Hartley’s Encore: It’s Really Just the Beginning
These adjectives all readily come to mind when thinking about Hartley’s Encore’s lead vocalist and bandleader Luke Malamood. A father, lawyer, pianist, industrious promoter of his band, Malamood generously met for an interview recently to offer Nippertown some insights on Hartley’s Encore, the jazz/funk band that is quickly emerging as a Capital Region favorite.
Malamood smiled throughout the interview with a crazy joyfulness that belongs only to those who have found their bliss. Wearing an Allman Brother’s t-shirt and grinning in front of his new piano, Malamood shared music has “always been in my life – forever.”
He recalled that he was close with bandmate Chris Oliver as adolescents, playing in bands, “some of which were good” he laughed. The friends attended Guilderland High School together, and got together to “make a little noise” in Buffalo when the men were in college. “Most of my friends went to University of Buffalo, and I was at Villanova. We were young and didn’t take it seriously enough, but we had a following.”
But beyond that, Malamood’s music would have to wait a bit. He had a career to build in law, and a young family to raise.
Malamood’s shift toward making music more seriously came later for him, and was a real “encore.” He was practicing law and caring for his young children when he reunited with friends at his surprise 30th Birthday. Old high school friends came together to play at the celebration, and he recognized something in his life that had been missing: music.
“Seeing them living it, you know, doing it, made me really want to do it too,” Malamood confessed.
It was finally the right timing for Malamood. But he was careful to respect that music ran deep in his family tree.
“I’ve kinda always had a feel, and I was raised on music. My musical lineage is on both sides on the grandparent level. My paternal grandfather, Herman Malamood, was an opera singer and a cantor in the Catskills back when Jews from NYC came to celebrate the high holidays there. He was regarded as one of the best cantors in the world. He was also an opera singer and was hitting his stride when he died at age 57. He was singing at the Met Opera house, singing with Pavarotti, when his music was cut short,” Malamood recalled.
He was five when his grandfather passed away, but he remembers him. He looks to his paternal grandfather as inspiration; here was someone who actually made it professionally in music, and feels if someone in his lineage had reached for that goal, it is also within reach for him. “Listening to these standards taught me both rhythm and harmony, and it is why I incorporated a crooner-style of singing.”
Malamood’s maternal grandparents, the Walshes, also exposed him to music. He said their love of music, “especially jazz,” taught him to love the old crooner style of music. He recalled his grandfather playing jazz records for him and reading him books about the music. He described seeing these large almanac sized books in their living room. “And he would actually read them, not just have them out!” he beamed.
Malamood’s parents enrolled him in piano, and he admits, “I didn’t take it seriously enough. I should’ve practiced. My teacher could tell I was faking it a lot,” he laughed. He grew up reading piano music and singing standards revived in the ’90s by Harry Connick Jr. Malamood broke into song singing “If they asked me/I could write a book / About the way you walk and whisper / And look,” he crooned with a charming ease.
But then more seriously, the musician straightened his crook of smile, stating this was how he learned song and rhythm.
“Rhythm is like breathing for me. It’s way too easy and is a gift for me. I started playing drums six months ago. I had to figure it out, you know, but I’m pretty good at it! Piano is percussion, you know? And I picked it up and can feel it in here,” as he pointed to his chest.
He plays piano like a drummer, really syncopating jazz, funk and Latin rhythms in his music. When observed on stage a few months ago at Putnum Place, he was leading with his Hammond organ playing, balancing out percussion and bass with some strong emphasis on rhythmic keyboard playing.
When asked if he can play other instruments, he waved his hands. As for a favorite genre, Malamood mused that genres aren’t really existing anymore, as things have all melded together. “I love all music, and am a freak for the Allman Brothers as much as jazz. Recently, I have gone down a rabbit hole for funk and soul and I love it down here.”
Malamood’s grandmother recently passed away, but his love for her shone through his eyes as he talked about taking her to see Jeff Nania with Chuck Lamb and Lee Shaw’s rhythm section. “This was ‘full circle’ to share the love of music with her in a live performance,” Malamood recalled.
So the fire was there, resting in him, and the things that awoke it?
Chris Oliver came back into town right around the same time as the birthday party, returning from a career in NYC as a songwriter. He reached out to Malamood, and the two connected to play a few gigs with different musicians. Joined by Jeff Nania, also a Guilderland alum, they quickly recognized that the three of them had some positive connection.
Malamood laughed as he admitted that he rarely gets anxious, and when he does “I get pumped because I know something great is going to happen.” He had those butterflies rehearsing with Nania, a friend from elementary school who 25 years later invited him to rehearse in a trailer near their old alma mater.
“I had known Jeff for 25 years! We went to elementary school together, and even played music together at his house using his piano when we were like 8 years old!”
Malamood had those butterflies, shook them out, and the trio moved forward. They write songs that fuse the theoretic knowledge of jazz with the history of funk music, celebrating both with exuberance.
Around the same time, Malamood had been visiting New Orleans and also frequenting a FuNk Night (founded day by Justin Hendricks of Wurliday) around the Capital Region for approximately nine months. The influences converged, and Malamood has solidly committed once again to music.
But timing is truly everything.
At the band’s onset in the fall of 2016, Malamood felt the world was coming to an end. With the presidential election looming on the horizon, he recognized that it was a frightening moment for everyone. Around the same time, he watched the movie “Titanic” with his child and saw the parallel process with the ship going down and the country’s path.
“And then I saw the musicians playing as the ship was going down, I realized I was just like that. I would want to be playing music to lift people’s spirits, you know? That band was heroic.”
The violinist and bandleader was Wallace Hartley, the inspiration for the band’s name.
“It was our reason. Everyone thought that the world was ending, so we might as well go on playing. It became our mission. Providing relief to people. We hadn’t played together in years, and this was our encore.”
And what an encore it has been. Starting in December of 2016 at the Parish House, the band has crossed the Capital Region venues playing with a variety of musicians.
Hartley’s Encore has two percussionists, which is notably different than many bands. When asked about it, Malamood told the story of meeting Mike Gilet, the now solid drum kit player who initially joined the band without a rehearsal when then were in desperate need of a drummer.
“You know, Mike came in and didn’t even know the tunes, and he held it down,” he grinned. Later, when Gilet was unavailable, another drummer, Erik Pravel, joined in. “And man can he play, too. The two of them together are the yin and yang of the rhythm section.”
Having an ensemble with flexible members means that the band can play different styles of music with very different sounds within one concert. They also have greater availability, as they can play occasionally with one or the other member.
Malamood really beamed as he talked about his bandmates and his pride in their musical accomplishments. Like a true leader, he shared the spotlight of his interview with each member, talking through their stories of meeting and experiences on at a time, including Brad Monkell (bass), Josh Gordon, (also bass) and Zach Lauzon (trombone). Ashley Cross (vocals) has recently been added to round out the band. Having such a rich group of musicians again leant flexibility to their style.
He clearly cares about each member getting to grow and shine, and wanted to share that in his stories. When that was pointed out to Malamood, he flushed a bit. He admitted, “I try.”
Malamood was fluidly able to process a lot in this interview, talking about his career as a lawyer for the past eight years. He is currently expanding his practice to support those in the arts.
When asked where he gets his energy, he laughed and disclosed, “I have ADHD! You can publish that, but you have to use #ADHme!” The Renaissance man has made the most of his energy, diving into different fields and projects to support his multiple interests and loves.
And where will we find Hartley’s Encore in ten years?
“I hope we will be invited to play at the bigger venues here in the Capital Region when we come through to play and be celebrated as an original local band. We want to get this out to more and people. Our first tour was postponed because of this current coronavirus situation.”
Offering to bring peace and some comfort during these times of stress, Hartley’s Encore will be announcing a live stream concert soon and each member has been posting on their respective social media sites, as well. Keep your eyes open for it on Nippertown, and you can see for yourself how Hartley’s Encore uses dynamics, chord progression, and glorious rhythm to move audiences to dance.