The definition of an “escaper” is, “one who escapes confinement.” Founded in 2016, the Brooklyn-based post-rock/space-funk fusion quintet, known as Escaper, strive for a sound without limits. Guitarist, Will Hanza, blends soaring melodies with funk-laced percussion rhythms, laid down by Andrew Nesbitt, over Jay Giacomazzo’s billowing bass lines, which weave through Adam Ahuja’s intricately trickled textures on keys, while Johnny Butler conjures sultry cries on the saxophone. The collective sound is a fusion of jam, jazz and rock riffs calling for a higher elevation of the spirit.

Set for a May 12, 2017 release on Ropeadope, their debut album, Skeleton Key, was fittingly engineered and co-produced by John Davis, the man behind Lettuce, Brad Mehldau and The Black Keys. Drenched in their wide spanning influences which include, Pink Floyd, Parliament Funkadelic, Deftones, John Coltrane and Sonic Youth, Escaper is hellbent on not being confined by a particular genre. Their biggest influences are those things that inspire one’s sensibilities about living in the moment–listening and responding–the two pinnacle characteristics of masterful improvisation.

Their sound has been described by Live For Live Music as, “a reckoning force of funky fusion music,” which is attributed to each member’s distinctive musical background. Will Hanza has been playing along the jam circuit, performing the past two years at Catskill Chill Music Festival and Philadelphia Folk Festival, while also sharing bills with the likes of George Clinton, Mike Gordon of Phish, moe., Greensky Bluegrass, Lettuce, The Hold Steady, Tauk, Cabinet and many more. Previously, the guitarist has been featured in Guitar World, Relix, the Village Voice and was recently endorsed by Eastman Guitars for his mandolin prowess.

Adam Ahuja comes from a jazz background with a history of performing as a national-touring keyboardist with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, where he has shared the stage with Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, Questlove of The Roots and others.

Although drums and percussion are Andrew ‘Nez’ Nesbitt’s first love, he’s also proficient at guitar, harmonica and vocals, and plays in Black Bear Tribe, The Morning Sea, Meghann Wright’s band and The Jacks of Kings County.

Bassist and composer Jay Giacomazzo  shares his genius with Black Atlas, Darkhorse and Kalen & The Sky Thieves, when night playing alongside Escaper. Giacomazzo’s shred skills have garnered him a endorsement by the prestigious Lakland Bass Guitars, alongside heavyweight players like Juan Alderete of The Mars Volta and Nick Harmer of Death Cab for Cutie.

Saxophonist, Johnny Butler, was an original member of Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds bringing a background in funk, soul and even punk rock to the table. He helped write and record tenor and baritone saxophone parts on 4, Beyonce‘s critically acclaimed record, has played with tUnE-yArDs at Central Park’s SummerStage in New York, and has opened for Stevie Wonder, The Avett Brothers, Dr. John, Fitz and the Tantrums, Counting Crows, moe., Soulive, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, and more. Together as Escaper, the band has shared the stage with notable acts such as Aqueous, Jimkata, G-Nome Project and label mates The Flowdown.

Skeleton Key was recorded live in a single day at the The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn, with all five band members playing together simultaneously, while in isolated rooms. Recording this way helped capture the great live synergy between the players which you can witness during their performances. Their live sets tend to be open with many in-the-moment improvisational aspects, and this essence was not lost during the studio recording of Skeleton Key. Bandleader and guitarist, Will Hanza, expresses, “The term ‘jam’ can be a loaded one, but the idea of having some concrete ideas, while still allowing the music to be open to take advantage of the moment is really important to us.”

The record has seven tracks, with a two-part fully improvised titular song, “Skeleton Key,” which opens the record and acts as the penultimate track. Skeleton Key as a whole evokes the idea that any door can be opened with improvisation as the key to to creativity; it is in this place in which one can break from all confinement and truly be an “Escaper.”

“Mutiny,” a spacey jam, is about realizing that you are confined by something, or someone, and thus revolt so that you may have free will, leading to “Lighthouse,” the next step reminding us that with freedom and an open mind, enlightenment is possible. Triumphantly, “Nightcrawler” has us travel through the dark with our newfound light, until we come across the mystical “Narwhal,” who helps us break through the icy layers of the sea to get to the open air, and provides us with the next “Skeleton Key,” the anchor to the Escaper ship. When all’s said and done,  the anchor is hoisted from the sea and the nautical craft escapes confinement from the water, lifting first into the sky, and continues into space and other worldly realms with “Castles” in the sky.

As Music Fest News hails, “This up-and-coming juggernaut blends together effortlessly with each member adding his own unique flavor. The band’s music alone draws you in, but it’s their connection to it and to each other that truly completes the package. Their passion oozes out of each and every note they play as they seamlessly take turns controlling the stage.”

Photography © Bryan Edward of Sobokeh. All Rights Reserved.


Tour Dates


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