CAMDEN — The jazz-inspired trio The Extension Chords, representing Camden Hills Regional High School, is the only Midcoast band competing in the Maine Academy of Modern Music’s annual rock off dubbed the MAMM Slam to be held at the Empire in Portland on Saturday, May 11.
Myles Kelley (keyboard), Katherine Bowen (electric bass) and Owen Markowitz (drums) make up the ensemble.
The band name came out of a musician’s worst fear: Right before their first public gig, they forgot the extension cords in order to plug in their instruments.
“It was eventually resolved,” said Myles, “but that provided the band name.”
Here’s a video of that exact moment after they got their electrical issues fixed.
All three met and began playing together at the Midcoast Music Academy. Owen, 15, is a sophomore and Myles and Katherine, are both 16 and juniors at CHRHS.They were only a handful of students through MMA playing jazz and naturally, the school put them all together. For the last two years, they’ve been working on original songs and standards. And, they just like to hang out together.
To get a sense of their style, listen to their Sound Cloud: https://soundcloud.com/theextensionchords
If you want to hear some complicated and sophisticated arrangements, listen to Freedom Jazz Dance. For a little sweet nostalgia, check out their cover of My Funny Valentine. And for a fantastic keyboard cover of Stevie Wonder’s classic hit, listen to You Are The Sunshine of My Life.
It’s no surprise that all three students began their musical careers early, in elementary school. Given such talent at such a young age, their choice of musical style begs the question: why jazz? Why not rock or hip hop?
“I think jazz is coming up more, like more of a popular form,” said Owen.
“In jazz, you have to learn a lot of the basics, that you’d find in other genres, like rock,” said Myles. “It’s not easy, but it makes for a better transition when playing other styles.”
The kids point to Anderson Paak as one of their musical inspirations for jazz being played in a modern way. In the NPR Tiny Desk video embedded in this story (warning: some explicit language), it’s evident what they find exciting about his music. Paak plays drums in some funky, hip hop jazzy dragged beat while effortlessly rapping and singing.
“You can tell this is exactly where our inspiration comes from,” said Myles.
“And a lot of hip hop is also our influence,” said Owen.
As the only Camden band to register for the MAMM Slam, The Extension Chords guaranteed a spot to compete among nearly a dozen bands. In fact, they may be Camden Hills Regional High School only teen band that participates in professional gigs.
All three know this is one of the biggest tests of their music careers this coming weekend that on top of the fact that it’s a heavy testing week at school for them. They only have a few minutes to play their set have to bring their A game. As an instrumental band, they are fairly that they won’t be nervous once they get on stage. (Although Katherine admitted she and Myles do have a little work to do when it comes to stage presence.)
The winners of the MAMM Slam will not only take home a $1,000 cash prize, but will receive a slew of opportunities to boost their career.
No matter what happens, The Extension Chords already have gigs lined up afterward, and plan to play in an upcoming performance at the new "Jazz In June" Festival slated to be held in Camden this summer.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org