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State of Jefferson at Stillwater

Good music is the impetus behind the State of Jefferson, a Rogue Valley-based band known for its diverse style. The group plays a mix of jazz, bluegrass, funk, reggae and world music with a mess of instruments — horns, keys, percussion and just about anything with a string on it.

"It really is just a fun, musical bunch that really love each other," says Mikey Stevens, who plays guitar and trumpet for State of Jefferson. "We're all multi-instrumentalists, and a lot of the band's music has just evolved into what it is. The music we create when we get together is spontaneous. There's little rehearsal time."

The State of Jefferson will perform at 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 10, at Stillwater, 1951 Highway 66, Ashland.

Stevens says he likes not knowing what's going to happen next when the band plays together. He went to work as a trumpet player right out of high school, touring with big bands.

"I played with everything from marching bands to polka and Dixieland bands, anywhere that I could get a job," Stevens says. "I've had to play the notes that were put in front of me all night long, and I don't really like it anymore. I want to play my own notes."

The trumpet is Stevens' first love, he says. He learned guitar after moving to the Rogue Valley about 15 years ago. He met Duke Davis, State of Jefferson's saxophone player, when Davis was 11, and the two began performing together at the Applegate Lodge, the Davis family's restaurant.

"We weren't very good back then, but we've had a lot of years to make it good," Stevens says.

Davis and the other core members of the band — guitarist Joe Ginet, bassist Ryan Redding and keyboard player Eric Vestnys — began playing music together in one form or another while attending high schools in the Rogue Valley. Davis, Ginet and Redding attended Hidden Valley High School, Vestnys Rogue River High School.

Drummer Michael Saint John (Cast of Clowns, AnnieMac, Rogue Suspects) will join State of Jefferson for the show at Stillwater.

"Spending time playing music with these youngsters has broadened all of our horizons," Stevens says. "They're in their mid-20s, I'm 57. They're heavily influenced by the music that's going on today. So I've been pulled in new directions, probably reggae more than anything."

Davis says that he and the rest of the group simply like to spread positive energy through music, while having fun and enjoying the ride.

"The Grateful Dead was an inspiring group," Davis says. "Though we don't play any of their songs, their idea was to change the world with music. Bob Marley, the Beatles, those artists are big influences."

State of Jefferson has never played a set list, Davis says. The group also adapts its performances to the size of the venue, taking its music from small, acoustic shows to electrified, upbeat ones on big stages.

"We like to hit the young and the old, the wild and the tame," Davis says. "There'll be some new stuff at the Stillwater show."

State of Jefferson took a break from playing local gigs to perform in markets such as Bend, Lake Tahoe, Nev., and Northern California.

"We stopped hitting the road last fall and began working on our next CD," Davis says. "It'll be released this summer."

State of Jefferson's last two CDs — a 2004 compilation of live shows and studio recordings and a live show recorded in 2006 at KTUH-FM at the University of Hawaii — are out of print.

The band is turning its gaze towards local gigs for the upcoming year, Davis says. There are plans to put together music festivals at Rogue Valley community centers and parks. The group also wants to see if the new CD will get the band into bigger markets.

"We will tour again when the circumstances are right," Davis says.

Davis and members of State of Jefferson also present live jams at 7 p.m. Wednesdays at the Applegate Lodge. To receive e-mails about the band and the Applegate Lodge, write to wegosax@hotmail.com.

See stateofjefferson.org for song downloads and State of Jefferson gear.

Cover for the show at Stillwater is $5. Call 482-6113.

Left to right: Eric Vestnys, Duke Davis, Mikey Stevens, Ryan Redding and Joe Ginet are the core lineup of State of Jefferson. Drummer Michael Saint John will join the group for its Saturday, Jan. 10, performance at Stillwater. - Photo courtesy of Duke Davis