Every week, a group of musicians calling themselves Project Monday gather at Jazz Minds Cafe in Honolulu. The result is a hot mix of Latin jazz fusion a la Blue note during it peak era. Project Monday play for tips (there’s a $5 cover to get in) only and jam from 9:30pm until whenever they feel like it—12am or 5am, it doesn’t matter.
The Project Monday lineup: Bobo Butires on percussion, Bob Hernandez on bass, Kirk Thompson on piano and keys, Juan Reyes on trumpet, and Alvin Fejarang on drums. Energy, passion and emotion all flow together as Project Monday start off the night with a fast-paced tune. The musicians have no trouble jumping right in, backing each other up as every has their turn performing a solo.
Surprise guest musicians
Longtime friend and guitarist LaMonte DeMille happens to be in town for the next few weeks. LaMonte surprised the Project Monday cats by showing up unnannounced, guitar in hand, ready to play. After not seeing LaMonte for nearly 18 months, the band still finds the right chemistry to keep the energy flowing.
Another surprise visitor, trumpeter Elliot Maker, came to play, too. He’s never jammed with Project Monday, so there’s some speculation whether his energy will blend with the group. After following a few tunes and feeling out the band, Elliot executes a string of exquisite solos—including “Watermelon Man” and “Sun Goddess”.
Having a good time
Right after the first break, musicians jump offstage to friendly banter amongst the crowd, teeming with energy from the 12 minute version of “Watermelon Man” they just finished. Bobo meets with Elliot for the first time, filling him in on Project Monday. Alvin and Bob bond with some old friends over drinks. The next set won’t be starting for another 45 minutes, so everyone’s simply having a good time.
“No other clubs out there are doing this kind of thing right now,” says Bobo. You can’t find jam sessions like this in Honolulu, where some of Hawaii’s best musicians collaborate in a wide-open platform with no restraints.
Project Monday plays for tips. “Sometimes we make five bucks. Sometimes we make sixty,” says Bobo.
How is that sustainable? The musicians take advantage of Mondays at Jazz Minds to rehearse for upcoming gigs around town. The result is a relaxed atmosphere where the musicians move freely through the night, testing their solo chops and trying out new ideas.
Plus, they can play till whenever—when I left at 1am Project Monday was just started their fourth set of the night, showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. Earlier, Elliot Maker turned to me during the break and wondered if he should head home. He lives on the Leeward side, about an hour’s drive from Honolulu. But Elliot stuck around, he wanted to play more.
I’ve never been to Project Monday, but I’ve been to Jazz Minds. It’s one of my favorite clubs in Honolulu. My favorite part of the night was probably Bob Hernandez grooving on his electric upright bass. He worked his instrument so well, the crowd responded with woos and cries of excitement.
Bobo tells me it took he and Kirk a long time to find the right guys to jam with. When Bobo first got on a few years back, he almost left because the vibe wasn’t right. Now, you can see it immediately, this team of passionate musicians believe in their music and communion.
“As long as we can be here, we’re gonna be doing this,” Bobo tells me.
And there’s no sign of them stopping anytime soon.