Athens, Ga.-based fusion outfit Misnomer began life under the moniker Mister Tie Dye some two years ago, but bass trombonist Paul Nelson tells that members voted in a name change in recent months to better reflect the unit’s genre-blending, mix-and-match approach to composition.
“We wanted to have a name that represents the music better,” says Nelson. “‘Misnomer’ means ‘improperly named.’ We have nine and sometimes 10 people on stage, and eight who write music. That’s eight people eight different backgrounds and influences. So we have a really difficult time giving people one phrase that accurately describes our sound. We like to say that what we play is our music.”
While Nelson’s assessment is generally on point — Misnomer routinely delve into funk, rock, world beat, classical and even hip hop on record and in live performance — it’s also true that the band is firmly grounded in jazz and jazz fusion, most of its members having come together in the University of Georgia jazz ensemble around 2016.
Nelson says he and a handful of other ensemble students decided to make a go of it with a proper band, and seek out nightclub gigs around Athens. From nine members, they mustered three original compositions, and added a cover song from Richmond, Va. horn outfit the No B.S. Brass Band. Nelson says their first rehearsal was almost revelatory; within a month, members of the fledgling band had written another 12 songs and added them to the budding Tie Dye/Misnomer repertoire.
“A lot of what we play is inspired by something our jazz band teacher said to us,” Nelson says. “He told us that to be a ‘hirable’ working musician, you need to be able to play anything. So we set out to create a sort of quasi-jazz and fusion that would also incorporate all of these other influences.”
That being said, two key members of Misnomer hail from outside the academic world. Impressive chops notwithstanding, alto saxophonist Jose Moran and tenor sax player Chandler Greer are self-taught, and contributed most of the original music the band essayed at that tentative first rehearsal. Nelson says there’s something organic in the way Greer and Moran approach their instruments, a fluid, instinctive quality that can’t be taught in a classroom or written down on a piece of paper. He adds that the dynamic created by infusing the other members’ more formal approach to playing and writing music with the streetwise instincts of Greer and Moran is one of the elements that sets Misnomer apart from other like-minded fusion-oriented outfits.
“We’ve got eight guys who have music degrees, and grew up playing in orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz band, all of that. Then we have two guys who learned a different way, and that’s what makes the group what it is,” he says. “For instance, Chandler can play by ear so well. And while the rest of us can, too, there was a steep learning curve. He and Jose play from the heart a little better than the rest of us. As academic musicians, there’s so much we can learn from those guys.”
The men of Misnomer like to take occasional forays into the realms of hip hop and R&B — Nelson says several members of the band count Outkast as a prime influence, and the group often hosts local Atlanta singers and rappers both in the studio and on stage; check out the band’s video for “New World” featuring the smooth, sweet vocal of songstress Adriana “Dri” Thomas for a sample of such. But their fondness for vocal music notwithstanding, Nelson says the band will likely remain a primarily instrumental project for the foreseeable future.
“We have an interest in vocal collaborations,” Nelson says. “If the opportunity arises to one day take one on the road, we might do that. But right now, having nine or 10 guys on stage on any given night is all we can handle. The stars would have to align for that to change.”
Misnomer will play Preservation Pub Monday, June 11 at 10 p.m.