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The Jai-Alai Savant

Ralph Darden, the singing and guitar-playing leader of the Jai-Alai Savant, explores the intersection of first-wave punk and heavy dub reggae like few have since the heydays of the Ruts, early Police, and Sandinista!-era Clash. In fact, this has been Darden's main musical interest since at least the mid-'90s, when he first gained attention as one-quarter of Franklin, a Philadelphia band also featuring AM/FM's Brian Sokel, which released several singles and EPs as well as two full albums, Building in A and E and Franklin, before splitting in 2002. Almost immediately, Darden drafted bassist Mike Ali and drummer Jeremy Gewertz to record the Jai-Alai Savant's debut EP, The Thunderstatement, for the far-reaching indie Gold Standard Laboratories. Following this EP, Darden moved from Philadelphia to Chicago and found a new rhythm section, drummer Michael Bravine and bassist Dan Nash Snyder, as well as the mysterious "Major Taylor," who is credited with "beats, dubs, and concepts" but doesn't actually appear on the albums. Following a single on the European label City Slang, the revamped Jai-Alai Savant released The Flight of the Bass Delegate, a loosely disguised parable of Darden's escape from the Philadelphia music scene. ~ Stewart Mason, Rovi
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