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Drummer extraordinaire Jeff Sipe in Boone

By Derek Halsey (

Article Published: Jan. 17, 2013 | Modified: Jan. 27, 2013
Drummer extraordinaire Jeff Sipe in Boone

Drummer Jeff Sipe, of Aquarium Rescue Unit fame, will perform a two-night run at Murphy's in
Boone Jan. 25-26.

Photo submitted

Jeff Sipe is simply one of the best drummers in the music business.

He has performed with some great artists over the years, including bands, such as the influential Aquarium Rescue Unit, Jazz Is Dead, the Susan Tedeschi Band, Trey Anastasio Band, Leftover Salmon, Jeff Coffin and the Mu’tet and the Jimmy Herring Band.

Sipe will bring his talent and experience to Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub in Boone for a two-night run of shows on Jan. 25 and 26.

While Sipe is known for the jazz-fusion side of his repertoire, his open mind about music has led to some cool gigs, such as his three-year stint with the “Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass” band, Leftover Salmon. One important Salmon album that Sipe played on was 1999’s “The Nashville Sessions,” where the band collaborated with many top country and bluegrass artists.

“Man, it was really amazing,” Sipe said about those sessions. “I was kind of wide-eyed. I felt like a kid being there. And, talking with Waylon Jennings and all of his stories, he was cracking us up, man. He had us on the floor laughing. His stories were just amazing, about back in the day with Willie Nelson and hanging out. That was incredible.

“And Taj Mahal was wonderful. He took the time to talk with us. It was nice to get a perspective of music through his ears. Working with Jerry Douglas was just amazing, because I’m in awe of his phrasing and his timing and pitch. Randy Scruggs was a great producer and musician.

“Everybody was calm and brought everything to the table. It was really enjoyable. There was no drama at all. Reese Wynans was fantastic. Jeff Coffin played his tail off, and Bela Fleck was really funny and came in excited and ready to do stuff.”

For many music lovers, the band that Sipe is most known for is the Aquarium Rescue Unit. An early version of the band included future great musicians, such as Derek Trucks, Jimmy Herring and Oteil Burbridge. At the heart of the group was the rock and blues legend Col. Bruce Hampton.

“(Hampton) spent so much time with us, talking with us, philosophizing and really checking us to see what our intention was with music,” Sipe said. “Those at-length conversations boiled down to the essence of why we were all playing. There is a thread that goes through the Bruce Hampton Camp regarding all of the people that played with him. There are only a few casualties.

“There are mostly survivors of the Bruce Hampton Camp, and it is a deep place to be for a while, because the conversations really end up leading you to self-inspection. What is the reason you’re playing? What is the intention? Is it the fame, the glory and the money? Is it the love of music? Is it a way to project yourself in a certain way other than your (normal) self?

“Music is a place where you can’t lie. From the very first note, your intentions are revealed. Bruce likes it when music is coming from the heart and the butt, and he doesn’t like it when it is coming from the mind. Cerebral music that has no soul connection, he has no time for it.”

The Jeff Sipe Trio also features bassist Taylor Lee and guitarist Mike Seal.

“Taylor has been studying since he was a little kid with Victor Wooten and Oteil Burbridge,” Sipe said. “His harmony and his melodies are fantastic, his timing is incredible, and his intention is pure. And he is young and hungry.

“Mike is, hands down, one of my favorite musicians on the planet. He is just driven with soul, and he’s got all of the chops in the world and ears as big as an elephant’s. His sense of harmony and melody and rhythm is really sophisticated. And both of those cats are the sweetest people and are really humble.”

The Jeff Sipe Trio performs Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25 and 26, at Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub, located at 747 W. King St. in downtown Boone. The show starts at 10 p.m. For more information, call (828) 264-5117.

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