"After we stepped off stage at the Trumpet Blossom Cafe, the room went dead silent as people were soaking in the music. We knew that we had to pursue this," says drummer Justin LeDuc of Jack Lion. "The three of us have played in bands for over a decade, but this is special. Playing that show was like becoming who I'm supposed to be." The electronic, jazz-inspired music of Jack Lion had energized the crowd. "People were coming up to us afterwards and telling us that we should quit our jobs to play in this band, that we were the best band they had heard in Iowa City, that it was one of the best shows they had ever seen!" recalls trumpeter and producer Brian Lewis Smith. "This is it. This is our passion."
After the departure of the guitarist from their band Slip Silo, remaining members LeDuc and Smith, along with bassist/vocalist Drew Morton, limped along under the former name until they took a band trip to the West coast in October of 2013. On Halloween, the three musicians clambered into a cab driven by someone they won’t soon forget. “ The driver was a major character, " explains Morton. "He had us laughing in the first ten seconds of the ride. He was a great storyteller, a genuine person, and expressed joy in his work. We thought that someone who left such a remarkable impression in such a short time deserved to be emulated through our music. So we came up with a name inspired by his and hold him as a symbol of what we want to sound like: truly free. I would love to find him some day and show him our music!"
Drawing on their formal jazz training and years of experience in the Iowa City music scene, the band is crafting a sound that is primarily ambient/electronic but influenced by improvised music. "I like to sample things onstage, and the band often improvises around the samples to create new sections of the song on the fly," explains Smith. "This gives the audience something unique every night and creates an interesting challenge for us."
Jack Lion’s latest recorded work, the K L EP, follows the successful release of their debut, the JAC EP, which was featured on the Play B-Sides Blog’s top 20 albums of 2014. The new EP was released by Goldie Records in San Francisco; it features four original songs written by Smith and Morton, and three remixes of “Way Down” by Ashwood Shephard, Bläp Dëli, and C Y G N, all artists associated with the Goldie label. “With a breadth of influences such as Miles Davis, ... Lapalux and Bjork,” writes one reviewer for the Charlie Cedar music blog. “Their sound encompasses an incredible range of musical diversity. From traditional jazz to more modern down-tempo beats, the experience of listening to a Jack Lion album is akin to watching fireworks on the 4th of July - awe inspiring, energetic, but most of all, spontaneous and unpredictable.” Other notable accomplishments by Jack Lion include recording a Daytrotter session, performing at the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City in both 2014 and 2015, recording a performance on IPR’s Java Blend program, playing at Dubuquefest 2015, and opening the Camp Euforia festival in 2015.
Jack Lion is Brian Lewis Smith on trumpet, keyboard, and production, Drew Morton on bass, keyboard, and vocals, and Justin LeDuc on drumset and SPDS.