By Terry Martin
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — On Monday nights, some of the most incredible musicians in the area meet at The Bull Run Inn’s Tap House, 605 Market St. for a musicians’ workshop which some have dubbed “The Musical Mash-up.” Starting at 6:30 p.m., musicians gather and conspire to decide what they are going to play and who they are going to play with. Normally there are several bass and lead guitarists, drummers and vocalists waiting in the wings for their turn. Throw in an occasional upright bass, harmonica or a dobro now and then, you have the makings for a “mash-up.”
The night starts out with three constant musicians who comprise the house band and are the sparks who ignite this musical blaze: Grammy Award-winning drummer Steve Mitchell, Chalie Holmes on bass and Tim Breon on guitar.
Mitchell is well-known for his Sunday Jazz Brunches, with Andy Seal and Greg Burgess, which he hosts at the Bullfrog Brewery, 229 W. Fourth St., Williamsport. Musicians are welcome and encouraged to sit in and play.
Last February, Mike and Lois Purcell, owners of Bull Run Inn (and adjacent Puirseil’s Irish Pub) in Lewisburg, attended one of Mitchell’s jazz workshops. They enjoyed it so much they approached Mitchell and asked, “How can we do this at our restaurant?”
The new musicians’ workshop — the musical mash-up — began at the Bull Run Tap House a year ago and has been jamming every Monday night since.
As the three core musicians start things off, musicians begin to roll in with their instruments. They form into small groups and plan sets with one another.
The musicians hail from Williamsport to out-of-state and all points in-between. Chris Trisatti, harmonica blower for The Frank Wicher Band and The Midlife Cowboys, travels from Pittman each week to attend. Having the opportunity to play for fun instead of for an audience is a real draw for the musicians.
So why was Monday night chosen for the workshop?
“Because many restaurants are closed on Mondays and it’s the one night of the week musicians normally have the night off,” Mitchell said.
“Now this is not an open mic in any way,” he added. “We don’t just let any egomaniac get up there and do his thing all night, because I won’t have it.”
“I first talk to musicians I don’t know and make sure they are the real deal,” he said, “or if Tim or Chalie knows them, then we invite them to sit in.
“They have the opportunity to play with some of the best studio musicians backing them and it’s a chance for all musicians to really see what they’ve got.”
They set the bar high, from Holmes playing lead guitar licks on his bass guitar to Kenny Jenkins playing his electric guitar with his teeth. The players often pull surprises. For instance, one night there were six musicians mostly known for their blues and rock music, playing when suddenly drummer Stu Shrawder started belting out a Frank Sinatra tune.
“My plan is that the various musicians who sit in will stick around to sing background vocals on other peoples’ songs,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully they will get to know one another and cross over the boundaries of country, jazz, R&B, rock, hip hop and swing ... hopefully hearing each other’s music, learning how to play it and broadening each other’s prospective.”
Mitchell mentally prepares for his gigs by chanting. “Silent meditation is my first joy,” he said, “but chanting gets my head in the right state of mind faster. Then I finish up with meditation.”
For more information call the Bull Run Inn at 524-2572 or head on over to www.bullruninn.com.