As Springfield continues its slow yet steady infiltration of the world with homegrown musicians, few fellows have traveled as far and as much in as little time as 1994 Springfield High grads, Ranjit “Raj” Prasad and Steve Mitchell. According to a reliable source (Harry Mitchell, Steve’s dad and a respectable VP at Horace Mann), the two musicians, best buds since their Grant Middle School days, spent the last five years studying at the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music while cavorting with various musicians from all over Europe and other parts of planet Earth.
Bassist Prasad and a Serbian guitarist named Nemo founded an improvisational music group in 2004 and called it Neanderthal Alien after a T-shirt design by friend and fellow artist Ian Kandido. With German drummer Bernt Nellen and tenor saxophonist Rob Armus, they set out to feed a world hungry for impassioned, experimental, fun music. Mitchell, an unbeatable percussionist and friend of the band, joined during an American tour in December 2004; then, in the spring of 2005, Armus bowed out to take up residence in Paris. Later that year, Dean Bowman, a renowned vocalist from New York City, hooked up with the wandering minstrels, and they recorded a new CD during studio sessions in Poland (where did you expect?).
They just received copies of the disk, Coming Down, and are shopping their goodies to record labels hungry for talent. The group hit the States last week for shows in Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis; on Fri., Aug. 4, they land at Jazz Central Station (Hilton Springfield, 700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530) for a 10 p.m.-2 a.m. show. When asked in an e-mail interview to describe the music of Neanderthal Alien, Mitchell cooks up this concoction:
“Neanderthal Alien recipe: 1 cup rock; 1 cup jazz and world music; 1 bunch of Balkan, finely chopped; one bunch of gospel; 2 tablespoons Indian music; and a pinch of avant-garde for taste. Soak meat in this marinade for three years, then grill on high heat for three minutes on each side. Cook until the outside is crispy and the inside is still juicy and full of life.”
For a tasty sample, stop and sup at www.neanderthalalien.com.
Slaid Cleaves, one of Springfield’s favorite singer/songwriters, rolls into the Underground City Tavern, at the Hilton Springfield, on Tuesday, Aug. 8. I saw him at Merle Fest this year, and he still talks about his last visit to the UCT as one of his best shows ever. He’s got some terrific new songs to add to his stellar collection of Americana classics, and he’s still one of the best guys out there playing today.