Invisible guitars

A capella group m•pact sings drums, bass and full band

Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2002

Not many bands routinely are accused of hiding backup musicians offstage.

When m•pact takes the stage Sunday for the final Juneau Jazz and Classics concert, the five band members will be emptyhanded. The guitar solos, horn parts, drums and bass lines - every sound will be created vocally.

"Most people think we're singing with instrumental tracks," said Britt Quentin, the alto lead singer for the a capella jazz and pop group. "We do a lot of instrumental imitations. Jake is good at it, he pretty much sounds like whatever he wants to sound like. People ask, 'How did you synch up with drum machine,' or 'Where did you hide the Roland keyboard?' "

When baritone singer Jake Moulton isn't taking a vocal guitar solo or imitating a slap bass, he's m•pact's human drum machine.

A recent review from a concert in Louisville, Ky., praised one of Moulton's other vocal talents. "Moulton provided the evening's highlight during 'On Broadway,' when the human beat-box delivered a full drum solo and followed it with a dead-on session of scratching - the act of a DJ manipulating an LP while it's playing, dragging the needle back and forth in such a way that a turntable becomes a percussion instrument. Moulton's astonishing mimicking was indistinguishable from the real thing."

Trist Ethan Curless is the group's bass and alternate "percussionist." Tenor Marco Cassone cofounded m•pact with Curless in Seattle in 1996. Steve Wallace is the group's fifth member and also sings the upper-register parts.


When: 8 p.m. Sunday, May 26.

Where: JuneauDouglas High School auditorium.

Music: a capella jazz and popular music.

Tickets: $20 for general admission, $16 for students and seniors, at Hearthside Books and at the door.

Quentin described the group's style as "a pop jazz fusion kind of funk crossover." He said the material ranges from a jazzed up version of "My Favorite Things," shifted to a 5/4 time, to Earth Wind and Fire's "Fantasy" and Miles Davis' "All Blues."

"We do a lot of tunes from the '70's," said Quentin. "The music from the '70s speaks to us for some reason. One guy is a humongous Prince fan, so we do a Prince tribute. We do (the song) "Kiss" and then quote a bunch of Prince."

Quentin said the group's approach to the songs varies. Some are arranged note for note and others change every night.

"We have tunes that started out completely improvised that morphed into tunes that are arranged, but we've never written them out or discussed them," he said. "There are lots of solos where someone will scat for a couple choruses or take a guitar solo."

Quentin said he's been singing since he was 6 years old. He has an extremely high voice for a man, about a full octave higher.

"I sing as high as most first sopranos do, in the lead trumpet range," Quentin said. "I was trained classically as counter tenor. My teacher trained me more like a legitimate soprano, and I've focused my voice in that part of my range. It sounds like a operatic soprano but I don't sing that way - but with that kind of strength and focus."

M•pact has three albums out. The 1996 debut, "It's all about Harmony," "m•pact 2," and a Christmas album called "The Carol Commission: A Christmas Collection." m•pact has had songs featured on 12 compilations, including "Eight Days a Week" on an a capella Beatles tribute album.

The group will head into the studio this summer to record a fourth album.

Riley Woodford can be reached at

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