Meet Nutty, the LA jazzers tackling the classic rock catalogue

“Nutty is important to us because it’s uniquely ours,” says band leader Sonny Noon. “It’s creative and it brings two great genres together: classic rock and classic jazz.”

You heard that right: classic rock and classic jazz. In one band. And it works.

Nutty began life as a lounge project named Chase Lounge and the Lazy Boys, and over the years evolved into something entirely different: a jazz band who tackled classic rock covers. They took on a new name, Nutty – named in tribute to Jerry Lewis’s The Nutty Professor – and released a debut album, Spiked Rock Classics From A Cool Cocktail Jazz Tumbler, in 2003. It included such magnificent mash-ups as The Reaper (We’ll Be Able to Fly), in which Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 classic was given a Dean Martin makeover, Paranoid Cat (think: Black Sabbath play bossa nova) and Back in Black, Baby! which took Aussie legends AC/DC in directions Angus Young must surely never have considered.

Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick is a fan.“He approached me about playing his wedding,” says Moon. “We decided not only to take the gig but to create a Kiss song for the show; we put Detroit Rock City together with Wes Montgomery’s Four On Six and retitled it Four On Kiss. After playing the song in the first set, I jokingly said to Gene Simmons, “I hope we didn’t fuck your tune up too much,” to which he quipped, “I came twice.”

A second studio album, Jetsetter Jazz, followed. It followed the same formula: the songs of Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, Neil Young, The Moody Blues, Jethro Tull, Aerosmith and more were skilfully blended with the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Lalo Schifrin, Chet Baker, you get the idea.

And now the band have instigated an IndieGogo campaign to finance the completion of a third album, Live Art The Purple Pit.

“The costs associated with finishing the record are considerable,” says Moon. “And we need help. With licensing and post production, artwork, promotion and distribution, we decided to reach out through IndieGoGo to raise the funds we need to get the project finished. We’re a little past half way through the campaign, and we still need more than half of our determined budget.”

“We love to hear people tell us that they enjoy a rock song they never really liked before until they heard our version, or how they get through traffic or a long drive with Nutty blasting on their car stereo,” he adds. “But the two compliments that validate us most are that our arrangements are mind-blowingly clever and that we are engaging from start to finish. This is what keeps us going.”

How do you choose the songs you cover?

It begins with instinct and inspiration. It could be a title mashup, like That Old Black Magic Woman, or a rock riff that gels well with a jazz riff or hearing a Latin groove on some straight 44 pop rhythm and taking it from there. Some of our songs pay homage to a jazz innovator, using several quotes from the artist’s jazz repertoire, cats like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk (who, by the way, is our droll reference for a Monkees tune).

And this has expanded to a rock band tribute, where we use several quotes from the rock band, like our new Doors tune. Sometimes our songs come together effortlessly, and other times, it’s a real challenge. And that other oddball thing we like to do is we change the title of each song to reflect the rock and jazz “blends” we create, i.e. Pleasant Valley Monkday, Magic Trane Ride, Purple Panther and the Santana tune I previously mentioned.

Tell us more about the Indiegogo campaign.

We’ve got some nice band swag as pledge perks, and I’d like to add a vinyl run of this record if there’s enough interest. A special perk we’re offering is to create a one-time arrangement of any backer’s personal favourite song and record it just for them, something that is most relevant to Nutty’s métier. Another is to play somebody’s event in the local area. We’d do it anywhere if travel wasn’t a consideration.

With a little word of mouth, we hope to attract more awareness from both the pop/rock and jazz worlds. Support us in what we do, which is to make jazz FUN using classic rock as its mate.

What’s the band’s plans for the rest of 2018?

More songs in the works. More club gigs, parties and festivals. Los Angeles limits us and our potential. It’s time for us to expand our horizons and play the rest of the world. I’m originally from London, and I can’t help thinking we’d kill it over there in the UK, Europe and beyond. I’d like to find a rep who knows the route and then roll the dice.

Support Nutty’s campaign at Indiegogo.

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Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.