bio

sokoband

sokoband

Formed in 1990 as a piano/bass/drum trio playing the compositions of pianist Michael Sokolowski, Soko (formerly, "Third Ear") was, in a sense, a proto-jam band, exploring far-flung improvisation via jazz-influenced rock instrumentals. The band (Sokolowski, with Houston Ross & Johnny Gilmore on bass and drums, respectively) worked relentlessly, honing a sophisticated ensemble rapport where set lists and stock arrangements weren't needed and the trio felt free to disappear into the rabbit hole of the moment, musically reinventing itself every night and developing a strong relationship with its audience. For six years, it remained an underground or "best kept secret" kind of band within a very exciting and creatively fertile Charlottesville music scene. When hitting the road, Soko never failed to turn enthusiastic new listeners on to its fresh and compelling melodic grooves. Many artists sat in with the band, including many appearances by saxophonist LeRoi Moore, Stickist Greg Howard, percussionist Darrell Rose, and guitarist Tim Reynolds.

In 1997, the band released its debut CD, In November Sunlight, featuring guest appearances by members of Dave Matthews Band (Dave, LeRoi Moore, and associate guitarist, Tim Reynolds) -- friends of the band and fellow Charlottesville musicians. Because of this association, the disc achieved high sales numbers for an instrumental record. But from a performance and production standpoint, the recording failed to capture the band at its best.

The band disbanded in 1998, though Sokolowski and Ross remained close friends and musical partners. In 2000, the two began work on their follow-up recording, Two enlisting the help of many studio musicians to flesh out the textures and arrangements. Whereas Soko's music had previously been exclusively about Sokolowski's tunes, now Houston Ross began to collaborate as a writer, arranger, and singer. It took a long time, but in 2005, the CD was released. Though not a commercial success, the band believes it is a far superior musical offering to In November Sunlight.

Two pieces -- "Storyteller" and "Stella: Reflections" -- from Soko:Two were featured in filmmaker Jon Ezrine's dark and comic documentary, Son of a Bitch! (2007).

Most recently, the two musicians joined forces with formidable drummer, Nir Z (Genesis, Chris Cornell, Joss Stone, Jason Mraz and many others) to release a re-recording of In November Sunlight in an effort to render more definitive versions of their early material.

Sokoband was released in 2010, and included a bonus track of material from the Two sessions (and features the powerful saxophone playing of Charles Owens)

michael sokolowski

michael sokolowski

Michael has been performing and composing music for over 40 years (classical piano and violin throughout childhood and music composition studies with avant-gardist Robert Stewart in college). A former philosophy graduate student, he abandoned that path to study jazz improvisation both academically and by playing with the leading lights of the Virginia jazz scene in the 1980s. Appeared with the Tim Eddy Trio in legendary French film director Frederic Rossif's, Coeur des Musiciens in 1985. Since then, he has performed and recorded with DMB saxophonist, LeRoi Moore's Basics, Offering (with multi-instrumentalists TIm Reynolds and Worth Proffitt), Chapman Stick master Greg Howard, bassist Lenny Martin, trumpeter John D'earth, Dave Matthews Band, guitar virtuoso Tim Reynolds, among many others. Sokolowski's instrumental trio (with bassist Houston Ross and drummer extraordinaire Johnny Gilmore), Soko, was a vital part of Charlottesville's musical landscape for most of the '90s. The band, now with Nir Z as drummer, released its third CD in 2010.

selected discography

Michael Sokolowski & Tim Reynolds, Common Margins, Improvisations for piano and guitar - (Breezeway, 1992)

Soko, In November Sunlight - (Breezeway, 1996)

Worth Proffitt, Tim Reynolds & Michael Sokolowski, Offering - (Breezeway, 2000)

Michael Sokolowski, Monday - (Breezeway, 2001) solo piano

Proffitt/Reynolds/Sokolowski, Knitting Factory, NYC, 6/24/01, Live Offering - (BreezewayArchives, 2004)

Shannon Mier, On the Failure of Science to Understand My Spirit - (2003)

Soko, Soko: Two - (Breezeway, 2005)

Earth Bombs Mars, Earth Bombs Mars - (2008)

Voodoo Loons, Euphobia - (2007)

houston ross

houston ross

Playing bass since the age of six, world-touring bassist Houston joined his first band, The Kool Kats, doing blues, British invasion material, and R&B. In school he played in all the bands he could, playing for dances, shows, and other events. In the 70s, he began to play in Charlottesville area venues, working his way into the scene. Over time, Houston and drummer Johnny Gilmore became known for their incredibly tight rhythmic partnership, prompting LeRoi Moore to call them "the Sly and Robbie of Charlottesville." And to this day, the Houston & Johnny rhythm section is stuff of Charlottesville legend. Houston and Johnny have staffed the rhythm sections of The Basics, TR3, Triple feature, Alma Madre, Soko, and Corey Harris' 5X5. Houston has also held down the low end for Point of Departure, The Projects, Groovus Maximus, Cosmology, Burning Core, and American Dumpster.

selected discography

Corey Harris, Zion Crossroads - (2007)

Corey Harris, Daily Bread - (2005)

Corey Harris, Downhome Sophisticate - (2002)

Soko, Soko: Two - (Breezeway, 2005)

Tim Reynolds & TR3, Astral Projection - (1999)

Tim Reynolds & TR3, Puke Matrix - (1998)

Soko, In November Sunlight - (Breezeway, 1996)

johnny gilmore, 1964-2009

johnny gilmore

Soko's original drummer and principal drum performer during their years of playing live in the 1990s. A drummer blessed with world-class talent and resume, his rhythm section partnership with Houston Ross was the stuff of Charlottesville legend. Houston and "Johnny" (as he was affectionately known) not only powered Soko, but also TR3, The Basics (with LeRoi Moore), Alma Madre, Powerhouse Trio (with Jamal Millner), Corey Harris & the 5x5, Matthew Willner's Plutonium, and Matt Horn & Andy Rowland. His drumming on Soko's debut album, "In November Sunlight," was masterful and -- along with Houston's powerful and melodic bass playing -- was at the heart of that record. John loved the music and was a huge supporter of Sokoband's re-recording of the material and particularly enjoyed Nir Z's drumming contributions.

Having attended Berklee School of Music and studied with Tommy Campbell, John was a teacher as well as a virtuoso performer. He was drum instructor and musical inspiration to countless youth and adults, and a volunteer drummer at Bright Hope Baptist Church in Nelson County, Virginia. Johnny played unselfishly for numerous artists, including Fabulous Thunderbirds, John Medeski of Medeski, Martin and Wood, Tim Reynolds, David Fiuczynski of Screaming Headless Torsos, Meshell Ndegeocello, David Sanborn, The Chickenhead Blues Band, Christian Breeden, Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun, George Melvin, Rolly Gray & Sunfire, and Phatness.

selected discography

Tim Reynolds & TR3, Shifting Currents, (TR Music, 1991)

Tim Reynolds & TR3, Astral Projection (1999)

Tim Reynolds & TR3, Puke Matrix - (1998)

Soko, In November Sunlight - (Breezeway, 1996)

Corey Harris, Greens From The Garden (Alligator Records, 1999)

Corey Harris, Downhome Sophisticate (Rounder Records, 2002)

Corey Harris, Daily Bread (Rounder Records, 2005)