Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found encompass an eclectic mix of personalities, musical style and professional prowess.
There is Kendall Bellamy, a trained drummer who works for Kwik Kar Detail and moves with rhythmic style on stage providing intense beats to the band's varied original music. His sense of humor is a smart wit, energized, with friendly focus that keeps the band right on track. Dustin Ivey is a trained jazz saxophonist, family man and boat detailer for Kelly's Port, but his skills on bass have made him a solid original member of the Lost and Found.
Then there is Sarah Allison, an original songstress from the group and now returning singer. Her quiet and reserved personality is not often reflected through her dynamic, melodic voice. The Dollar General employee expressive and superior range in vocals are reminiscent of such classics as Etta James and Bjork. Alongside her at the microphone is Kathy "Koffee" Taylor, whose homelife as a goat and tilapia farmer speaks of hard work and dedication as she moves effortlessly around the stage, dancing and providing vocal excellence in pure tone.
Finally, there is Lenny Mink, the organizer of the group. His musical background is evident through his songwriting, original music and vocal and guitar styling's. The product of three generations of accomplished musicians, whose father often sits in with his current ensemble, Lenny's musical career both on stage and off as a record producer to more than two dozen artists is a force to be admired and respected in the local and regional music scene.
Yet, as the ensemble performed "We Carry the Stone" during its new CD, "The Return of the Lost Camel," release party July 28 at City Grill's Blue Room Nightclub in Osage Beach, Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found exemplified how five unique personalities can have incredible synergy to produce original musical fusion.
"We all have similar sense of humor and have a good time on the road," Lenny said. "Kendell has the sharpest wit of anyone I've met. Koffee is the mother hen in a good way. Sarah is quiet and shy but has an incredible voice. Dustin is the iron man of the band.
"We play eclectically whatever we want to play and are very versatile as a group, playing funk, country, rock, blues, jazz. We are all different people in the band, but the idea fits the members as we are all a bit obscure but work well together."
Influences melding together
It's been 14 months with the current Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found lineup, with various musicians rotating in from time to time. In fact, when Sara Allison left the band for awhile, Lenny tracked down an old band partner in Koffee to join up as a regular.
"It was like in the movie, "The Blues Brothers' where they were trying to re-assemble the band and one guy was working at the pawn shop and another at a diner. I had to find her at the farm and say, "I really need you now,'" Lenny said with a laugh. "Sara has come back, and now we have two great female vocalists in the group."
The core group of Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found has been Lenny, Kendell and Dustin. Lenny and Kendell played an improvised show as a duo at a local Battle of the Bands contest, placing second overall.
As the Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found play a variety of four-hour shows out and about around the Lake Area often with sprinkled originals and a lot of varied cover songs, its authentic songwriting and lyrics like those on its recent CD come from the poetic brainchild in Lenny.
Born in the former Soviet Union and raised in the U.S., Lenny was surrounded by musical influences all his life. His great-grandfather played musical instruments, his grandfather is an accomplished stringed instrument performer, a musical tool much like the mandolin, and accomplished vocalist, and his father is a classically trained music connoisseur of many instruments including clarinet, brass and saxophone, to name a few. In fact, Lenny recalls touring with his father's rock band, Zanzabar, while they lived in St. Louis and hearing a totally different side to his father's musical style at home.
"I remembering hearing my father and his band play top 40 hits from the '60s to the'80s, then hearing him practice a Mozart clarinet concerto for hours at home," he added.
Lenny was 6 years old when he came to the U.S., but he continued learning music theory, testing out musical instruments he enjoyed such as piano, learning ZZ Top's "La Grange" by ear on saxophone and finally settling in with the guitar at age 19 after he graduated from high school.
Through college, Lenny composed music to match his longtime passion for poetry and creative writing. Even though he got a degree in history in college, he enjoyed taking writing courses to help develop his lyrical skills to adhere to his growing music passion.
"The Return of the Lost Camel'
"I am more of a composer/songwriter, using my guitar as my main tool," he said. "I think hearing melodic instruments in the house growing up helped me cook up melodies in my head my whole life."
He has composed hundreds of songs, but as he said, "left more alongside the road than kept in his current repertoire." Yet, in working with several projects in St. Louis and on his own has produced previous albums and solo projects - six or seven to boot - before Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found recently released, "The Return of the Lost Camel."
Yet, for Lenny, this project has had a lot of depth and selection of tunes that he feels brings out the band's full musical fusion and has a common, consistent thread to make for an entertaining, original album.
"It's an interesting process. Sometimes you pick songs and write them and compile them into what you think would work. Other times, you just think you are going to write an album," he said. "For this album, the original idea came from when my wife and I were in Australia visiting family."
The couple decided to stay at a lodge out in the Australian outback called, "The Lost Camel Hotel." The image they had on the hotel's wall described how camels, in the Austrailian outback are not indigenous to the country. He also thought of a metaphor of a soldier when writing a song around the experience and hotel.
"The song went into a different direction musically, but the idea came from the desert and a soldier returning home from war," he said.
He took pieces of his childhood in Israel during the immigration process and his creative style to compose "The Lost Camel." Additional tunes such as "We Carry the Stone," and "No Return" also key in on similar themes. Then, other original tunes such as "Turn the Lights Off," a love song for his wife, and "Crazy Sara" are possible singles that Lenny thinks will also show the diversity of the group.
"I think this shows the visual appeal of the band," he said. "We are fusion funk, a rock meets jam and yet the album all sounds cohesive."
The life of a working rock band
While the band tours around the Lake Area performing their original tunes and hoping to book additional gigs to promote their music, Lenny continues to produce recording artists - with several local ones who are also releasing albums. They also have acquired a sixth man, Jordan Vincent of JV Sound and Stage, to serve as a stage engineer for the band.
On top of performing at the Eco Fest, a weekend long musical festival in Eldridge, on Aug. 18 and various gigs, Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found are excited to see the outcome of an additional project - a documentary on their musical career.
Videographers with Lake TV Channel 32 television station have been following the ensemble around for the last several weeks and will for about 30 days, collectively catching moments of a true working rock band.
"When they approached me about doing a promo on the band, we thought the real life of a working band versus a rock and roll fantasy would be more compelling and interesting," Lenny said. "The fact is I am almost 40 years old and not trying to live out the Hollywood dream. We all have day jobs and the idea is to be in a band, in a resort area, playing four-hour shows with cover songs, but finding a mode of self-expression through it all."
The group is excited to see the outcome and has had some fun experiences as the crew has followed their every move on and off stage as a band. Yet, for Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found, their success is achieved through not fame but simple acknowledgement of their original, creative music.
"I see us as an underdog and not strictly a cover band. We are a capable cover band. However, we are not interested in that glass ceiling. We are trying to break out and get to the national level," he said. "If we have any ambition, it is not necessarily to become famous but be at the level to make a living doing what we love."
For more information about Lenny Mink, Lenny Mink & The Lost and Found, upcoming gigs or their new CD release, visit www.lennymink.com.