The JAB frontman Jam Alker was showcasing his punk-blues aesthetic for major labels on the Chicago club circuit just a handful of years ago. With the world at his fingertips, he swapped his guitar for the needle and disappeared for nearly a decade.
In 2014, the birth of his daughter finally flipped the life or death switch and he began treatment. An arduous journey of detox and song-writing therapy laid the foundation for his debut LP, Sophrosyne.
Tom Stukel, Terry Byrne, Ryan Herrick, and Alex Piazza—all seasoned, dynamic players—collaborate with Jam on blue-collar thinking-man’s music, delivered with grit and transparency.
The result is the bluesy, post-classic rock, modern sludge rock record CONSUME. With bite-sized versions of Led Zeppelin’s monstrously thick-grooved riffs, the sensibilities of a Black Keys album, and an often-deep southern melody, CONSUME is the darkest feel-good record in years.
The JAB released its first single “RIOT” on Dec. 13, 2019, and will be touring throughout 2020 in support of the release of CONSUME on Feb. 4, 2020.
Many would say that Jam Alker did this whole thing backwards. As the story usually goes, a meteoric music career comes crashing down when drugs enter the picture. Instead, Jam’s battle with addiction only fueled his musical skills.
In recovery is where Jam first started putting guitar melodies to his painfully addictive experiences, being a way to deal with the ugliness that he knew he needed to escape from. Through his songs, Jam began to share the story of his demise and renewal with fellow addicts, exploring the soul-wrenching despair that compels bad decisions, turning away from judgment and condemnation, and imbuing them with compassion and hope. Jam’s painfully honest diatribe culminated in his first solo record, Sophrosyne, released in 2017. Today, he’s expanded his musical circle to form The JAB, whose highly calibrated blend of loose-limbed and tightly textured riffs, and Jam’s gutshot vocals, akin to Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, are a celebration of redemption that is inspiring, and fearless.
“A Train”: Bass
Alex Piazza is the southern slice of The JAB pie, born and raised in Louisiana. Beginning at the tender age of six, he picked up the double bass and trombone in both jazz and classic ensembles because music ran through the blood of his family and his home state. From college into adulthood, he played bass with the award-winning Ghost Town Blues Band and various other projects, before heading to Chicago to pursue a more electrifying music scene. He earned a master’s degree in Jazz Trombone, yet his musical sensibilities and creativity have continued to vary, as he’s performed in musical theater pits, in afro beat ensembles, and with hip hop producers, singer songwriters, and various other groups, such as the Carl Wolf Big Band and the Memphis Jazz Orchestra.
Ryan Herrick’s sojourn as a musical troubadour and spiritual seeker has brought him from the mountains of Vermont to the foothills of Chicago’s skyscrapers and the whispering grasses of a South Dakota Indian Reservation.
He’s known in the band for his long, lush locks, and his intense spiritual focus, which imbues the music with a healing and uplifting spirit. “Everything I do, every direction I take is in service of the divine spark I see in all of humanity,” Herrick says.
He’s also coined the phrase “kundalini spike,” which the band works hard to use often. He also focuses on his own solo efforts, a percussive blend of Americana, Roots Rock, Folk, Celtic, and Indian Raga, intricately woven with his passion for mysticism and conscious awareness.
“T-Bone Stukes”: Drums
When Tom was 10 years old, he met who he thought was the coolest person he’d ever known—his teenage sister’s boyfriend, who was the drummer in a band. After seeing just one performance, he was hooked—that was all it took. But he was too restless to sit for conventional drum lessons—he wanted to learn rock and roll, and he thought the only way to do it was to teach himself by ear. So he did. He joined his first band at the age of 14—an otherwise all-female group that played Duran Duran and Prince covers. But soon his tastes grew heavier—Iron Maiden, Metallica, Anthrax, which then led him to the work of more tasteful drummers: Stewart Copland, Neil Peart, Omar Hakim, and Steve Gadd. Since then he’s played in myriad bands of diverse genres, all while cultivating a high school teaching career. “I’ve always loved to help people, and teaching is a rewarding way to do it.” With The JAB, he says he’s merged his two passions: playing drums and helping people. “It is the best of both worlds together.”
“Sweet T McGee”: Guitar,
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say, and Terry Byrne’s musical prowess is by no small means informed by his many near brushes with death. On the day he was born, his doctors claimed it a miracle he survived severe complications from pneumonia. From that day forward, he’d tempt fate—first in highly physical sports such as boxing and football, and later as a full-blown alcoholic, told many times that he shouldn’t still be alive.
Through it all, of course, was a love of music, instilled in him by a large and bawdy Irish family. He says, “Even as a kid I saw how happy music made people, and how happy it made me. I felt a strong connection to the power music had to influence and bring people together”. And so he picked up every instrument he could find: the piano, the guitar, the banjo, tin whistle and harmonica, setting him up to be the multi-instrumentalist The JAB sorely needed.
After his umpteenth attempt at recovery is where he finally met Jam—a fateful encounter that seems as impossible as any romcom’s “meet cute.” Jam wasn’t supposed to start speaking at that hospital that day—Terry was supposed to leave. But they both ended up in the same place at the same time. Jam was looking for a new member of the band and asked Terry if he was into it.
Along with his time with The JAB, he also works tirelessly, playing solo shows virtually every weekend in the Chicago area and holding close to his recovery. “I know I’m doing what I was always meant to do. Music was always the only thing that ever made sense.”