon! promotes its shows on social media in playful fashion using graphic illustrations by Lynch, who is a sociology professor at West Chester University. “I’m a big fan of old Blue Note (Records) album covers, and I try to replicate the look and feel of that,” he said.
While searching for The Sermon! on YouTube yields varying results, must-hear samples on the combo’s Facebook page are recently-produced videos for “Benny’s Tune (Cat’s Ass)” — which cleverly combines live footage of James Brown — and “Parlor Trick,” both songs from their 2011 self-titled album.
Often augmented by an “extended family” of musicians, the core band is Lynch, bassist Don Allaband, James McLaughlin on organ, and guitarist Rob Mastrippolito. “We started nine years ago. I knew the keyboard player. The bass and guitar player knew each other. I was looking to form a band — a funk, soul, improv-oriented thing. The band is very high energy,” Lynch said.
Part of The Sermon!’s entertainment value, he said, is watching their “heavy and cumbersome” gear being brought in, such as Hammond B3 organs and Leslie speakers (a cabinet amplifier that produces a spooky sound from a rotating loudspeaker).
When asked how much being based in West Chester has influenced the band’s following, Lynch said: “Playing in a college town is beneficial to any artist. It’s definitely helped pave the way with exposure.”