Ed Moon and the Stars orchestrating through the sky on a veil of smooth jazz and landing at Irregardless Cafe on Saturday. Either with groups or on his own, he has been playing jazz at Irregardless Cafe, as well as other venues, since the 90’s and has no intention of stopping anytime soon.


Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Moon grew up in a family of musicians and he feels that music comes almost naturally to him having been surrounded in an environment where music is constantly being played. From there, he moved to NC to 1979 to teach part time at North Carolina Central University in the music department. Nowadays, he is a retired music and string orchestra teacher from the Wake County Public School System.


Being quite musically inclined, he plays bass and sometimes guitar. When asked about his musical style, he said, “they all have an influence on you. To me, personally, you’re working towards what your special niche is, and try to explore that. And all those influences come in and you might add a little to it or learn from it, and you can come up with something unique.”


Jazz, as a genre has changed over time and has evolved with different elements being added as well as the styles from other genres as well. What can influence a person may be the different music they have been exposed to.


With Moon, having grown up in Nashville, he was exposed to country music as well as played in the Nashville Symphony. He recalled, “a lot of things have come up that are new now that weren’t there when I first started out. But I also learned and studied that everything is interconnected and influences each other. I played in some R&B clubs in the Nashville area, and then the jazz club in the Nashville area. I learned that wherever you are there will be people who know a bit about the background that you’re playing with. Coming to the [Raleigh] area, I got to meet a lot of new musicians. And all that experience kind of goes into you as a musician.”


Performing on stage is often energetic and exciting, especially if the crowd is into the performer. “To me it’s not just where you are but who you’re playing with is where the energy comes from,” he says. “For me, that can be in the audience or your own stage. It all depends on the situation you’re in. Like in different genres, you’re expected to play certain functions, integrals, and dynamics. So you try to develop as many skills as you can. Sometimes they cross over and sometimes they don’t.” When Ed Moon and the Stars perform, audiences are sure to feel as transported as the band when they play.


Ed Moon and the Stars will be performing this Saturday with Emily Scott on piano, Reginald Leatherberry on sax, Bill Hayes on drums and Ken Demery subbing on guitar.

Grooving along to the funk/jazz band that has audiences tapping their foot and performing “a blend of ‘Funky Jazz and Voodoo Grooves’”, Zen Groove Funkestra joins us this Saturday, March 24th. The members are Dillon Partin (Bass), Scott Jones (Drums), Eric Earley (Sax), Chris Tomazic (Guitar), and newest member, Lauren Jenkins (Vocals).


Q: How did your band form?

Dillon: I’ll cover that really quick. So I had a bunch of music that I had written that was like an instrumental concept album that was inspired by my wife’s father’s death. Not a really happy funky dance type idea, but I just had all this music and the band that I was playing in, there really wasn’t a phase there for that music to be played. At the time, I was in another band with Scott Jones, [our] drummer, and talked to him about maybe doing something different and making it an album of that music. And that became Zen Groove Arkest which was a tribute to a band called Sun Ra Arkestra. So we thought that we’d record that album in 2015 and we did one concert to promote that album and we had so much fun we decided to make it into a band. We played as Zen Groove Arkest for about a year and then we had a lot of trouble with people remembering Arkest and so in the middle of changing the band members and changing the sound to become more listener-friendly and dance-friendly and adding a bunch of covers, we changed the name of the band to Zen Groove Funkestra. It’s a little bit easier for people to get but at least as far as I know, no one in the world has a band called Zen Groove Orchestra.


Q: You said you changed it because people mess it up often and now you’ve told me that people still mess it up and that’s what you wanted?

D: It wasn’t that we wanted people to mess it up, it’s just something that was unique. I didn’t realize that Funkestra would be so difficult but it honestly isn’t as bad as Arkest. We did a show in Miami in January and we were introduced as Zen Groove Fun-estra which you know, isn’t a bad choice for a name. The idea is like an orchestra, but we play Funk-based music.


Q: How would you say your style has captivated your audiences?

Scott: The different aspects such as being groove oriented and funky; the notion of making people involuntarily, at least, tap their foot, but ideally, shake their butt too, which would be difficult for Irregardless Cafe, cause you might be sitting. Beyond that, we like to interpret the music, meaning it’s not always played the same way every time, but rather, what am I feeling right now? What does it sound like in here? What are the people responding to? What energy am I getting? That informs how we play through the written part, and especially informs the improvisations which is a big emphasis for us.



Q: In Reverbnation bio, it says that funk/jazz is the genre. It may be that it’s funk/jazz, but why not be a band that plays funk and jazz, rather than be a funk/jazz band?

D: Yes, we do play funk music and jazz music, but if you compared us to a funk band or a more traditional jazz band, we’re not going to sound just like that. For instance, we can take a jazz standard and we’ll probably play it more funky than what more people are used to hearing it. And we’ll take a typical, three-minute funk song that’s everyone’s heard a million times and make it our own by adding solos or a whole new part to the song, which is more of from a jazz background. It’s not exactly a conscious process going forward; it’s just happened naturally with whatever kind of music we play. We also play pop songs, but we play them with a more funky, jazzy feel to it.


Q: When did you form your band?

D: The band was formed in March 2015, which was when we did the concert and that’s when the original CD came out.


Q: And you released Intergalactic Funketeers last year. Anything new you’re working on?

D: So Lauren, who’s our newest member and vocalist, is with child so we’re going to take a break from playing live and going to be doing a lot of writing for the next record. We haven’t talk about what it’s going to be like; normally, we don’t talk about it, we just say “Hey, got some ideas?” So we’re recording something new and we’re still going to be around but not playing much until late in the summer. By that time, we will hopefully have a bunch of new songs and hopefully a new record as well.


Q: Which is your busiest season?

D: For us, it seems to be the end of autumn through December. I’m not sure why that is, I know there’s a lot of festivals and community events that go on that we usually take part in. So that’s our busiest season normally.


Q: As a group or maybe individually, what’s your favorite place to play? Where have you gone that you thought the energy was really dynamic?

Lauren: Having just joined these guys, we played in Miami for Dan Marino’s Fundraiser for Autism and it was amazing. We played right outside of the stadium and there were about 1500 people there. That was such an amazing experience for me; just the energy, the people, the stage. I was really honored joining these guys and getting that kind of experience. I grew up doing a lot of musical theatre, so I’ve been in smaller venues but on this kind of scale [in Florida] I thought, for me, that was awesome.

S: I have a different favourite, but Miami is the most emotional for me. You’re not just playing to entertain people, you’re trying to have some impact on some aspect of the world which is profound in that sense. The one I would throw out is I used to live in New York and I networked with some of my friends last year and got us a gig at a club called Nublu which is pretty famous since it was founded in 2001. We played there on a Saturday night, pretty close to midnight and then there was a jam where I go on and play and that ended at 4 something. It was a very New York experience, which was awesome.

D: I think my favorite gig will be at Irregardless. [Band members jokingly laughs] I always mention on the stage whenever we’re playing. We love playing Miami, New York was a bucket list type gig that I’m looking forward to doing again. But Irregardless for local venues really is a great place because the sound is always super supportive.

L: That’s true. I’ve only played at Irregardless a handful of times but what Dillon is saying is that you can just see people really enjoying themselves. You look out there, you look at the tables and people are dancing in their seats and singing along and clapping. That has been really awesome just to seeing people have an amazing time.


Q: It’s funny, having read your bio and hearing you guys’ stories, you’re all non-Raleigh natives. Is that true for everybody in the band?

D: Eric is from Pennsylvania, Chris is from Ohio, Michael Pelz-Sherman who’s been playing with us on keyboard is from Minnesota. I think

Michael’s been here the longest and the rest of us from 5-8 years maybe. [Dillon is from Texas.]

L: I’ve only been here for two years actually.

S: Lauren and I both moved here from L.A., although years apart.


Q: That’s actually very interesting; you all coming together spontaneously from different place and forming in the Triangle area.

L: I moved here two years ago and I’ve just been impressed by the local music scene in Durham and the Triangle. It’s been amazing to meet so many musicians and it is pretty cool that so many people are from different places with different backgrounds.


Q: Can you describe the music making process?

S: I would say it is typically a presentation of parts or a thing that can then be grabbed onto by the rest of the group and hammered out into a framework or an arrangement. As Dillon mentioned with his first album, he had these wholly formed things where he would present a chart and say, “this is the music I wrote, let’s play through it.” In other cases, it might be me saying, “this is the recording I made; go transcribe it.” [erupt giggles from members] which is really not nice. Or “give me your bass, Dillon. This is a part I just heard. What do you guys think?” “That’s really cool. What if it did this too?” “What if this was the beat section?” It’s super collaborative, typically.


Q: Do you ever have moments where you’re playing and it’s evolved to something different from what you thought you would be playing?

L: Absolutely. The great thing for me as a vocalist, going back to the musical theatre background, you’re singing things as is, note to note. It’s been really great for me to watch these guys improvise and it gives me that kind of freedom to do the same thing with my voice. And so there are a lot of times where we’ll be playing the show and all of a sudden, I think “I’m going to throw something in; I’m going to do something crazy” and it really helps give me the confidence and freedom to go for it. For me, that’s been really freeing to just go with something and know that we’ve got each other’s backs.


Q: Last question. What is your biggest challenge as a band?

D: I think it’s trying to find that sweet spot in finding music listeners who are looking for what we’re doing. Irregardless is one of those places that people come to hear music and they’re so used to hearing different types of music. Everyone who comes there on Saturday night and they’re expecting a certain quality of music, but I don’t think they get caught up in this is a traditional acoustic band or party band stand. They’re there just to hear music and you have nights where people will sit and listen the entire night and nights where they’ll get up and dance. I think overall, it’s finding ourselves on social media or like Irregardless where there’s built-in audience that really appreciates what we’re doing.

Irregardless will celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) in April to honor the extraordinary heritage and history of jazz.

Certainly not a stranger to the music scene, Irregardless Cafe is Raleigh’s longest running Music Venue – having featured live musical entertainers every night of the week for 43 years! Local and touring Jazz musicians perform, as well as ‘Blue Grass Wednesdays’, folk and popular music talents occasionally.

Jazz month’s weekend lineup at Irregardless will boast an array of talented jazz artists on Fridays and Saturdays. The following guests will be featured on Saturday nights to perform at 9:00 PM.

April 7th at 9:00 PM, Cover $15
Giacomo Gates, Internationally Acclaimed Jazz Great
Gates has seven heavily acclaimed CD’s, the last four with Savant Records…his most recent release “What Time Is It?” in April 2017. His previous releases, “The Revolution Will Be Jazz-The Songs of Gil Scott-Heron” reached #1 for six weeks on National Jazz Playlist, and “MilesTones” was #1 for four weeks! “Everything Is Cool” reached #8…all three spent over three months in the Top 20 of the Jazz Week Charts, on over 300 stations. Learn More..

April 14th at 9:00 PM
Peter Lamb Quintet
Just listening to the no-boundaries, acoustic jazz quintet Peter Lamb and The Wolves, you might guess that it formed to celebrate Truman’s inauguration, not Obama’s. Called into existence in 2008 to play Humble Pie’s presidential party, the band that resulted was just too good to leave be. Nowadays, living up to their fairy-tale namesakes, the Wolves peddle languid sophistication that is always a little bit dangerous. Their repertoire reaches back to New Orleans’ earliest syncopaters but also forward to hipster bards like Bob Dylan and Tom Waits; a tango might trip on the heels of a French waltz or a Russian folk song. The Wolves are sought out by swing dancers, but their tenderer tunes make the perfect nightcap for late-night lovers. Learn More..

April 21st at 9:00 PM
Al Strong
Raised in the city that created “Go-Go” music, Al Strong carries an affinity for dance music that is apparent in his sound. Strong has had the pleasure of performing for artists such as Brandford Marsalis, Aretha Franklin, Clay Aiken, and Linda Eder. He has also lent his trumpet playing to an array of talent including The Foreign Exchange, Yazarah, Soul Understated featuring Mavis ‘Swan’ Poole, and Big Daddy Kane, along with a number of others. In 2016, AL Strong released his debut album, LoveStrong Vol. 1. Learn More..

April 28th at 9:00 PM
Sidecar Social Club
Spirited, stylish and engaging, Sidecar Social Club is a shot of whiskey hitting your veins. Soaring through numerous genres effortlessly, their energetic sets take you to colorful and surprising places. From the gritty, riotous underbelly of speakeasy jazz to the bizarre cabarets of wartime Berlin. From the sounds of Latin American dance halls and the big band era to soulful R&B and fifties rock. With a number of infectious originals sprinkled in for good measure, SSC delivers a fresh take on songs, old and new. Learn More..

JAM is intended to stimulate the current jazz scene and encourage people of all ages to participate in jazz – to study the music, attend concerts, listen to jazz on radio and recordings, read books about jazz, and more. Join us and let’s celebrate!