By George Basler
Hazmat Modine’s music is difficult to put in a box. The group’s foundation is American roots music, but the eight current members also incorporate Caribbean, Gypsy Jazz, African and Central Asian influences into their performances.
That’s the way the octet’s leader, Wade Schuman, likes it. “Music is a place where people of all differences and all ages meet. That’s the glory of music,” he said.
The New York City-based group will bring its eclectic mix of musical influences to Broome County on Friday (Nov. 4) for a 7:30 p.m. concert in Binghamton University’s Anderson Center. The concert is part of the university’s Jazz Series.
Hazmat Modine takes its name from “hazmat,” aka “hazardous material,” and Modine, which is a brand of heating device. Since its formation in the late 1990s, the group has performed in more than 40 countries, earning rave reviews along the way.
“This is a New York band that has achieved the tour de force, by itself, of representing the entire history of American music: A vast musical melting pot in which all genres merge to form one!” Dominique Boulay wrote in Move & Blues Magazine France.
“Whilst touchstones abound, and lashings of blues, New Orleans-flavored jazz and funk, Calypso, Balkanova, Klezmer, Gypsy Jazz and African grooves are thrown in the crucible, what comes out is entirely original and intoxicating,” Rhythms magazine of Australia noted.
Hazmat Modine’s membership has varied over the years and has featured not only performers on guitar, drums, and sax but also musicians playing exotic instruments such as cimbalom and bass marimba. The current eight members play a variety of instruments including harmonica, drums, guitar, banjo and violin. There is also a full horn section.
Schuman, with his raspy voice, is the group’s lead vocalist. He also has written the band’s original material along with Erik Della Penna, who plays guitars and banjo guitar, as well as performing some vocals.
Schuman grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., listening to the blues, early American roots music and the pop music of the day. Another major influence was West African music, which he calls “some of the most vital music around today.” It’s hard to over-estimate the influence of this music on American rhythm and blues, he said.
Members of the group come from different musical backgrounds and range in age from their 20s all the way to 70. This age range is not typical of most bands, Schuman said. But he believes it’s an important element of Hazmat Modine’s music.
“Music should go across all ages. It shouldn’t be segregated based on age,” he said.
When someone leaves the band, Schuman deliberately looks for someone younger as a replacement. He believes this diversity helps Hazmat Modine’s music cut across many different categories and appeal to listeners of all different ages. “I hope our music brings joy and some form of spiritual substance,” he said.
IF YOU GO: Hazmat Modine will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 4) in Binghamton University’s Anderson Center Chamber Hall as part of the university’s Jazz Series. Tickets at $15 and $20 are available through the Anderson Center website, www.binghamton.edu/anderson-center (click on upcoming events) or by calling the box office at 607-777-2787. There will be a free pre-show master class on stage at 5 p.m.