Tonight: The Aristocrats jazz up Hard Rock Cafe

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The Aristocrats are having fun. As much fun as you might expect for a band that took its name from an infamous ribald joke that is popular among comics.

Adding to their amusement is the buzz that their new album -- "Culture Clash" -- is generating. It debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart and this week appeared at No. 8 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart.

"Needless to say, we're totally blown away, and frankly, a little shocked," said Bryan Beller, bassist for the three-man group. "We're also a bit amused at being classified as any kind of 'jazz.' ??? We just think that that's hilarious.

"We're really an instrumental rock-based fusion band. But, of course, there's elements of improvisation in there, and whenever you're improvisational, you get that jazz thing going. But really it's coming from the world of rock. Still, if they want to call it jazz and put us in the Top Ten somewhere, we're not going to argue.

"When you put our CD into I-Tunes, it comes up country-western. So I've given up trying to figure out how all this [stuff] works."

But it's definitely working for The Aristocrats, who will be taking the stage at the Hard Rock Cafe at Station Square tonight at 9:30.

A relatively young group with only two albums to their credit, The Aristocrats formed in January 2011, when Mr. Beller and drummer Marco Minnemann were scheduled to play a show in Anaheim, Calif., and their usual guitarist was unavailable.

Mr. Beller thought of Guthrie Govan, a guitarist who had been recommended to him by numerous sources.

"I'd never heard of him, but he had a couple YouTube videos that I checked out, and I was just completely blown away," Mr. Beller said. "So Mark and I reached out to him.

"At the time, we each had our own solo careers and we each picked two songs to play for a six-song set. The chemistry was unbelievable. We were gratified that the crowd thought so, too, because it was like they practically demanded we become a band on the spot."

A debut album, "The Aristocrats," and a tour soon followed. "We were all born in 1971 and we've all been playing forever," Mr. Beller said.

"We've had a lot of other gigs with other bands, other artists. We've all had a lot of sideline experience, and we've all gotten together with 'hotshots' and jammed. That's always fun.

"But when the three of us played together, it was something different that we felt right away. We feel like we've stumbled upon something that's very special and magic and we want to preserve it, you know? We don't want to screw it up, because people are reacting very positively to whatever combined energy the three of us have."

Each of the three artists is recognized throughout the industry for his talents and has been featured on the cover of magazines focused on their respective instruments.

"But playing together creates an energy that you just can't create on your own," Mr. Beller said. "And that means you don't have to carry the whole thing by yourself."

At their website, they've embraced the label of instrumental rock/???fusion's "Rowdy New Democracy."

Their song titles are irreverent punchlines or inside jokes that range from edgy to cheesy. Some of the titles cannot be published in a family electronic newspaper.

But they don't have to worry about dirty lyrics because there aren't any.

All three members contribute songs that they write separately.

"Then when we get together we record in the same room," he said. "We don't do that remote file-sharing thing, putting down different tracks. It can be done, but it definitely impacts the way the song is recorded. There's a different vibe when you're all in the same room recording the song together."

The evolution of the songs continues when they're performed on stage.

"It definitely is not like putting a needle on the record," Mr. Beller said.

"Songs don't show up live the way they sound on the record. And every song gets better, especially the new ones. After a few shows, we always have that moment where it kind of happens the right way, and we look at each other and we go, 'Oh yeah, that was it.'"

Halfway through a 13-week tour, the music is still taking shape. "Anything can happen on that stage tonight," Mr. Beller said.

Seating for the show at Hard Rock Cafe, 230 W. Station Square Drive, begins at 7:30 p.m. The cover is $20.

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Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com.


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