Before traveling out to Denver, CO for Denver Comes Alive on December 4th, Jennifer Hartswick took a moment to catch up with event host Ari Fink via video call. Among other topics, the Trey Anastasio Band trumpeter gave the Sirius XM DJ some clues as to what fans can expect from the all-star Ramble On Revival band that’s making its debut during the event at Mission Ballroom.
The first thing on the docket was Ramble On Revival, the new band featuring Hartswick alongside guitarist/musical director Eric Krasno (Soulive), bassist Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Company), guitarist Steve Kimock (The Other Ones), keyboardist Holly Bowling (Ghost Light), drummer Jeff Sipe (Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit), saxophonist Skerik.
Fink asked Hartswick point-blank whether they even knew what they were going to play, to which Hartswick admitted, “You must know us pretty well to make that statement [laughs].” In reality, however, the project was realized early, with Eric Krasno taking up the “musical director seat” and setting an agenda for the band nearly six weeks in advance. “Usually it’s the day before,” Hartswick admitted. “I love it when people come correct. [Krasno] always comes correct.”
Of all the musicians on the stacked lineup, Hartswick said she is most excited to share the stage with Burbridge. “You know, he’s not from this planet,” Hartswick gushed about the beloved bassist, “and I like to riff off of aliens.”
While Oteil’s Grateful Dead history is painted in crimson, white, and indigo with Dead & Co, Hartswick’s own path to the ’60s countercultural icons is less direct. Though she did not grow up a Dead fan and still doesn’t consider herself one, the group’s omnipresent force in her live music circles has goaded her into learning some of the massive catalog. Perhaps sensing her tepid Grateful Dead tendencies, Krasno picked out a song he knew she would love for her to front at Denver Comes Alive. Fans will have to show up to find out which one that is.
Hartswick also shared her thoughts on the needs and methods for improving representation of women in the live music world. The Denver Comes Alive lineup hosts strong female performers in Judith Hill and Tank and the Bangas, and also sees Hartswick playing beside Bowling in Ramble On Revival. That said, Jen feels that we as a community could always do better.
“Don’t do it because you think you’re supposed to,” Hartswick said of curating a balanced lineup of both men and women. “Don’t be like ‘oh, we gotta have some more chicks on this,’ and then not think about cool chicks that you would have on it. … For me, I would much rather show up as a female bandleader than just be somebody in the band. That’s how I think we could help is make sure you’re having bands led by women, not just with women in it—which is fine too—but if you really want to make a difference, you know, women have stuff to say, in case you haven’t noticed [laughs]. I would say there can be more of that. [Find out] who are some badass leaders and hire them and their projects.” Stay tuned for whatever exciting band Jennifer Hartswick ends up leading at the next Comes Alive event.
She also looked ahead to her own future, noting, “2022 will have a lot of Hartswick in it.” She has released two solo albums since 2011 and will add to that tally next year with her third. The album will noted Hartswick collaborators Nick Cassarino (The Nth Power) and Christian McBride, aas well as Connor Elms, who shares a 35-year musical history with Jennifer, dating back to their first band, The Second Generation, which they founded when they were just seven.
Hartswick also offered an update on her Trey Anastasio Bandmate James Casey, who underwent treatment for colon cancer and sat out the band’s fall tour. “He’s in crush mode. God willing, he’s at the end of his treatment-ish. The ending of his treatment,” Hartswick said. “He’s on some flyers that are in a couple weeks. Every time I see one float by I clutch my heart and ‘oh man, this is so soon.’ I’m just so happy for him. So hopefully everything goes according to plan and he can get back out there because we miss him.”
Fink and Hartswick also made sure to give proper love to the vibrant Denver music scene that will play host to Denver Comes Alive. Hartswick, for one, will fly early to catch Cory Henry and Robert Glasper‘s brief run of live shows (12/2 in Boulder, 12/3 in Denver). When asked the loaded question of if Denver is the best music scene in the United States by Fink, Hartswick showed ample love for the Mile High City.
“You know, Denver’s got a vibe about it and it has for quite some time,” she said. “And it also kind of chugged along during COVID when no other city was chugging along, they just didn’t say no and kind of figured it out. They’re doing an incredible job, and there’s so many people who appreciate it. And I gotta say, the fans who live in Denver, just music fans in general, are a totally different breed. You guys come out night after night and week after week. You literally climb mountains every time you want to go to Red Rocks. You pack a picnic and hike up a mountain to go see music and I don’t think there’s any other city in America that does that. So way to go, Denver.”
Watch Jennifer Hartswick’s full interview with Ari Fink below and catch the trumpeter at Denver Comes Alive at the Mission Ballroom on December 4th. Tickets are on sale here.
Jen Hartswick & Ari Fink – Denver Comes Alive 2021 Interview