With Lettuce Members /Berklee alum, Adam Deitch and Erick “Jesus” Coomes
Summer 1992: Members from the band Lettuce attend a summer program at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The various musicians bonded over a shared love of legendary funk artists like Earth, Wind & Fire and Tower of Power before shortly parting ways. They would then return to Berklee as undergrads in 1994, and it was then “Lettuce” started playing in local clubs and steadily built up a following that soon extended to cities across the country and then throughout the world. The rest is history — five studio records, two “live” records (with Witches Stew being the latest) and a relentless touring approach that has resulted in an incredible and well-deserved “live” reputation.
October 2017: The Lettuce parade is still marching 25 years strong having released Witches Stew — a contemporary jazz fusion album that pays tribute to the late Miles Davis, one of Lettuce’s biggest and most beloved influences. An interpretive take on the historically experimental and lauded Bitches Brew era, Witches Stew is a collection of seven songs, handpicked by the band and was recorded at the 2016 Catskill Chill in Lakewood, PA.
Presently, the Lettuce is in the final stages of completing their three-month Beyond the Clouds tour to kickoff 2018. I had the chance to catch up with founding members and Berklee alumni, Adam Deitch (drummer) and Erick “Jesus” Coomes (bassist) to reflect on where it all began — back in the heart of Boston almost 26 years ago upon the sacred grounds of Berklee School of Music.
Artist Waves, Jeff Gorra:
Looking back at it now what did going to Berklee College of Music mean to you?
Adam: Berklee meant being thrown into an extreme talent pool of musicians and teachers from all over the world. It was a place to share what we’ve all learned on our own for the purpose of preparing ourselves for our futures in music as well as experimenting with new hybrid styles that were emerging at the time.
Jesus: Going to Berklee to me meant finding a doorway into the wide world of music. The amount of people that we met there that were as dedicated to finding the deeper meanings and inner-workings of the art form as we were was very encouraging. It also gave us the tools we needed to express ourselves. That being said being given a letter grade for a piece of art is the exact opposite concept of art 🙂
AW: Do you recall your decision to go there, getting accepted, and what your first year was like?
Adam: My parents both went to Berklee in the early 1970s. Their peers were Jamie Haddad, John Scofield, JR Robinson, Steve Smith, Tiger Akoshi and many more. The school was legend in my household and I always hoped I’d be accepted. My first year was the greatest growth in music, friendship and confidence I’ve ever experienced. I thrived and felt like a star quarter back in a football school.
AW: What do you feel are some of the biggest lessons you learned from Berklee?
Adam: I learned how to express myself by studying the worlds different musical cultures (Jamie Haddad), how to play drums in the most efficient and balanced way (Dave Discenso), to understand the nuance of time and how important a great groove can be (Kenwood Dennard/Jackie Santos), and I learned that treating people with respect can go a long way.
AW: Growing up, was it a place you always wanted to go?
Jesus: My father played trumpet through college and is now a music producer and performer. It was his dream to go to Berklee and I think from his perspective, being in the industry, he thought it would be very beneficial to deeply study all aspects of the field. I have to agree with him.
AW: We are Boston-based and find this community to be very special in terms of the arts and supporting each other. Was Boston an influential scene for you? How did this community play into your music endeavors?
Adam: Outside of school, it was all about the scene. So many clubs and house parties to play at. Wallys Cafe was THE place to be most of the week due to its HIGH level of seasoned pros who played there such as Lenny Stallworth and Jeff Lockhart as well as star (then) students like Mark Simmons and Ruben Rodgers.
AW: How did Berklee lead you to Lettuce?
Adam: The 5 week program in 1992 started the core of Lettuce. We entered our freshman year at Berklee like a real gang with a mission to FUNK!
AW: How do you feel Berklee influenced Lettuce?
Adam: We were around absolute MONSTER funk musicians like Chris Lotflin, John Blackwell and Lil John Roberts. We were forced to really deal with the reality that we HAD to get better as musicians and as a band to really make a mark in the world one day. Our teachers were all amazing and to hang with the other likeminded students was priceless!
AW: Looking at your record Witches Stew, do you feel your Berklee experience helped make your music so versatile in that… you now have a jazz record out?
Adam: Jazz is a huge part of our DNA as musicians. Berklee showed us the “wild side” of jazz that felt spiritual and exciting. We always wanted to find a unique place between the Funk and Jazz worlds.
AW: Can you take me inside the decision to tribute Miles Davis?
Adam: We worship Miles and are deeply inspired by his funky electric period. We wanted to play it live and record it, just for our own listening pleasure. Then the recording got into our tour crews hands and they fell in love with it and made sure we knew we had to put it out.
AW: What has his music meant to you?
Adam: Miles music, to me, means to evolve. As you experience life, your music should reflect those experiences. He was never afraid to move on to the next thing that called his soul. He was aware of so many different rhythms and grooves as well as melodies and chords. One of his last records was a Hip Hop album! That’s fearless!
AW: What are some key things you took from Berklee that you still carry with you in music and life today?
Adam: Be a perennial student. Always keep learning.
Jesus: Listen. Also, sing melodies and clap rhythms before you attempt the play them on another instrument.
AW: How would you complete this sentence… “If it weren’t for Berklee I would not …”
Adam: No Berklee, no me (my parents met there), and no Lettuce.
Jesus: If it weren’t for Berklee…I would not have the group of reliable friends and musicians we call ‘LETTUCE’.
Catch Lettuce on their Beyond the Clouds tour:
March 22 Huntington, NY @ The Paramount*
March 23 Port Chester, NY @ Capitol Theatre*
March 24 Port Chester, NY @ Capitol Theatre*
March 26 Hartford, CT @ Infinity Hall
March 28 Richmond, VA @ The National
March 29 Greensboro, NC @ Blind Tiger
March 30 Covington, KY @ Madison Theater
March 31 Covington, KY @ Madison Theater
*With support from Motet
For more information visit: LettuceFunk.com
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