Student jazz group takes ‘Shape’

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Jackson Greenberg ’12 plays at a recent Shape Machine show. (Courtesy Jackson Greenberg ’12)

By Katy Pinke ’10

A new jam band has been rapidly gaining popularity and acclaim in Princeton’s independent music scene. Shape Machine, born out of a summer collaboration between music majors Jackson Greenberg ’12 and Matt Wong ’10, debuted last month and will perform for students and alumni at University Cottage Club Nov. 14.

Greenberg’s primary instrument is the vibraphone, but he is also fluent on piano and drums. He began writing jazz music in high school, moved to sound design and scores for theater, and writes everything from film scores to pop songs. He has performed in international festivals with esteemed musicians and jazz ensembles, and he’s studied under well-known musicians and composers, including Orrin Evans and Alan Menken. (Audio samples of Greenberg’s work are available at myspace.com/jacksongreenberg.)

Wong began as a jazz guitarist, playing gigs throughout high school. He has backed a wide range of musical acts. Last fall, for example, he accompanied an opera-singing duo at the Mercer County Italian American Festival.

“The sound of Shape Machine is not only a byproduct of exposure to a lot of different sounds,” Wong said. “It is also a collaboration. When we came to campus in the fall, we contacted all of the musicians we knew who might be interested in our idea and held auditions.”

Other band members include Adam Hyndman ’12 on vocals, Rafi Klein-Cloud ’11 on guitar, and Leo Lester ’11 on drums. Greenberg and Wong have invited these new musicians to contribute to their vision. They also invite friends and fans to come to rehearsals, listen in, and give feedback.

Shape Machine’s premiere performance on campus took place at a jam-packed Cloister Inn in mid October. It was part of “ResilientGROOVE,” a fundraiser celebrating the launch of ryhelp.org, the Resilient Youth Foundation’s volunteer Web site. (The foundation, created by Josh Miller ’11 when he was in high school, aims to bring equality, opportunity, and motivation to underprivileged students.)

Shape Machine shared the stage with electronic music performers, mash-up artists, and The Cataracs, a mash-up and rap band from California that has gained popularity across college campuses in the last year.

Wong, who played with the cover band Where’s Waldo for the last three years, said that he began collaborating with Greenberg because he wanted to try something different.

“One night at the very end of last year, Jackson and I decided that we wanted to write our own originals,” said Wong, who began writing music in college. “We ended up writing two songs during the last week of the year. This summer, we were in constant communication, e-mailing each other chords and riffs. We came to campus this year with six completed songs and have been writing and tightening the music since then.”

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