It’s noisy whenever the six members of Gorilla Jazz get together.
Usually it’s in their practice studio, onstage at a gig or at a table
in a quiet bar, with the ruckus generally consisting of much laughter,
music and energetic discussion.
But here in the middle of a ravine in Upcountry Maui, the sound of
Noah Francis loading a shell into the chamber of his borrowed 12-gauge
shotgun silences everyone. He raises the pump barrel, aims and fires.
His target explodes and the excited chatter and rousting continues.
“Oh, you’re a natural, Noah,” says Easton H. (a.k.a. “Quest Eons,” vocalist and MC). “I didn’t know G-Jazz was a gangsta group!”
“I’ve never shot a shotgun before,” says Noah, G-Jazz’s bassist.
“But I pumped myself up with a bunch of butt-rock on the way up.”
“Usually it’s the gorillas getting shot!” says Beau Sun, MC.
“I’m gonna come down here every Sunday for practice,” says James “Cotton” Hartman, guitarist.
“I dunno,” says Easton, as he takes a seat on the bench. “I’m not a
gun kind of guy. I have ADHD—you don’t give people with ADHD a gun,
There are ducks everywhere. But fortunately, they are not the
intended targets of this day’s shoot at Maui Trap & Gun Club.
Instead, owner Art Shepard is instructing the guys on how to hit clay
pigeons—an activity that’s providing a welcome release from the
pressures G-Jazz face as they lead up to opening for their biggest show
ever, this weekend’s Spring Jam ’07 featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
It was Easton and George Jackson (a.k.a. “Chef Strum,” electric ‘uke
player) who originally came up with the concept of Gorilla Jazz, while
also performing with Amphibeus Tungs, a mainly MC/DJ hip-hop crew,
about a year ago. But it wasn’t until last fall when the two starting
hanging out around gigs in Kihei, often jumping on stage with The Easy
and Byron Brown and the Derelicks, that they began formulating their
“I wanna do ‘70’s choruses with dope hip-hop rhythms,” says Easton.
“Like Earth, Wind and Fire, Al Green, Mos Def—where did the soul go in
James Bowersox, who was drumming for The Easy, began jamming with
Easton and George first. They then recruited Noah, who was initially
bassist for The Easy then Byron Brown. Soon Beau, who was also rapping
for Amphibeus Tungs, joined too. By winter, the group was ready to play
But something was missing. The band was convinced they needed
Cotton’s edgy riffing. Except he wasn’t around—a few months prior,
Cotton had left The Easy and Maui and was trying to re-infiltrate the
music scene back in his hometown L.A. Undeterred, his former bandmates
on Maui began a relentless phone-campaign to bring him back.
“It got to the point where I was, like, ‘Okay, I’ve got a band and a
job and friends waiting for me in paradise,” said Cotton. “What am I
doing here in L.A.?’”
Once G-Jazz was complete in mid-December, they began gigging all
over Maui. And the response was electric. By fusing the hip-hop sounds
of Amphibeus Tungs with the island-rock-ska-metal of The Easy, two
often-disparate crowds also came together, building a fanbase larger
than the two bands had previously experienced. They were even cited on
MySpace’s home page, further building their popularity and leading to a
successful show at Pipeline Cafe on Oahu.
They’ve only been playing for three months and yet an album is in
the works, as well as a mainland tour in the fall. And then, of course,
there’s this weekend’s show at the MACC.
But at the shooting range, George is having second thoughts.
“Dude, I’m gonna get hurt,” he says, as he walks away from the firing line.
“Don’t get weird, George,” says Noah.
“What? You’re not gonna do it?” asks Easton from the bench. “Are you being a poon? This is going in the article, George!”
Easton turns to me and lowers his voice.
“Just put I have a broken finger,” he says. “See?”
Meanwhile, Cotton is in the lead with the number of targets he’s
hit, which impresses Art, and is really starting to rile up Easton.
“That fucker—no wonder he wants to come here,” Easton says. “He picks the thing he’s good at!”
“Well, next time we can do the pony rides,” says the six-foot-two Beau, smirking.
“Next time we can do the giraffe chasing, Beau,” says Easton, who is less tall.
The guys convince George to return to the lineup, and he hits his mark with no incident. He smiles.
“That’s my boy!” Beau says.
“That shit feels good, man,” George says. “Powerful.”
“George is a Happy Valley marksman,” Easton says, proudly. “Seriously, man, he could hit a Somalian chicken!”
“A lot of people are attracted to the mental aspects of shooting,”
Art says. “You’re just trying to control your mind and what your hands
“I need a beer,” George says.
Maui Trap & Gun Club is
located at 499 Hali`imaile Rd., Hali`imaile, 572-0689. They’re open
Wednesdays, 4:30-10 p.m., Sundays 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and for private