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New Monsoon reunite old rhythms onstage

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DEEP TRACKS The North Bay’s New Monsoon will dig into its roots for upcoming Terrapin Crossroads show.
  • DEEP TRACKS The North Bay’s New Monsoon will dig into its roots for upcoming Terrapin Crossroads show.

At the heart of longtime North Bay jam band New Monsoon is the instrumental and songwriting collaboration among founding members Bo Carper (acoustic guitar and banjo), Jeff Miller (electric guitar) and Phil Ferlino (keyboards).

Yet the sound that set New Monsoon apart when they debuted nearly 20 years ago was their robust and worldly four-man rhythm section. This week, New Monsoon— a quintet since 2008—welcomes original percussionists

Brian Carey and Rajiv Parikh for a special Rhythm Reunion show on Dec. 10 at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael.

New Monsoon's origins date back to 1997, when Jeff Miller moved from Boston to Marin County, where Bo Carper, an old college buddy from Penn State, was living in Bolinas. "I just fell in love with the whole thing," Miller says.

The first incarnation of New Monsoon had Miller and Carper playing Fairfax cafes as a duo, with their mutual friend Parikh on the tabla, an Indian percussion instrument.

"It was really unique. Not too many electric rock and roll projects have a tabla," Miller says. "That was inspiring. And it was the impetus of a lot of the music we wrote in that world-influenced style."

Also largely influenced by Bay Area legend Santana, New Monsoon's up-tempo jams and global rhythms were further bolstered when Brian Carey, who plays congas and timbales, joined the group soon after, offering his own Afro-Cuban influence and style. "That was the engine as we call it. The percussion set the table for our sound," Miller says.

By 2003, New Monsoon was a full seven-piece touring band that regularly traveled the country with jam bands like the String Cheese Incident and Umphrey's McGee, and played festivals like Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits.

Yet the waning viability of supporting seven members through touring forced the band to scale back. Carey moved to the East Coast to teach music and Parikh moved to the South Bay, while New Monsoon retooled into a tighter, more vocally fronted five-piece in 2008. Today the band features Miller, Carper and Ferlino with bassist Marshall Harrell and drummer Michael Pinkham.

"The sound of the band changed pretty drastically then," Miller says. "So we've got a lot of different musical facets of the group we can tap into now."

Which is precisely what Miller plans to do for the upcoming reunion show, featuring Carey and Parikh for a night of old jams and deep tracks. "For fans that know our music, they'll hear some surprises on our set list for sure," Miller says.

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