Shallow Green are an American prog band from New Jersey which formed in 2018 when drummer John Bonacorso began to fulfil his desire to form a prog band by teaming up with guitarist and vocalist Jack Mangan. After holding auditions, Steve Riccobono was then picked to play the role of bass player in the band to complete the trio. A couple of the months down the line, spurred on by an impulse to find something new, saxophonist Owen Larocca became the fourth member of the band which completes their current lineup. The band describes their sound as ‘true to classic rock n roll’ but with a blend of progressive influences – these influences include Rush, Genesis and King Crimson. No where is this most accurate than on their debut single, ‘Scarlet Hands’, that blends rock, funk and jazz to create a progressive offering that can be classed as prog/jazz fusion.
The rhythm section introduces the song, a solid beginning comprising of a fat bass sound and a syncopated drum groove. The guitar parts are then layered in, first with a sustained three note part that outlines the chords which nicely contrasts a funky strummed part – some added wah wah to this strummed part gives it a neat edge. The vocals and sax then join in, as the sax doubles the vocal melody for the most part. So far the band are in-keeping with their ‘classic rock n roll’ sound as the first section of the piece is a 12-bar blues; they keep it tight and clean, refusing to complicate or deviate from its ‘true’ sound. However, the songs abrupt change of tone is where the fun begins, a change signalled by a well disciplined fast ascending figure in unison which then descends into chaos – Bonacorso’s awesome drum fill that precedes this is another hint that the song is about to let loose. Larocca’s sax really stands out at the beginning of this instrumental section, as he makes it scream and wail, intensified by a delay effect that creates the ‘wall of sound’ that the band describes of their music. With chromaticism featuring highly and Larocca and Mangan each taking turns to solo, the rhythm section does an excellent job of holding down the music and maintaining the tonality amid this mayhem. A short, tasteful guitar solo from Mangan brings the song back to its 12-bar blues structure, a much more energised version compared to its cleaner sound at the beginning – the guitars are crunchier, the drum groove is more driven and the vocals are angrier. carrying the momentum of the previous chaos. When the sax melody is played for the final time, Riccobono’s wah wah effect on the bass, which this time doubles the sax melody, showcases the melody at its best for the final time. The band finish their piece with the same flurry of notes that took them into the instrumental section, making for a crisp end to a song that fuses rock, funk, jazz and prog.
‘Scarlet Hands’ is a solid first release that will make you yearn to hear more of what they have got to offer. On YouTube, they have videos that showcase some of their other original material yet to be professionally recorded – but hopefully will be. A particular video of interest is one shot with ‘Bloom NJ’, a collective featuring artists from New Jersey, in which the band perform ‘Scarlet Hands’ and another original called ‘The Soldier’ live. They aim to grow their following and to release new music within the next year – I hope they can fulfil this aim and treat us to more of their distinctive sound.
Written by Dominic Sanderson.
You can find Shallow Green on Instagram and Facebook. ‘Scarlet Hands’ is available on Spotify, Youtube and Apple Music.