Nominee – 1996 6th Annual LA Music Awards
Most groups tagged with the label “jam band” are associated with the ’90s hippie-rock revival, but the Wise Monkey Orchestra’s freewheeling improvisational grooves draw mostly from vintage soul, funk, and jazz. Originally formed in 1991 in Tempe, AZ, the group has long been centered around keyboardist Sean Hart, bassist Chad Stewart, vocalist Alley Stewart (née Bratcher; Chad’s wife since 1997), and trombonist/flutist Andy Geib (a onetime member of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra). The band formed its own One Drop record label and self-released an album called Time Capsule; in 1994, not long after Geib joined, they relocated from Tempe to San Diego, and the following year released their second album, Robot Reality. Numerous horn players, guitarists, and drummers had passed through WMO’s ranks by the time of third album It’s Alive. On 1998’s Make Believe, that supporting cast included guitarist Scott Homan, drummer Ed Fletcher, and conga player/trumpeter Tim Pacheco; saxophonist Dave Ellis guested on the follow-up, Pathways. In 2000, the Wise Monkey Orchestra finally struck a deal with the fledgling jam-band indie Lauan Records, which released the concert set They Live late that year; Ellis guested again, in a lineup that now featured guitarist Marty Schwartz and drummer Bruce Stodola. The following year, Lauan reissued Make Believe in a limited edition.