Layers of Sweet Sound

Inside the mini jam-band mind-set of local favorite the Jeremy Cornwell Project

Do you know a band that plays Fresh Prince of Bel-Air lyrics to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama? Well, you do now. The Jeremy Cornwell Project, an eclectic rock duo comprised of Michael Quarantello on keyboard and Jeremy Cornwell on guitar, is known for their mixture of cover songs, original material and a certain level of quirkiness. Their sound is rhythmic, energetic and catchy, but in a laid-back jam band type of way.

Watching them play in off-Strip lounges around town is similar to admiring a perfectly made layer cake. They build their songs from the ground up, recording musical phrases as they play them, and then recording and playing new phrases on top of that, creating the sound of a much larger band. For example, when Cornwell plays one of their original songs, Senses Too, he establishes the rhythm with a guitar riff. Then he taps a new rhythm on the side of his guitar alongside that riff. Then he does a soft beat box to that combined sound. And then another one. He adds a little guitar filigree, like loop-de-loop icing on a cake. And finally, Cornwell bursts into song, playing the melody alongside Quarantello’s piano. They use this style on some of their covers as well, imparting their personal imprint on songs everybody has heard before.

Cornwell and Quarantello talk freely—and playfully—about their musical ambitions and the simplicity of what makes them happy.

“My goal is to retire off of playing my music,” a free-spirited Cornwell says.

“I’d like to be Jimi Hendrix’s lead guitarist.” Quarantello jokes, continuing their banter. “We’d like to play a show on the moon at some point.”

“If in 10 years I’m still doing what I’m doing, I’ll be happy,” Cornwell says. “But, what is success? It’s a value judgment. We could always buy a minivan and throw our stuff in there.”

“Is that what we’ll take to the moon?” Quarantello asks.

Citing “rock, jazz and funk influences,” the duo enjoys sitting down and playing their instruments to see what comes out. The guys have real passion, which is apparent on their joyfully resonant album, Blue Bonnet & the Louisiana Mockingbird.

“You have to take success not as a definitive,” Quarantello says. “If I’m making a living and getting to play my instrument, I try not to complain.”

As much as they like playing their own music, the Jeremy Cornwell Project gets many requests for covers, which comes with the territory of performing in casinos. For the most part, though, they don’t mind doing their own version of what’s already been done.

“We had to put our foot down on some things,” Cornwell says. “Journey … and Poison.”