Dave Homan Quintet: Live at Art’s Garage again

When he was 10 years old, he picked up a saxophone for the first time at Hopewell Elementary School

By: Janet Purcell
   Saxophonist Dave Homan has a longtime connection to Hopewell and he’ll be playing again in town — at Art’s Garage — on Sunday.
   True, he grew up in nearby Montgomery Township, but he, his brother Dan, and parents Joyce and Frank Homan have been active in the Hopewell Presbyterian Church from the time he was a young boy.
   And when he was 10 years old and picked up a saxophone for the first time, it was at Hopewell Elementary School when Montgomery was rebuilding the Orchard Road School and distributed its students to local communities.
   "My sax was two weeks late in arriving and I had to attend the group lessons without an instrument," he recalled.
   But he caught up quickly, played right on through high school, and Brown University where, with a major in physics and what he terms a strong minor in music, he studied classical saxophone and performed with the Brown Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. He still recalls, with a touch of awe in his voice, the time he played with the ensemble when the elderly Aaron Copeland was conducting.
   After Brown, Mr. Homan went on to Rutgers for a master’s degree in electrical engineering. And he’s still doing the balancing act between his expertise in computer programming (with Micro Computer Control Corp. in Hopewell) and his love of music.
   He met his wife, Charlie Fall, at a jam session at the Princeton Arts Council’s Cafe Improv back in 1988. "She grew up in a little village in England in the Midlands and I went back and forth across the Atlantic for a couple of years,” he said. "I lived in England for four or five months and started a jazz night at Nottingham’s Cookie Club."
   They married and in 1994 moved to Hopewell.
   During all this time, Mr. Homan was free-lancing here, sitting in with bands there and meeting the movers and shakers in the blues world such as harmonica player Nancy "Big Nancy" Swarbrick whom Mr. Homan says has played with the greats. Filling in for her guitarist, he went on tour with her and her band to Athens, Greece. "She’s the woman who is responsible for teaching me about the blues and hooking me up with a lot of the great musicians like Otis Rush, Pinetop Perkins, Johnny Copeland and Albert Collins.
   "I sat in with W. C. Clark in Austin, Texas, went to the Chicago Blues Festival, took my horn and sat in there, and I opened for Buddy Guy in Asbury Park about eight years ago when I was with The Fins, a Texas-horn band," he said.
   For 17 years, Mr. Homan has been playing with "Supreme Court," a blues band that originally met at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, hence the name, he said. Supreme Court is an improvisational band and Mr. Homan said when they play, "anything can happen — and usually does."
   Mr. Homan says he enjoys improvisation even though it’s so hard to do. Recently he and Lithuanian pianist, Lev Schneider, played at Ellarslie, Trenton City Museum. "When we met at Havanas in New Hope, we just looked at each other and said, ‘I like the way you play’." The gig at Ellarslie was totally improvised. "We just said, ‘Do you want to start now?’ and started playing."
   Their playing was so well received that now they’re looking to take their brand of experimental music to places that would be open to that sound. "Possibly prep schools," he said, "but the place has to have a good piano. (Lev) is excellent. He knows how to use the instrument and there’s nothing like the sound of an acoustic piano."
   And as if all this isn’t enough, Mr. Homan freelances with about a half dozen bands and also has put together his own music company, Uncle Ho Productions, (a loving nod to his two nieces, his brother Dan’s girls). He formed his own band, Dave Homan Quintet, which brought together musicians from the Central Jersey area: Chuggy Carter, hand percussion; Greg Novick, electric bass, hand percussion; Marc Rubin, electric guitar, timbales, hand percussion; Chris Eddleton, drums; and Mr. Homan, saxophones and hand percussion.
   In 2000 they put together a CD, "Dave Homan Quintet Live at Art’s Garage" and did just that — they recorded it live in Hopewell at Art’s Garage on Princeton Avenue just up from East Broad Street. This was a real happening for quiet little Hopewell. And now, on April 21, they’re going to give another concert there — from 6 to 10 p.m.
   Happenings at Art’s Garage are nothing new for the town, though. Art Helmke, owner and proprietor of Art’s Garage has been having art exhibits, readings and other cultural events there for the past several years.
   "I met Art walking around town back in 1991 or 1992," Mr. Homan said. "I took my car to him to be worked on. A couple of months later I met Chuggy Carter there. He’d just arrived from New York and lives in Hopewell. We’ve been playing together now for 10 years. Art began doing the art shows and we opened for one of those. It’s in a garage and some people wonder how can it possibly be wholesome, but it is. Families come and bring their kids, seniors come. A good group of people come out, audience as well as musicians.
   "Hopewell is a town with a lot of nice people and I think that comes from it being a farm community way back," he said. "A lot of people want to move here for that and because the people are so nice."
   For more information, visit www.unclehoproductions.com or call Mr. Homan at 466-8393.