Zobo Funn Band
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The Zobo Funn Band, a band based in Ithaca, New York during the mid to late 1970s, performed original compositions that ranged from straight ahead rock 'n roll, to progressive jazz, and combinations of the two which gave them a unique and original sound. Fans danced in free-form, flowing movements that came be to known as "Zobo-ing."
Many of their performances were recorded by die-hard fans who plugged into the soundboard. In 1977 they released an LP simply entitled Zobo, which was widely admitted to be terrible, and completely unrepresentative of their live sound. The Zobo Funn Band became a veritable musical institution in Ithaca. By 1979 they and nearby Buffalo, New York "smooth jazz" band Spyro Gyra were both asked to make a demo and compete for a record contract, which ultimately went to Spyro Gyra, whose first album was a huge hit, leaving members of Zobo frustrated and ultimately leading to the dissolution of the band in 1980. A reunion show in September 1981 packed the Strand Theater in Ithaca, which has since been demolished.
The breakup of ZFB led to the formation of several regionally-popular spin-offs, including Sinbad and The New York Yanquis. These bands continued to attract a devoted local fan base of Zobo fans, and a new generation of younger Ithacans attracted by their vibrant energy, Zobo-reminiscent sound and strong local roots. While they occasionally toured regionally, their spiritual home remained popular Ithaca clubs such as Nite Court, the Nines and the Haunt, which they packed reliably with wildly enthusiastic dancing crowds.
By the mid-1980s, most of the core members of Zobo had drifted away from Ithaca to pursue other musical interests, gradually putting an end to the explosion of musical creativity Zobo Funn Band had spawned, and which had so deeply marked a generation of their Ithaca fans. David Torn toured with jazz innovators including Don Cherry and Jan Garbarek, released numerous albums under his own name and has had a remarkable career as a film composer and music producer. Jeremy Werbin died an untimely death of diabetes, after composing hundreds of songs. David Arnay teaches at the Thornton School of Music at USC in Los Angeles, California, has released two CDs of his own and recorded on several albums. Arnay produced the Live At The Haunt ZFB CD. Michael Wellen has recorded television soundtracks and released his own CD. James Twomey and James Campagnola ended up in New York City, where Twomey runs a post-production audio studio called Plush, NYC. James Campagnola is still practicing the saxophone and playing in cyberspace at [www.jamescampagnola.com].
After Werbin's death, the surviving members of the band released an album in his memory, which is available online. Proceeds are being donated to diabetes research. The new CD is of much higher quality than the old LP.