Horn-driven instrumental funk grooves coming to AtwoodFest
by Teri Barr
There are several, what I call “supergroups” in the Madison area, and though Rare Element is probably the newest—forming less than a year ago—the experience of its members easily pushes Rare Element over the top.
Chad Whittinghill is one of two founders in the band, which is made up of musicians in a way even those involved hadn’t seen or heard in the past. It’s a big part of the reason Rare Element is together. They had the goal to form a group where the horn section could be pushed to its limits, and everyone else had enough skill to keep up. Chad answered a few of my questions about Rare Element, the music, and why the band is already called a “must-see” act. Lucky for you, Rare Element takes the stage at AtwoodFest in Madison on Saturday afternoon, July 27th.
Maximum Ink: Rare Element has seven heavy-hitters in the group, Chad. Would you call this a dream come true for you?
Chad Whittinghill: Rare Element is a project I have wanted to start for many years. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of being a member of several fantastic groups during my 15 years in Madison, including the Clyde Stubblefield Band, The Jimmys, and the Blue Olives. Bryan Husk and I have been playing together in some capacity since I arrived in town in 2004. But, it took until October of 2018 to bring together this particular collection of talented players and great friends that I’ve met along the way, and we named this instrumental funk band dream-come-true, Rare Element.
The horn section consists of myself on trumpet, Bryan on tenor sax, and Nat McIntosh (Youngblood Brass Band) on trombone. Todd Phipps (2019 MAMA Award Winner) is on organ. He is also a long time friend from our time with the Blue Olives, of which we’re both still members. Longtime Madison staple Joe Niesen is on guitar. Then, our bass and drums combo consists of Brett Farey and Mark Marsh (2016 WAMI Drummer of the Year) who were members of the great Madison band, Smokin’ with Superman.
MI: Is there one thing you feel is really connecting the members of Rare Element?
CD: There’s an overall theme for us, and it is our love for funk music. While you can catch the different members in various jazz projects, blues bands, brass bands, and rock bands, all of us are really rallying around the common love we have for funky grooves.
MI: So even with those funky grooves, has anyone said they miss the fact your group doesn’t have a singer?
CD: The band is actually fronted by the horn section instead of a lead vocalist! We realize this is a bit uncommon, but it seems to work for the music we’re playing. And we do bring a pretty high energy show!
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MI: And Rare Element is bringing the show to AtwoodFest. Are you looking forward to it?
CD: Individually, our members have performed at AtwoodFest many times in the past. But this will be Rare Element’s first performance together, there. We’re extremely excited for this show! And to be honest, I’m not sure if I’m more excited to play or check out all of the other great bands on the schedule.
MI: How happy are you to be able to achieve your dream of forming a group like Rare Element?
CD: The original goal of the band was to play super funky music, as well as being able to push our horn section to the limits of our abilities. While some of the other aspects of the band may change over time, I’m confident the main goals will remain at the forefront.