Moksha bets on a good time

Moksha emerges from America's "Sin City" with its funky beats, improvisational rampages and an eclectic debut album.

The funk-rock band, while at home among the glitz and glam of Las Vegas, has decided to stretch its legs and take its show on the road. The group, featuring bassist John Heishman, organist and keyboardist Brian Triola, drummer Patrick Gray, guitarist Jeremy Parks and lead vocalist Sam Lemos, aims to spend a couple of weeks each month on tour, extending its fan base into California and Oregon.

Moksha will perform its debut Ashland/Oregon show at 8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, at CultureWorks, 310 Oak St., Ashland.

The band, which formed three years ago, plays instrumental and vocal originals that draw from a diverse range of music traditions. However, when asked, Gray says he label's Moksha's music as "danceable, funk-rock with an element of improvisation."

"One of the cool things about Moksha is we don't have a lot of rules on the types of music we can play," he says.

A song may highlight the old time signatures of bluegrass, but open with progressive rock, he explains.

In creating its sonic landscape, Moksha also crosses modern with vintage as it incorporates electronic beats with retro instruments, such as a vintage keyboard, lap steel guitar and Hammond organ.

"We're all just lovers of music, all genres, so we try to incorporate all kinds," says Gray.

The title of Moksha's debut album, "Mammal or Machine," released in April 2010, refers to this composite of old and new sounds. It's a backlog of the band's songs and features world music, electro trance and funk rock, says Gray.

Guest guitarist Brian Stoltz helped to produce the album and adds a New Orleans flavor to the mix.

The Moksha musicians, all of whom were classically trained, also recently finished recording their second album, which is still untitled and is scheduled for release in May.

Gray says the album is more cohesive than the first, featuring the same performers throughout. (Lemos didn't join the band until the recording of "Mammal or Machine" already was under way.)

The upcoming CD also features Santana's horn section playing arrangements by famed Avant-garde musician and composer Peter Apfelbaum, says Gray.

In Las Vegas, Moksha regularly plays with a horn section and also collaborates with body painters, magicians and other visual artists in the hopes of presenting an unforgettable show. Unfortunately, neither the visual artists or horn players accompany the band on the road.

From home, the group plays up and down Vegas' well-lit strip, including the House of Blues, the Hard Rock Cafe, The Beatles Revolution Lounge and Binion's Horseshoe, where they play regular gigs on the rooftop pool deck, overlooking the city.

While Vegas is "the life," Gray says the band enjoys the newness that comes with touring.

"We love traveling, meeting new people and playing new places; but at the same time, Vegas has been good to us, and we have a good fan base there," he says.

Ashland-based bands Uncle Charley and Lost Maven also will perform Thursday night at CultureWorks. There is a suggested donation of $5 to $10 for the show. For more information, see or call 541-488-4888.

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