Jonathan Mover has been an in-demand drummer for decades, manning the kit for Alice Cooper, The Tubes, Joe Satriani and other rock giants, but there had been a gap when it came to the genre closest to his heart, progressive rock. So Mover, a New York native living in LA, made his own band: the ProgJect. The band will perform its homage to progressive rock at the Iridium on April 19 and April 20 before a May 1 headlining slot at Cape Canaveral as part of Cruise to the Edge, the popular prog cruise.
When Mover briefly moved to London in the 1980s, he did a stint with neo-prog band Marillion during the time of its second album, “Fugazi.” GTR, a supergroup with guitarists Steve Howe and Steve Hackett — Howe coming off successful runs with Yes and Asia, and Hackett pursuing a solo career after leaving Genesis — followed. Mover only got a taste of prog with GTR, he explained: He worked with Howe and Hackett on progressive material, but when Geoff Downes (a bandmate of Howe with Yes and Asia) was brought in to produce, the material took a sharp turn toward the commercial. The idea was to piggyback on some of the success progressive musicians had been having with pop rock, namely Yes with the massive hit single “Owner of a Lonely Heart” and Asia with “Heat of the Moment.” GTR’s only album, it’s 1986 self-titled release, was successful, but not enough to keep Hackett and Howe on the same page, and the band split.
“Prog rock is the reason I play drums, but by the time I turned pro, prog in the classic sense was over,” he said. “And although I got to work with some prog-associated artists, such as GTR and Marillion, my career took a decidedly different, though incredibly fortunate path, working with artists such as Alice Cooper, Joe Satriani, Aretha Franklin, The Tubes, Shakira and others. That being said, I never lost my desire to play the prog I grew up listening to.”
Mover said he got the idea to assemble a band to play the music of his heroes after he did a fill-in gig with Canadian Genesis tribute act The Musical Box in 2019.
“That not only relit that childhood fire and desire, but made me realize: If there’s an audience for Genesis, and an audience for Yes, and Pink Floyd, and ELP, and King Crimson…there’s an audience for all of them,” he said. “So why not play them all, since I love them all, and assemble a team of extraordinary musicians that feel the same as I do? And they, like me, wanted to play a variety of prog from all our favorite bands, and therefore thought more of the concept of an ‘homage band,’ instead of a tribute band.”
The group Mover created has its prog bona fides. Lead singer Michael Sadler is a member of long-running Canadian prog band Saga, while guitarist Mike Keneally is known for his work with Frank Zappa, Steve Vai and Satriani. Ryo Okumoto, on keyboards, has been a member of Spock’s Beard since 1996, and Matt Dorsey, on bass, pedals, guitar, keys and vocals, is with Sound of Contact, a band that initially included Simon Collins, a son of Phil Collins.
While Mover and his mates have many projects to juggle, the drummer is committed to doing as much as he can with the ProgJect as a fan and student of the genre.
“It’s music that you really listen to, and in some ways, live in,” Mover said. “It’s not just something to play in the background. When you’re into prog, you’re not only really into listening, but often times, attached to it as well. It’s the same for seeing it played live. It’s more than just a music performance — it’s an experience.”