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The Bergen Record - Cover Image - Story Image
Friday, March 7, 2008
(Cover-story/feature in the 'Better Living' weekend magazine)

The Kootz Mix Styles and Players

BY JIM BECKERMAN
STAFF WRITER

The banner above the band reads "The Kootz."

But strictly speaking, it might be more accurate to say a Kootz. Because there's more than one Kootz. As any of the followers of this popular North Jersey blues and rock band... err, bands - could tell you. There are, in fact, as many Kootz as there are combinations of three or four musicians that cofounder Glenn M. Taylor can mix 'n' match from the 16 ace players on his roster. "My bands are all called The Kootz," says Taylor, 54, a Rutherford native. "I thought it was a great [idea]. You have the consistency of the name, plus anything I attach my name to is gonna have a certain standard." The large talent pool at his disposal means that The Kootz can work a lot - far more than the average bar band.
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FAST FACTS
WHO: The Kootz.
WHAT: Classic pop, rock and blues.
WHEN: 9:30 tonight; 10 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Redd's Restaurant and Bar, 317 Washington Ave., Carlstadt; 201-933-0015.
The Lakeside Pub, 56 Lake Drive West, Wayne; 973-696-7998.
HOW MUCH: Free.
WHERE TO HEAR: thekootz.com.
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The group does approximately 225 dates a year, from South Jersey to New York State, often working five nights a week. There have even been times - not many, Taylor says, but a few -- when the band has been in two places on the same night. "I don't like doing that, because it starts reeking of a McDonald's franchise, with 10 of them on the same highway," Taylor says. The versatility of the players, plus the huge repertoire (1,000-plus songs, about 40 percent of them common to all players), allows Taylor to custom fit his band to the day and the venue.

There might be weekend dates with the rockin' Kootz -- a pedal-to-the-metal ensemble featuring the likes of Fair Lawn's Peter Scance, a showboating bassist who has been known to jump on bar counters and play his instrument from the audience. He'll be part of Saturday's gig at the Lakeside Pub in Wayne. Then there might be a more mellow Kootz, like the one that played the Cloverleaf Tavern in Caldwell on a recent weeknight -- two acoustic guitars and a bass, no drums, and a folkish set list featuring songs like "Midnight Special" and "City of New Orleans." "Growing up in Ramsey, we had a lot of New Orleans influence," deadpanned singer-guitarist Ray Longchamp, originally from Ramsey.

The restaurant crowd was a mix of newbies, who came in to eat and stayed to listen, and hard core fans (the group has a mailing list of about 13,000). "Kooties," Taylor has dubbed them. "My boyfriend and I will go just about anywhere to see them," said Gail Pruner of Caldwell.

On a nearby Kootz merchandise table was product. Not just the usual bumper stickers and T-shirts, but a whole emporium ranging from Kootz baseball caps and CDs -- "Tales From the Endless Bus Tour of New Jersey," an album of mostly original material, came out in 2005 -- to free Kootz lollipops, Kootz gum and Kootz pens. "Not many bands market," says Janice Alvarez of Little Falls, Taylor's girlfriend and the merchandising brains of the outfit. "It's a way of saying thank you, and keep us on your mind." The savvy marketing of the band is not the kind of thing that might occur to the average group of young musicians. But then, that's just what The Kootz are not.

The name Kootz is a jocular reference to the band members' ages, ranging from 40 to 58. Most of them have been in bands all their lives. "This is an incredibly deep talent pool of people that probably constitutes several centuries of practical gigging experience," says guitarist Al Egizi of Ridgefield (he'll be at tonight's gig in Carlstadt).

Master stroke though it was, this modular approach to band personnel happened by accident, Taylor says. When the multi-instrumental Taylor co-founded the band eight years ago with buddy and fellow musician Christopher Bolger, he had a word of warning for his friend. "I said, 'Chris, I'm just warning you, I'm very good at booking the band, and if you get something started with me, we're gonna be working a lot.' " He was as good -- or bad -- as his word. The self-employed Taylor (he runs a recording studio, Taylor-Made Productions, in Caldwell, where he now lives) says he spends on average three hours a day on the phone prospecting for new gigs and keeping old contacts warm. "I call it the 'velvet harpoon'," he says. "You have to be able to snag them, but in a nice way."

After just the first six months of non-stop gigging, the band was already looking for alternates to take up the slack. Now there are so many Kootz that there's actually fandoms within the fandom -- people who come out to hear only certain versions of The Kootz. "We send out an e-mail newsletter, and the week you get the newsletter it says who's playing," says Scance. "So people pretty much know who's going to be there."

One marketing tool the band doesn't have: a group photo. "The Kootz have never stood in the same room together all at one time," Taylor says. "I think the best we ever did was 11."

MEET THE BAND
Glenn M. Taylor -- guitars, keyboards, drums, vocals
Christopher Bolger -- guitar, bass, vocals
Joe Alexander -- guitar, vocals
Ray Longchamp -- guitar, mandolin, vocals
Ben Asher -- bass, vocals
Chris Roselle -- guitar, harmonica, vocals
Rick Oberson -- guitar, harmonica, keyboards, bass, vocals
Tony 'Al' Dente -- drums, percussion, vocals
Bob Cianci -- drums, guitars, vocals
Greg Hollenbeck -- drums, percussion, vocals
Bill DiMartino -- drums, percussion, vocals
Gregg D. Hollister -- bass, harmonica, vocals
Peter Scance -- bass, guitar, vocals
Keith Theall -- bass, vocals
Al Egizi -- guitar, vocals
Ron Weinstein -- guitar, bass, harmonica, vocals

E-mail: beckerman@northjersey.com