James Popik and Supernova Play the Pickle

Jazz Cafe at the Chubby Pickle

James Popik and Supernova

by Tom Baldino


On a beautiful summer night in the Highlands, jazz enthusiasts got to hear one of our new JSJBF member bands, James Popik and Supernova perform three sets of exhilarating instrumental compositions given their own unique stamp. Board member Joseph Riggio’s J v ARCHER ENTERTAINMENT joint and the Chubby Pickle once again teamed up to present the best in local jazz and blues at the Jersey Shore, and that’s saying something!

James and his band, Tom McMillan on bass, Frank Parente on drums, Ben Cahill on the keyboard, Dave Homan on sax/flute and last-minute addition, Chuggy Carter on percussion, began the evening with “The Jody Grind,” by one of the greatest jazz composers, Horace Silver. All these accomplished musicians were at home in the band setting, but the soloing is what took this, and many of the songs that followed, to exciting places while staying in the pocket. James plays a Howard Roberts Fusion Gibson guitar. If you’re not familiar with it, you’re not alone. I learned Howard was a Bebop player from LA who modified Gibson hollow body guitars by inserting a block that made them thicker than an ES335 but not as thick as a jazz box. The result gives it a nice sound while making it a good handling guitar. An excellent take on “Road Song” and “Sugar” were other highlights of the first set. 

After a short break, they returned with a beautiful take on Pat Metheny’s “Song For Bilbao” which featured terrific solos by James, Ben and Dave. “Green Mountain Melting,” one of James’ original numbers, started with a guitar sound reminiscent of Steve Howe of Yes but quickly moved to another place which was all James and his band, while Chuggy’s amazing percussion took the room on a trip through the mountains. Other great renderings in the set included Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Insensatez” and “Cold Duck Time” by Eddie Harris. 

The third set was a short one, but packed with fine musicianship. The band’s take on John Scofield’s funky “Hottentot” was second to none, and the closer, an incendiary version of The Allman Brothers “Hot ‘Lanta,” demonstrated that jazz was a huge influence on the Allman’s music, and how jazz and blues are linked more closely than many people realize.

If you missed the show, James Popik and Supernova will be one of the featured performers at the Sourland Festival on the grounds of the Unionville Winery on Saturday July 23rd. The headliner is The Outcrops, another of our JSJBF member bands.