What started as a few freshmen playing together in the Just About Music program house will culminate next January in a studio album, due to the over $2,000 student band Kenziek & Friends raised through a kickstarter campaign last month.
Kenziek & Friends, a self-styled “jazz fusion jam band,” was formed in 2012 by Jaden Gladstone ’16, Skyler Gray ’16, Marshall Mucasey ’16, Rain Zhou ’16 and Josh Rollin ’16, who is no longer part of the group.
Over their careers at Cornell, the band members performed several times at venues in the Ithaca area, including The Nines and the Bear’s Den, but decided at the start of this academic year that they wanted to consolidate their work in an album before graduation, according to Zhou.
In order to cover costs of recording, mixing, editing, C.D. production and distribution rights, the group launched a Kickstarter campaign on Oct. 21. The campaign reached its initial goal of $2,000 quickly due to a strong push on social media and support from band members’ families, and as of Tuesday has raised $2,427.
“We’re really, really thankful to all of our families because that’s where most of the donations came from,” Zhou said. “At the same time, we were really surprised to see a lot of friends, not just good friends, but also acquaintances that were kind enough to donate to support our album.”
With nine days remaining before the campaign ends, the band is still hoping to raise additional funds to allow for professional mixing and mastering and to potentially record an additional song, according to their campaign page.
With funding for the project and studio space at Electric Wilburland in Newfield, N.Y. secure, the band will now look to find practice space on campus and then “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse” as the recording date approaches, Zhou said.
The album will feature original music influenced by jazz, rock, funk and a little bit of pop. In developing these songs, feeling and improvisation were essential, according to Zhou.
“When you have all these different people coming from different backgrounds who can play unrestricted, the music becomes a melting pot,” Zhou said.
Zhou, who Gladstone called “the mastermind” of the group, came up with the album title, “The Last Bow.” The album will be the band’s first album and represents a significant milestone, the group said.
“I’ve never done anything on this large of a scale before,” Gladstone said. “Making a record is kind of the goal of every musician. Once you’ve achieved that level, you’ve kind of proven yourself. So this will add a new motivation for the group as something cool to work towards.”
Zhou said he views the album as Kenziek & Friends’ opportunity to make a significant contribution to the world of music.
“I believe musicians are sort of like messengers,” he said. “We as musicians want to bring music to everybody, as many people as possible, to share the love and joy. So this album will be our first attempt to do that.”
As to whether “The Last Bow” will be the group’s final hurrah, the group said multiple factors, such as where they would all be living after graduating, will determine whether the band will reunite to record another album.
“Who knows?” Gray said. “Maybe this [album] will inspire us to come together after college.”
Gladstone added that he would not count out the possibility of a reunion yet.
“The world is small and life is big,” he said. “So maybe something will happen.”