As the last one to join, violinist Boyd Tinsley may be the member of the Dave Matthews Band least surprised by its success. “When I first heard this band, I knew it was something special,” says Tinsley, who was asked in early 1991 to play on the demo song “Tripping Billies” and hooked up with the band full-time later that year. “When I first heard these songs played by these musicians, it was some of the most powerful stuff I’d heard in a long time. It doesn’t surprise me it works.” Tinsley certainly has the musical grounding from which to judge. A native of Charlottesville, who grew up in the same neighborhood as drummer Carter Beauford and saxophonist Leroi Moore, Tinsley was raised in a musical household. His father directed the church choir and an uncle played upright bass and trumpet in local jazz bands. There was a steady stream of Motown pumping out of the family stereo, as well.
Tinsley says he “stumbled into” playing the violin. His first desire was to play guitar, so he signed up for a middle school strings class – only to learn, of course, that it was for orchestral instruments. He was intrigued enough to take up the violin and quickly became proficient, though he notes that “my dog and my family hated me for a good couple of years” while he learned. As a teenager, he helped found the Charlottesville-Albemarle Youth Orchestra (which DMB bassist Stefan Lessard joined years later) and studied under the tutelage of Isador Saslav, the concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. That was a pivotal moment for Tinsley. Saslav wanted him to move to Baltimore to further his studies, but at 16 the young violinist wasn’t ready to leave home and make the sacrifices it would require to become a virtuoso. “That’s when I decided I didn’t want to pursue classical music seriously,” Tinsley says. Instead, he immersed himself in the works of highly regarded players such as Stephan Grappelli, Jean-Luc Ponty and Papa John Creach, all of whom worked in the realms of jazz, rock and blues. He further expanded his chops while attending the University of Virginia, where his fraternity, Sigma Nu, held periodic coffeehouses. With open to the public jam sessions that lasted all night, they attracted not only the cream of the local crop but visiting musical luminaries such as Hot Tuna/Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and Muddy Waters sideman Bob Margolin. His own projects — a duo called Down Boy Down and an electric group under his own name — were set aside when the DMB opportunity was presented to him.
Between recording Busted Stuff and Stand Up, Tinsley released his solo debut, True Reflections. He wrote or co-wrote almost all the songs on the album (released by RCA/Bama Rags in 2003), including the title track, which was a Dave Matthews Band concert staple. Tinsley has appeared on albums by Third Day, The Samples, Hootie & the Blowfish and Allgood. An avid tennis player, he composed a new score for ESPN’s Wimbledon coverage in 2006. He hosts the annual Boyd Tinsley $50,000 USTA Women’s Pro Tennis Championships and established the Boyd C. Tinsley Foundation, which helps to provide school tutoring, music lessons and instruments, as well as tennis lessons, to Charlottesville, VA school children.
“I believe it’s important to give young people the opportunity to participate in sports that they would not ordinarily be able to afford. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment and builds their self-esteem,” says Tinsley, who also sits on the honorary board of the Andy Roddick Foundation, which provides millions of dollars to programs across the U.S. that aid at-risk children and children suffering from life-threatening diseases. Tinsley supports numerous local and national charity organizations, including Feed the Children, the Charlottesville-Albermarle food bank, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the Coalition to Salute American Heroes, and plays an integral role in the Dave Matthews Band Charity Foundation, Bama Works, which provides hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to programs that provide support for low-income children and adults.
He also models occasionally, appearing in spreads and on billboards for JanSport, a runway show for Cynthia Rowley and modeling a Tommy Hilfiger and Gucci ensemble in the Los Angeles Times. “I just like clothes,” says Tinsley. “It’s definitely sort of a breather from the whole intensity of getting on stage or recording an album. Put some clothes on and take a picture? Hey, why not?”
Carter Beauford started on his music career at an early age — three years old. That’s when his father, who couldn’t find a baby sitter, took the toddler drummer-to-be to see the legendary Buddy Rich, which Beauford says “put the icing on the cake for me as far as what I wanted to do and what route to take. Believe it or not, I knew it was what I wanted to do then,” Beauford says. “My dad was a jazz trumpet player and kinda hipped me to the whole music scene. And he made it look like so much fun I decided to go ahead and pursue it.” Charlottesville, VA native Beauford largely lived behind his kit as a youth. “As long as I was on the drums, I was fine,” he says. Beauford played his first professional gig at age nine with a jazz-fusion outfit led by local luminary Big Nick Nicholas (an associate of John Coltrane’s). Eventually, he wound up in a Richmond, VA based group called Secrets, which a young Dave Matthews used to watch before approaching Beauford and the group’s saxophonist, LeRoi Moore, to help him work on some material he was developing. “I took a listen to it, and it was kind of interesting, the way he played and the way he wrote music” Beauford says. “Before long we were in the studio recording, not our first record, but something that we could go back and listen to and play for friends and see what people thought. We played it to friends and people were whooping and hollering over that sound we generated.” Obviously, it was successful. Beauford’s work with the Dave Matthews Band has generated a demand for his playing on others’ records as well. Since the release of “Before These Crowded Streets,” Beauford has shown up on albums by Carlos Santana, Blues Traveler’s John Popper, Victor Wooten of Bela Fleck’s Flecktones and Robin Andre (AKA Boy Wonder). “Outside work keeps the creativity flowing for me,” Beauford says. “I feel it’s important to get in there and try to tackle someone else’s music and play a little differently, and then bring it back to the band.”
Dave Matthews has chronicled his life’s travels so often that when asked, he can rattle off the details without pause. It goes like this:
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1967. Moves two years later with his family to Westchester County, NY, where his dad, a physicist, goes to work for IBM. Then, in the early `70s, to Cambridge, England, before returning to New York — where his dad died in 1977. The family moved back to South Africa in 1980, where Matthews went to a few different schools and “got more wise about the evils of government, there and in general.” O.K.; pause for a breath.
The key move for Dave Matthews Band fans, of course, was when he relocated in 1986 to Charlottesville, VA, where his parents had lived before he was born. Though he also logged time back in South Africa and in Amsterdam, it was in Charlottesville where Matthews — who took piano lessons as a child before picking up the guitar at age nine — became part of the local music community and hatched the idea for his own band.
“I didn’t really have a vision, or a plan,” says Matthews, acknowledging that some of his musical sensibility came from spending time in so many different places as a child. “I’m sure it gave me a little bit of an openness. The most diverse music in the world is in America, ’cause there’s so many different cultures here, but what tends to be pushed to the top is often a narrow view of what there really is. So maybe (his travels) just gave me a wider pool of listening.”
Matthews says his principal goal with the band was to surround himself with the best players possible. To this day he remains “amazed” that he was able to recruit and retain the four musicians he rather modestly refers to as his superiors. “I was just looking for people that I liked,” explains Matthews, who feels he’s “gotten a bit better” over the years. “Could I play with them was more of the question, I think. We just ended up fitting together. The band wasn’t something that I was looking for; it was very much I loved the people I asked to play with me. There was a connection at the beginning, and I think what we’ve been about is not some grand scheme but more the spirit of everyone, which is why we ended up with this band and why it sounds like it does.”
Jeff Coffin is an internationally recognized saxophonist, bandleader, composer and educator and has been traveling the globe since the late 20th Century. He is a 3x Grammy Award winner from Bela Fleck & the Flecktones and played with them from 1997-2010. In July 2008, Jeff began touring with Dave Matthews Band, and officially joined the group in 2009 following the tragic passing of founding member LeRoi Moore. When not on the road with DMB, Coffin fronts his own group, Jeff Coffin & the Mu’tet.
Some of the artists Coffin has shared the stage and the recording studio include a “who’s who” of musicians such as Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Dave Matthews Band, Branford Marsalis, Bob Mintzer, DJ Logic, New Orleans Social Club, Maceo Parker, McCoy Tyner, Baaba Maal, Phish, Mike Clark’s Prescription Trio, Galactic, Kirk Whalum, My Morning Jacket, Widespread Panic, Chris Thile, Willie Nelson, Chester Thompson, Garth Brooks, Van Morrison, J.D. Souther, Vinnie Colaiuta, The Dixie Chicks, ‘Rakalam’ Bob Moses, Stanton Moore, Brooks and Dunn, Tuvan Throat Singers – the Alash Ensemble & Konger Ol Ondar, George Porter Jr., Umphrey’s McGee, Del McCoury, John Scofield, Yonder Mountain String Band, Marc Broussard, Martina McBride, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Wailers and many, many others.
Along the way, Coffin has absorbed an astounding range of influences. “Whether it be New Orleans Second Line, African, Indian Ragas, Brazilian, folk songs, Gypsy music, Alan Lomax field recordings, jazz, funk, etc…” he says, “the spirit and breath of the music is what I take away from the listening and playing. It’s what decides for me if I like it or not…I consider it ‘Spirit Music’.” Coffin is also known to play two saxes at a time, in a nod to the late great saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
Jeff is a heavily in-demand clinician, a Yamaha Performing Artist and, since 2001, has presented more than 300 solo and Mu’tet music clinics from Farmington, Maine to Perth, Australia to students of all ages to raving reviews. Education continues to be an important part of what Jeff shares with others, and he is a tireless champion to players of all ages and levels to discover and cultivate their own musical voice.
Living in Nashville, TN since 1991, Coffin graduated with a music education degree from the prestigious University of North Texas in 1990 where he played in the acclaimed One O’Clock Lab Band. He also studied with sax great Joe Lovano on a National Endowment for the Arts grant.
At the 2000 Grammy Awards, in addition to Bela Fleck & the Flecktones winning a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Recording (Outbound), Coffin’s tune, Zona Mona (also from Outbound) was Grammy nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Composition.
Coffin is also an avid photographer and he sees photographic composition, musical composition and improvisation as going hand in hand. www.jeffcoffinphotography.com.
Founding Dave Matthews Band member LeRoi Holloway Moore (September 7, 1961-August 19, 2008) was born in Durham, North Carolina and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia. LeRoi began playing the alto saxophone in the junior high school band, and played in the band during his tenure at Western Albemarle high school. He studied tenor saxophone at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA.
LeRoi had become an accomplished jazz musician in Charlottesville prior to founding DMB, playing with artists such as John D’earth and Dawn Thompson. He helped found the Charlottesville Swing Orchestra and the John D’earth Quintet. The John D’earth Quintet played weekly Thursday night gigs at Miller’s in Charlottesville in the late 80s into early 90s. It was on one of those Thursday evenings in 1991 that LeRoi and Dave Matthews first met. LeRoi began providing instrumental arrangements for a few of the songs that Dave had written and shortly thereafter, began recording songs with Dave. LeRoi and Carter were jazz compatriots for years before the meeting with Dave, performing together in many informal gigs and jam sessions.
LeRoi has been credited for arranging much of the music to lyrics written by Dave. Throughout his musical career, LeRoi played bass, baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones as well as the flute, bass clarinet, wooden penny whistle and oboe. In addition to performing with Dave Matthews Band, LeRoi appeared on Code Magenta’s self-titled album, on Soko’s album In November Sunlight and Nas’s album Hip Hop is Dead.
LeRoi passed away in August of 2008 from complications sustained in an ATV accident occurring in late June. Dave said of LeRoi at the funeral service in Charlottesville, “He would put that horn in his mouth and make the most astonishingly honest music that could knock you over, and it would sink right to the middle of you.”
LeRoi will forever be known as an incredibly talented musician who was blessed with the ability to fluidly traverse jazz, funk, rock and classical musical styles. He will always be remembered as being one of the few saxophonists to become a key member of a rock/pop band, ultimately changing the way a saxophonist is perceived in a rock band.
Rashawn Ross started his musical journey from humble beginnings in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. While in high school, Ross began performing and traveling with some of the islands’ most popular dance and calypso bands. From that point, music became a huge part his life which led to his decision to pursue it as a career.
A graduate of Berklee College of Music (1996-2000), Ross has worked with artists in many different genres of music ranging from funk, rock, jazz, hip hop, gospel and country music. Since graduating from Berklee in 2000, He has toured with Yerba Buena, Soulive and DJ Quik. Rashawn began working with Dave Matthews Band in 2005 and became a regular tour musician beginning with the 2006 DMB tour.
Rashawn has enjoyed the unique opportunity to perform and record with an impressive roster of artists including: Usher, Ludacris, Chris Cornell, The Fugees, Maceo Parker, Ron Blake, Christian McBride, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, The Edge, Rodney Jerkins, Christina Milan, Fred Hammond, Sean Paul, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, ?uestlove, Mobb Deep, Talib Kweli, Common, Pharoah Monch, Mark Batson, Robert Randolph, Mo Horns, Doug E. Fresh, B Real, Chingy, Nate Dogg, Kim Burrell, Richard Smallwood, Kelly Price, The Hawkins Family, James Hall, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, String Cheese Incident, Baaba Maal, Taj Mahal, and Femi Kuti.
Bassist Stefan Lessard (aka Fonzy) is the youngest member of Dave Matthews Band, by a good seven years. He was just 16 when approached by the then bartender Dave Matthews who asked Stefan to join him, Carter Beauford and LeRoi Moore in their attempt to form a band. He was the perfect fit. Being so young, he saw the band as a continuation of his musical education and took the group very seriously. Still fresh in high school, he weaved simple yet strong bass lines proving to be an integral part of the new sound being created by the group.
Born in Anaheim, CA, his parents had both been musicians, which had a great effect on Stefan. Stefan remembers music always being played in his house and recalled that his Dad would get back from his 9 to 5 and immediately start playing guitar or flute, while Stefan usually banged on the bongos. Stefan was quoted as saying, “My Mom had a beautiful voice and she and my Dad would do jazz gigs at weddings or lounges. They always wanted to be playing more, but the music couldn’t support the cost of life.” His family moved back and forth between California and Rhode Island until they landed in Virginia when he was 6. It was around this time that he began to show a real interest in music.
Stefan’s first music teacher was a woman by the name of Mary Carol. She taught him the violin and piano first and then began teaching him the guitar. He was struck by the beautiful relationship she had with music. He fondly remembers spending time on her porch in the country with her friends while they played old time bluegrass and folk music. Stefan credits her with giving him the belief in true expression with music. In high school, Stefan picked up the bass and took to it right away. He stunned the high school music teacher with his serious attitude toward playing and was soon playing alongside of local jazz greats, LeRoi Moore and Carter Beauford being two of the greatest. He started playing regularly at small bars and coffee shops as well as community and private functions where he began earning the reputation of being a good, solid bass player. He started with electric bass at first but quickly moved to the upright. He had been playing upright bass for about a year when he was asked to play some music with Dave, Carter, and Leroi. He jumped at the chance but upon playing his upright with them, he felt the sound of the group called for the electric. In the beginning, he was not only the youngest member but also the only one playing an electric instrument.
Stefan was accepted a year early to VCU where he was enrolled almost a month before he was faced with making the decision between being a student and playing with the band. The choice was not easy but his instincts told him to stick with the band. Matthews used to love telling people that Stefan was the only person he knew who both dropped out of high school and college. Stefan’s tastes range from Hip Hop to Soul to Alternative to Heavy Rock to Metal to Jazz to World Beat to R&B to Reggae and so on. Stefan describes how music must appeal to him, “The music I listen to needs to stimulate my mind, nod my head, move my feet, or shake my hips, if it doesn’t we don’t get along.” Stefan plays outside of conformity, always reaching out for the new style while paying respects to the old.
Stefan likes to spend his off time playing with his son Diggy and daughters Hazel and Flora. His other activities include snowboarding, skateboarding, graphic design, painting, raising dogs, playing video games, driving fast, skim boarding and ATVs, just to name a few. Stefan maintains his own lifestyle/music/clothing website at IZSTYLE.com and has been involved with musical side project Yukon Kornelius. Yukon Kornelius is a rock band which formed in late 2007 for charitable purposes and in addition to Stefan, consists of Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies, Adam Gardner of Guster and drummer Eric Fawcett of N*E*R*D and Spymob. Keep your eyes and ears directed toward Stefan Lessard. He truly is a modern day extreme musician.
Tim Reynolds has been playing music all of his life. Starting as a bass player in a gospel band in his hometown of St. Louis to his days in Charlottesville with TR3, his breakthrough electric trio in the 1980s, and his recent recording and touring with Dave Matthews Band and the Dave Matthews-Tim Reynolds Acoustic Duo. Tim’s progression has continued through his last eight years on the road as a solo acoustic guitar wizard, playing for packed houses and crowds who have come to realize that Tim is not just Dave’s sideman; he is one of the most talented, amazing, and thoughtful players on the circuit today.
Having explored most musical styles, from rock to jazz and flamenco to reggae, Tim makes use of every instrument with his wide-ranging musical ability and rises above the mere mastery of chops to a virtual state of communion with whatever instrument he happens to be holding. He is a self-taught master of the sitar, solo jazz guitar, solo djembe, twelve string guitar, violin, and mandolin, along with his acoustic and electric guitars. His many influences, which include Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Led Zeppelin, among others, are indirectly felt in the fabric of Tim’s power trio and solo projects.
After living in New Mexico for the last eight years, Tim recently relocated to the Outer Banks of North Carolina where he ran across two musicians, bass player Mick Vaughn and drummer Dan Martier, who would eventually form this latest version of TR3, his favorite project. After a chance meeting of these three talented players, a few rehearsals and several stealth appearances around the North Carolina shore Tim realized it was time to get back to the basics of rocking out the way only Tim can. Once again things have come full circle and TR3 is back to rock and funk the house down. Their songs are a mix of updated Tim classics to wild covers of everything from James Brown to Prince to TR3′s newest catalogue of material.