February 7, 2013

Soul band heats up Winter Carnival

Former folk artist finds new voice in conversion to soul music


---- — SARANAC LAKE — Kat Wright’s dad is one of her favorite people to see live music with.

In her native Rochester, her father steeped her in classic rock and soul — the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor and Marvin Gaye.

“I’m a huge fan of early Bonnie Raitt, lots of blues, Billy Preston, a little bit of everything,” said Wright, who fronts the Indomitable Soul Band, performing Friday night at the Waterhole in Saranac Lake as part of Winter Carnival 2013.

In middle and high school, she was able to school her father on Medeski, Martin & Wood, Jazz Mandolin Project and Susan Tedeschi.

“We had a lot of music in the house, and we would go to see live music, James Taylor and Lyle Lovett, from a really young age,” Wright said.

Recently, she saw Charles Bradley, known as “The Screaming Eagle of Soul,” in Burlington and was impressed with him. 

“He’s really cool. He really moved me. He’s got this incredible story. He was a James Brown impersonator (stage name Black Velvet) for a while. Then, he ended up doing his own music. It really spoke to me because my group started off covering music,” Wright said.

Bradley, a Daptones Records artist, is the antithesis of 15-minutes-of-famers, hot one minute and gone the next.

“He’s an old guy, and he has so much passion and personality,” Wright said. “It’s just awesome.”

Her elementary-school violin training didn’t take, but Wright has always sung.

“I performed my first talent show at the age of 11 and continued to do stuff like that in college,” she said.

At Alfred University, she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in fine arts. While in college, she gigged at cafes, bars and private parties.

She and childhood friend Maggie Clifford formed the acoustic-folk duo Loveful Heights and toured through the state and Vermont. Radio Bean, located at 8 North Winooski Ave., was one of the duo’s regular Burlington venues.

“We loved it and had a very great experience with our audience,” Wright said. “Burlington is a music town. People here like music, and they’re very responsive. Each time we played, we made these wonderful connections with the people here.”

She made a special connection with Lee Anderson, Radio Bean’s owner, who has been her husband the past year and a half.

After relocating full-time to Burlington, she and Shane Hardiman (keys) started putting together the first incarnation of the Indomitable Soul Band. The present configuration is Josh Weinstein (bass), Dan Ryan (drums), Jake Whitesell (saxophone) and Max Bronstein-Paritz (guitar).

“I just wanted to be able to use my voice and invoke all the talent when I heard Nina Simone or Odetta singing,” Wright said. “I knew I had that in me, and I wanted to share that with people. It’s like the primal cry. I knew I had this thing in me, the knack to really touch people with my voice.”

Loveful Heights was more harmony-based, introspective and ethereal.

“I just wanted to use my voice to sing in a bigger way. I wanted to try singing with a bigger band. I wanted to break in a genre of music still deep and about expression and the things we experience in life. I wanted to make people dance.”

The timing was right for Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band. A coveted Thursday residency slot opened up at Radio Bean.

“This spot had been very popular. People had always come to Thursday night to hear the jazz. We took that spot and built a good repertoire. Two years later, every Thursday, it’s absolutely jam-packed every time. Every week, I look into the crowd, I see different people I haven’t seen before. It’s a relatively small club. The capacity is 100. It creates this amazing experience, and you’re swept up into the sea of music,” Wright said.

A Thursday night at Radio Bean: hot in temperature, people dance close, and drinks slosh on the floor. 

“People are having a really wonderful time,” Wright said. “We love to play all the other bigger clubs in Burlington, but there’s something special about being in a small room with 100 people hearing your music. They’re right there with you.”

Email Robin Caudell:

IF YOU GO WHO: Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band. WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday. WHERE: Waterhole, 48 Main St., Saranac Lake. ADMISSION: Between $5 and $10. For ages 21 and up. CONTACT: 891-9502