Who are Blue Number 9 and what does their music sound like? Well, try to think of all the local bands you’ve seen in your life, take one member from each band and there you have it: some R&B here, some rock ‘n’ roll there and a dash of everything else in the middle. Their album, Let’s Find a Way, is 16 tracks of garage-born style jams expertly crafted into songs. Tracks like opener “It’s All Good” and “Spite Spite” make one think of that funky high school band that had you cutting a rug and biting your lip all night at the senior prom. Songs like “The Dog Days” give you that loose, shoulder-swaying feeling you get from the rock group at happy hour after a long Friday of work.
Let’s Find a Way will appeal to listeners who like their music with lots of groove and minimal flash. This ideal can be summed up, both in title and technique, by Blue Number 9’s cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s “Sing a Simple Song.” The septet managed to make an originally ultra-funky composition accessible to AC music lovers without compromising the grit at its core.
This CD is truly a product of its principal songwriters, bassist Marco Accattatis, with his brilliant musicianship, and lead singer Stefanie Seskin, who mixes her airy, enthusiastic vocals with her carefree yet introspective lyrics. Add the exciting horn play of Chuck MacKinnon, Lily White and Rob Susman to the pot, and you’ve got 61 minutes of music just for chilling and smiling.
—Matthew Allen, Elmore Magazine
CD REVIEW - "Living It Up In The New World"
All Music Guide
from Pennsylvania Musician, "The Professor", September 2006
The Blair County Arts Foundation again presented the Summer Sounds of Jazz concert series on select Fridays at downtown Altoona‚s Curtin Mall. On July 28, New Jersey's blue number nine returned to dazzle a large audience with their bright blend of funk, jazz, R&B and pop sounds. Lead singer/flute player Stefanie Seskin and backing singers Camari Frame and Chris Vaindirlis blended for some bright and crisp harmonies; backed by tight grooves and sparkling musicianship from guitarist Luca Tozzi, bassist Marco Accattatis and drummer Jack Gourdine II. Highlights were numerous, as blue number nine performed original songs from their various albums. The group staged a limbo contest with audience members during their Latin-flavored "Dance Dance Dance;" Stefanie and Luca engaged in a flute/guitar duel during "Dig My Hands;" and Stefanie played the "Pied Piper" and led kids and audience members around the plaza during the group's closing number, "Love the Beat." Again, it was a remarkable performance, as blue number nine delivered a lively, entertaining show with stunning musical chops, choreographed movement onstage, enthusiasm and smiles. Look for this band to be back next year!
CD REVIEW - "Living It Up In The New World"
from Pennsylvania Musician, September 2006
(Check Other Records) Jersey City, New Jersey’s Blue Number Nine has been around for a full decade, forging their eclectic brand of jazzy, funky, upbeat, groove-infused music. Their latest album, “Living It Up In The New World”, offers a tasty cross-sectional representation of what all this band encompasses over its dozen tracks. Front and center throughout the album is lead singer, flute player and songwriter Stefanie Seskin, whose bright, expressive performance convincingly sells her thoughtful, observational and easy-to-digest lyrics. Complementing Stefanie is a stellar cast of musical talent; guitarist Luca Tozzi, bassist Marco Accattatis, and Jack M. Gourdine II on drums; also a corps of backing singers including Morgan Rose Fite and Amy Leeds, plus a horn section on several tracks. The tunes here offer a variety of flavors and moods, with something for nearly everyone. Listeners with the jones to cut the rug should enjoy the driving “Love the Beat” and the Latin-tinged “Dance Dance Dance” with its Miami Sound Machine flavor. Fans of instrumental fireworks and fusion will likely savor “Dig My Hands” (about gardening), “Castles” and the closing agitated 8-minute jam session workout “I’m In Debt.” For lighter and jazzier tones, there is “When I Wake Up,” and “Gimme More Time” offers a driving R&B flavor. Also present is Stefanie’s 9/11-inspired commentary “Never Felt That Way,” and her lighthearted account of a road-rage incident, “Turnpikes & Parkways.” All twelve tunes offer tasty and catchy melodies, smoothly executed with Stefanie’s spirited vocals and the group’s continually dazzling instrumental performances. Produced and engineered by Stefanie with Marco at Concussion Studios in Jersey City, “Living It Up in The New World” displays nice balance between the various components of Blue Number Nine’s sound; and the arrangements are varied and diverse enough to keep things interesting throughout. The bottom line – “Living It Up In The New World” offers ear candy with chops, and is a pleasant, captivating, fun listen. Blue Number Nine is clearly living it up here, and the listener is welcomed inside to enjoy the party. (The CD can be obtained through Blue Number Nine’s website, www.bluenumbernine.com.) —reviewed by Jim Price
Eclectic blue number nine has Morris dates this week
BY ROBERT HICKS
Stefanie Seskin has always imagined herself following a path leading to a music career.
Her band blue number nine will perform on the Morristown Green Thursday in the Arts Council of the Morris Area's "Midday Music on the Green" series, and at CaféArabica in Morristown Friday.
"We'll do very different sets for each show," she said from her home in Jersey City. "The Morristown Green will be outside, so we'll probably play our more happy, friendly stuff. For Café Arabica, we'll play our favorites, but it will be more rock-oriented. We'll play a mix of stuff from our three CDs."
The current lineup for the two Morristown shows includes Seskin on lead vocals, flute and keyboards; Marco Accattatis on bass; Luca Tozzi on lead guitar; Jack M. Gourdine II on drums; and Morgan Rose Fite and Evie Nagy on background vocals.
The band is touring in support of its new CD, "Living It Up in the New World." The 12 tracks display a wide variety of musical styles with a lyrical emphasis on humor and politics.
"I'd say this CD focuses on heavy, sarcastic or funny songs," Seskin said. "Our previous CDs were a lot more positive in terms of lyrical content. We were more about self-empowerment, being happy and doing love songs."
Seskin grew up in Willingboro, near Philadelphia. Encouraged by her parents and maternal grandfather, she played flute from age 9. Her parents were first-generation immigrants. Her dad came from the Ukraine and her mother from the West Indies. School kids often taunted her about her mixed heritage.
Her grandfather Fred Skeritt played saxophone with Machito's Afro-Cuban Orchestra in the 1940s. She remembers visiting him, hearing him play clarinet in his room and listening to Latin jazz with him at his house in Jamaica, Queens, in New York City.
"It was the suburbs. Every third house looked the same, but we had a great public school system with a great music program," she said of her hometown. "My parents broke up when I was 11. I was considered a kind of weirdo at school, but very, very smart. I excelled quickly in music."
She attended the University of California at San Diego with the idea of becoming an oceanographer, but her interests soon turned back to music. She dropped out of college, though, to pursue a modeling career in Italy. After returning to the States, she pursued a solo music career without success.
She returned to college to take a bachelor's degree in liberal arts and a master's degree in media studies at the New School in New York City.
Frustrated by her lack of success as a solo artist, she decided to form blue number nine in 1995 in Jersey City. She has spent the last decade dealing with personnel changes in the band, touring, recording and with writing and co-writing songs.
"I just try to be aware of what's going on in the world without being preachy," she said of her songwriting. "I like to write about things that people can relate to in a funny way. I like to write lyrics that make sense, are clear and have meaning."
The band has always devoted itself to benefits for the North Jersey Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It will do two Light the Night Walk benefit concerts for the organization in October. The first will be at Brookdale Park in Montclair Oct. 7 and the second at Horseshoe Lake in Succasunna Oct. 15.
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BLUE NUMBER NINE
Trying to describe blue number nine to someone who has never experienced them as a live act is a tall order. So much of what happens on stage -- the callisthenic choreography of three women vocalists, the tambourine acrobatics, the turn-on-a-dime flute solos -- are so engaging that the music; an eclectic stew of sounds squarely rooted in 70s funk/soul finds itself unintentionally pushed into a secondary role. Which is a shame because the tunes, mainly written by front woman Stefanie Seskin, have been over the course of 3 albums and 5 years, very well-crafted. I have long been a fan of Seskins writing style which brings equal measures of social consciousness and a sense of humor into the groove.
On Living It Up In The New World, the third studio offering by the North Jersey-based blue number nine, the arrangements are tight, the horns provide rabbit punch punctuation in all the right places, and the range of styles is more eclectic than on their prior recordings. Quite simply, sonically, Living It Up is the best record blue number nine has delivered.
It is also indicates something of a departure from their earlier efforts in that this is not quite the party record their first and second discs were. The first two tracks aside which are more of a piece with their earlier records, this record took more time to fully appreciate. Attribute this to the more contemplative nature of the songwriting. But, like so much in else life, patience has its rewards.
Songs that didnt immediately grab me have in fact become the standouts. In particular, When I Wake Up is one of Stefanies most engaging songs yet. Without trying too hard to be lyrically clever, she delivers straight from the heart. When I Wake Up settles into a classic midtempo groove, driven by the bass line provided by Marco Accattatis (truly one of the greatest bassists youve never heard of), and moves through the kind of sophisticated chord changes and modulations that lock you in. And the payoff is a lovely flute solo by Seskin in the place one would expect either a guitar break or horn improvmoment. This is the kind of soul music that, had it been released 30 years ago, would have found major chart success. Oh radio, where is the love? (Actually, bn9 would have sounded great in a song cluster featuring the likes of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway.)
The Lucky Ones is another beauty where Stefs everywoman character literally to misses the bus but keeps on pushing on faith that her ship will come in. Dance, Dance, Dance is just pure fun and moves the band toward a sound that recalls Gloria Estefan in her best period, the Miami Sound Machine days from the 70s. And then theres the CDs closer, Im In Debt where the band rocks out while Stefanie ponders how, no matter how deep she goes, there is always some institution eager to pitch her an even bigger credit lifeline. True to life when youre living it up in the real world.
When Blue Number Nine performed at the Blair County Arts Festival back in May, I only was able to witness ten minutes of their performance before having to depart for work. When the group had mentioned that they were returning to the area in July, I made a point of adjusting my schedule in order to catch a full show.
The setting was Altoonas Curtin Mall, for the Summer Sounds Of Jazz Friday evening concert series, with proceeds helping out the Blair County Arts Foundation and Altoona Community Theater. The performance itself was free, with mixed drinks and beer available and Clems Ribs and other food items for sale. And the musical entertainment, of course, was New Jerseys Blue Number Nine.
These gals and guys were excellent! I arrived just as they were ending their first set, but did get to see guitarist Luca Tozzi fire off an incredible lead solo in the waning moments of the sets last song. Intermission enabled me to order up some Clems ribs and procure a strategic seating spot to witness the second and third sets from.
A good crowd was on hand to take in the show. This was encouraging, and bode well for the future of this particular outdoor live music event to continue in downtown Altoona. I touched base with the production contingent of Tom and Casey from Freelance Audio, who indicated their amazement with what Blue Number Nine had shown the Altoona audience thus far.
Soon Blue Number Nine returned to the stage to commence their second set, doing so with a tasty rendition of Carole Kings I Feel the Earth Move. Singer/flutist Stefanie Seskin, backing singers Morgan Rose Fite and Christine Vaindirlis, the aforementioned Luca Tozzi on guitar, drummer Jack Gourdine II and bassist Marco Accattatis performed a blend of pop, funk, jazz and blues-flavored sounds, incorporating luscious vocal harmonies, tight musicianship, choreography and a warm, fun vibe. The group continued with the lightly funky Take It All the Way, and Stefanie showcased her flute abilities on When You Are Down. Stefanie then introduced a song from Blue Number Nines just released new album, Living It Up in the New World, called Dig My Hands. After a funky, hard-driving number, the group launched into Stevie Wonders Living In The City, with Morgan singing lead. The other backing singer, Christine, got to showcase her lead singing abilities on the following tune, Call to Freedom. The jazz/funk-leaning song Make Believe featured the ladies demonstrating some cool choreographed dance moves, and Luca Tozzi blazing yet another stunning guitar solo as the tune built to a crescendo. Blue Number Nine then did a version of Steve Winwoods Higher Love, followed by more original numbers, including Youll Know What to Do, and Love the Beat from the new album to conclude the show.
As I said, this band was amazing! Stefanie, Morgan and Christine sang like birds, harmonizing smoothly and tastefully on each number, and keeping the vibe friendly and upbeat. On the instrumental end, Jack and Marco combined for soulful, in-the-pocket rhythms that supported and carried each number along; while Luca frequently dazzled with his stunning guitar abilities this cat could work those frets! The crowd was clearly digging the sounds, and the applause steadily grew after each song. At shows end, a number of new fans stepped up to the stage to purchase copies of the groups CDs; obviously Blue Number Nine had expanded their Altoona fan base this night!
Count me in as one of the new fans; I thoroughly enjoyed my first full look at Blue Number Nine and what they brought to the stage. According to Morgan, more local dates are likely within the year, including a possible State College show soon. And based on the response they received this night, I think it is a good bet that the Altoona area hasnt seen the last of Blue Number Nine watch for them, and check them out when they return to the neighborhood!
Jersey-based Blue Number Nine brings hard-to-define sound to Appleton
By Jim Lundstrom
Every trepidation Stefanie Seskin had about starting a band has come to fruition.
I didnt want the headache of running a band, dealing with that human resources management side of things, she said.
But after playing bass in other peoples bands, the songwriting/flute-playing Seskin needed an outlet for her music.
I was going out and performing myself to background tracks. I would sing along and play the flute, which wasnt very satisfying, she said.
A band was the inevitable next step.
I eventually went against my better judgment and put ads out. People responded to the ads, she said.
The result is the Jersey City, N.J.-based Blue Number Nine, the groove-happy R&B band Seskin has fronted as songwriter/vocalist/flute/sax player and human resource manager since 1995.
The band comes to the area for two shows in its first Midwest tour, beginning with Toms Garage Saturday night and at Bayfest in Green Bay on Sunday afternoon.
Those two shows are part of 11-day Midwest tour, which will be the bands first real road test after nearly a decade of performing in the greater New York metro area.
Weve done three or four days, but this is the first time weve ever gone for 11 days straight, Seskin said. Were very much looking forward to it.
The band is touring behind the release of its latest CD, Living It Up In the New World.
Its a very cynical title. I was feeling very cynical about the whole process of recording a new CD, Seskin said. But I feel better about it now. The band sounds great.
And it does sound great, with Seskins seductive vocals bouncing on top of funky, soulful grooves.
We definitely have an impossible-to-pin-down sound, she said. I think thats good. The record business doesnt like it. If they cant put you in a category, they dont know who to market it to, which is silly.
Seskins original concept was a female band that concentrated on vocal harmonies.
I wanted to put together a band with a keyboard and guitar player who sang, but I could never find females who sang, which is what I wanted, so I went with two backup vocalists, she said. Theres been a lot of turnover there.
But things are good for the band now, she said.
The rhythm section and I get along really great, she said. Were all on the same page musically as well as personality-wise and politically and spiritually. That is the first time ever the band has had that.
The rhythm section includes drummer Jack M. Gourdine II, who joined in 1996; bassist Marco Accattatis, who has been a member since 1999; and Luca Tozzi, who just recently signed on as guitarist, the third lead guitarist in the bands 10-year history.
Tozzi stepped in when the previous guitarist quit just as the band was readying Living It Up In the New World for release.
We can do stuff without a manager and label and publicist, Seskin said. But we cant do stuff without band members. That part has been making me crazy of late.
Seskin hopes the bands first real road trip will solidify things even more.
Almost everyone in the band, this is what they want to be doing for real in their lives, she said. Were all hoping to develop a following so we can return and play bigger and better venues.
Jim Lundstrom can be reached at 920-993-1000, ext. 374, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Revamped group breaks in new members at the Whiskey Bar
After last year's pinnacle of tour gigs, the band has seen half of its members replaced with new blood. This year, they hope to top their previous success with a full line of shows that stretches from New York City to Chicago as well as tentative dates in Europe and beyond.
Playing in front of a large audience at the Whiskey Bar, lead singer Stefanie Seskin kept the band on a karma-like journey of friendship and happiness.
Indeed, the repertoire of Blue Number Nine can do just that - mellow you out, hang a smile across your face and, no matter how hard you resist, urge every limb of your body to get up and slide across the dance floor.
Bassist Accattatis drops rock-solid grooves that's keep the music moving and are reminiscent of such greats as John Entwistle (The Who) and Les Claypool (Primus).
Meanwhile, new members Morgan Rose Fite and Nedge Guercin compliment the rhythm of the band with harmonizing vocals that accentuate Seskin's luring lyrics. Fite recently joined the band after a solo tour in Mexico where she performed in night clubs singing with a jazz trio.
New guitarist Luca Tozzi has an eccentric style that crosses that of Jimi Hendrix and Joe Pass. Jack Gourdine steadies the band on the drum kit.
Seskin and Accattatis have a house in Jersey City complete with a practice room and recording studio - home to the band's very own record label, Check Other Music.
"We just recorded our sixth album less than a month ago," said Seskin, who will produce the entire record in their basement studio along with Accattatis. "We've got some new band members who have some serious talent, and the new CD is going to kick ass."
Playing an original mixture of soulful funk with a '70s-type rock bend, Seskin believes that the band has a new look and the energy needed to get where they want to be - playing music full time.
Ready to hit the road
Blue Number Nine had been touring regionally since 2001. Before that they played locally while honing their sound and stage show. The band just finished recording their third album, as yet unnamed, which is due out sometime in May.
"It has been a long road to get to this point," said Seskin, who wanted to quit the whole thing after two of the band's core vocalists moved away. "Besides gigging and endless practices to ensure those gigs are flawless, we put tons of time into our recording and production of albums. Sometimes it takes its toll."
With a revitalized attitude and a fresh group of young and talented musicians, Seskin has put her previous sentiments on hold and back to the forefront of aggressive and ambitious bands on the local circuit. In fact, in recent months the band has secured numerous agents who feel it is time to move band beyond its previous successes.
"Marco has really stepped up and has been fiercely pursuing further bookings at music venues and luring in agents," said Seskin.
Accattitis and Tozzi are both natives of Italy, and the band is planning a tour of their homeland later this year with help from one of their new, European-based agents. Tour dates for the UK as well as Japan are also being considered. Gourdine was born in Okinawa and figures to be an asset when the group finally hits Asia.
"It's really unfathomable. The transformation that can take place from one year to the next," said Seskin. "When you're first get into music, you think nothing can deter you from your goals, and then as time goes by you begin to wonder. But in the end it all goes back to never giving up and pursuing your love - I think that is something every musician understands and ultimately relies on."
In the end, just like everything else, timing is everything, and Blue Number Nine hopes their time rapidly approaching.
For more information on Blue Number Nine visit www.bluenumbernine.com.
©The Hudson Reporter 2005 TOP
Good Times Magazine, August 2004 TOP
Some soul, funk and a growing following
THE JERSEY JOURNAL, Friday, March 12, 2004
Their act is hot, hot, hot in Cleveland.
And they bring down the house in Buffalo, packing night clubs with relative ease.
Well, as they often proclaim on "The Sopranos": Fugghedaboutit!
And that drives Stefanie Seskin, the band's founder and leader, simply bananas.
"It's really hit or miss around here," Seskin complained during my recent visit to her home/studios, a wood-frame structure adorned with bright red aluminum siding in Jersey City's Heights section.
"I believe live music venues aren't doing well around here," she said. "It seems there's more interest in how much (money) the band brings in rather than the quality of the music."
But, take heart, my public. Here's a chance to redeem yourself.
The band, which has called Jersey City home since its beginnings in 1995, will perform tomorrow night during a champagne gala at the 15th annual Cathedral Arts Festival at Grace Church Van Vorst in Jersey City. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 at the door.
Seskin said it's going to be a three-set gig - which means the band will perform more than 55 songs over the course of four hours.
Seems like it would be far too draining for the average person, but for Seskin, who possesses a frenetic energy that bounces off walls, it should be a breeze.
During my visit, she ushered me in with lightning speed and led me down a precarious flight of stairs to Blue Number Nine's musical dungeon. A rubber duck hanging above the entrance offers advance warning to "duck" your head because of the low ceiling.
"Can you believe a 6-foot, 4-inch teenager used to live in a room down here?" Seskin asked, her eyes dancing around the dimly lit room.
Since the start of Blue Number Nine - a name Seskin conceived after discovering one of her old blue soccer jerseys (with the number 9 attached) - this basement has been the band's nerve center. Where the band has cut three albums, their latest, "On a Shoestring," in 2003. Where Seskin has done the work she loves the most: arranging and producing songs.
Seskin's affinity for musical styles is all over the map: funk, rock, jazz, rhythm and blues, and even Motown tunes have found a place in Seskin's extensive repertoire.
"Why pick one thing?" the flutist and lead vocalist reasons.
The band's range of music appears fitting since the band itself is a study in diversity.
Seskin, a Willingboro native, said she's the product of a "mixed" background. Her husband, Marco Accattatis, who plays bass, is from Pisa, Italy. Jack Gourdine II, the drummer, was raised in Okinawa, Japan. Two background singers, Camari Frame and Sheila Connors, are from Detroit and Buffalo, respectively. The sole Jersey City native is Sal Carubba, who was tapped to be the band's guitarist about three months ago.
"Diversity is what I believe in," Seskin said. "I like to be around different types of people. It's neat to kind of put everybody in a pot and look at what you stir up."
Sometimes, Seskin said, the diversity mix is a bad thing. Attitudes among members rear their ugly heads and boil over into fiery confrontations.
"We had a fight the other night," Seskin recalled. "Marco was pulling out of a song that I thought we were going to do. And I just screamed out, 'I quit!'"
And once Gourdine, the drummer, got his walking papers after a fallout.
"He was being inconsistent and pretty moody," Seskin deadpanned.
He soon returned.
Nonetheless, Carubba, the guitarist, said Blue Number Nine is easily the most professional band he's ever belonged to.
"It's just good to be involved with people who actually give a crap," he said. "Being in it has made me raise my bar a bit."
Each band member holds down other jobs to keep afloat financially. Seskin works three days a week in the photography department of a television network she'd rather not disclose, designs Web sites and tutors kids to prepare for the language portion of the SAT. Carubba is employed as a local independent contractor, while Accattatis gives private music lessons.
"I've always tried to stay in the music realm. I don't care if I had to scrub floors at Tower Records," Accattatis joked.
Gourdine, who lives in Bayonne, has been unemployed since being laid off by a New York-based distribution center shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Making things worse, he recently broke his foot after slipping on a patch of ice.
Gourdine's streak of bad luck hasn't been detrimental to the band, which Seskin says is in a good space at the moment. It's backlogged with bookings for months, including gigs at a casino in Niagara Falls and at Hogs and Heifers, a New York City pub.
Carubba said he's anxious to get people moving to their hip current tracks as well as retro, 1970s-style grooves.
"I'm always excited when I see bodies doing this," he said, bobbing his head back and forth like a snake.
Jeff Theodore writes a column about entertainment and culture. He can be contacted at email@example.com and (201) 217-2419.
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