'Cane Do

UM students launch a label, a band, and, just maybe, music-biz careers

Simply releasing the CD was a miracle in itself, say the band's members. Most of the tracks were laid down at Gusman Studios on the university campus, where many of the student engineers periodically erased or forgot to record tracks during all-night sessions (final tracks and mixes were completed at Criteria). Now that the record is in stores, the band recognizes that their work isn't done. "The release is the initial bang," says guitarist Roa. "Hopefully [the enthusiasm] will spread."

Influenced by the Police, Peter Gabriel, and Pat Metheny, treehouse fuses jazz, rock, and classical music into a sound reminiscent of Sting's The Dream of the Blue Turtles. Named Best College Band by New Times in 1994's "Best of Miami" issue, treehouse was chosen unanimously for the initial 'Cane project by the label's board of directors from among a number of local bands.

Treehouse formed in late 1992 when vocalist Sam Jaffe (who looks a lot like -- and even sounds a bit like -- Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder) met Roa and drummer Scott Garapolo while walking by a classroom in which the two musicians were rehearsing with another player. Jaffe, who came to UM from Boston in 1992 to pursue a degree in voice, suggested they get a singer, and after playing a gig with Garapolo (the bespectacled Chicago-area drummer recently graduated with a degree in studio music and jazz), Jaffe joined the band. Roa, an intense and philosophical New Yorker who graduated from UM in 1990 as a studio music and jazz major after transferring from Boston's Berklee College of Music, was a core member of the now-defunct pop-jazz group Look Around (with John Fournier and Raul Midon, now both with Dos Almas).

Treehouse played out for the first time in the spring of 1993, and since that time has undergone a number of personnel changes. The original bassist freaked out after graduation, says Roa, and quit music to go back home and become a fireman. Last summer, on the same night a new bassist joined, the band's keyboardist dropped out after the conclusion of a West Coast tour (it included showcases at the Roxy and the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Los Angeles); treehouse recently lost yet another bassist after he graduated. The three remaining members -- Jaffe, Roa, and Garapolo -- are optimistic their luck will change with the release of the CD.

In an effort to expand its audience, which up to now has consisted mostly of UM students, treehouse plans to play lots of gigs locally in the coming months in support of Listen to Reason.

"With plenty of venues and loyal audiences, you don't even have to play every night to make a living," observes Roa. "But you can, because the venues and audience are there."

Garapolo agrees, noting that the band came back from L.A. disappointed with that scene. "The market here isn't saturated, it hasn't happened yet," he says. "It's on the rise."

Treehouse performs at 10:00 p.m. Thursday (tonight) at Banana's, 3131 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove, 442-8788; admission is free; and Friday at 10:00 p.m. at Churchill's Hideaway, 5501NE 2nd Ave. admission is three dollars. Call 757-1807.

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