CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. - Jelly Bread is rising.The Reno quartet solidified its lineup last spring, recorded an album and donned dapper, three-piece suits for a CD-release party."We wanted to make an impression," bandleader Dave Berry said. "We wanted to show up to a gig looking like we had a job."Jelly Bread has received plenty of job offers ever since, steadily performing at clubs and venues throughout the West. And today it adds an accolade to its rsum: Lake Tahoe Action 2012 Band of the Year.The band sounds like Tower of Power or Dumpstaphunk with a Southern drawl. It plays a combination of R&B, gospel, funk and pop with frolicsome instrumentation accouterments like a lap steel guitar and an organ talk box. Drummer Cliff Porter has a name for it: "feel-good music."Berry, a 35-year-old Reno native whose family is mostly from Oklahoma, plays guitar, dobro and lap steel guitar. A singer-songwriter with a Ben Harper bent, his Southern heritage is revealed in a down-home temperament and musical delivery.Porter and his uncle Brady Carthen, the bassist, have played together all their lives in church, but have different approaches."To me Jelly Bread is a gumbo pot," Porter said. "Even though me and Brady are related and grew up in the gospel field, he's more of a jazzy kind of guy and I'm more of an R&B to the funk side of stuff. Dave is a singer-songwriter, influenced by Ben Harper and John Mayer and all those kind of guys. And Eric (Matlock), he's just 'funk-tastic.' We just all bring in what we all do and we melt it all it all together and we feel good. I can describe it only as feel-good music."Like the 2011 Band of the Year the Dead Winter Carpenters, Jelly Bread has moved from playing in the Crystal Bay Casino Red Room to the larger Crown Room.It will play in the North Shore venue for the fifth time Dec. 16 when it opens for Dragon Smoke, an all-star collection of New Orleans players which only gets together once a year or so.Jelly Bread - not named after the Booker T and the MGs song - is musically delicious. Formed three and one-half years ago, the band coalesced in earnest with the addition of keyboard player Matlock in May. "Sometimes you need that one little ingredient to make it taste just right," Porter said. "And that's what (Matlock) did. His style of playing (is) very comfortable for me to play with because he's very percussive."Matlock is a former member of Lake Tahoe Action's 2010 Band of the Year, Mama's Cookin.' He since played with Subjektochange which morphed to Headphone Union. When the latter went on hiatus, Berry recruited Matlock, a North Shore resident."Once Eric became a free agent and he jumped on board, that is what really turned a corner for us," Berry said. "He was like the final piece of the puzzle the way he plays Hammond B3. He doesn't look like a Southern gospel cat, but man he gets on the keys and he's just so full of life, pure energy and he's a songwriter, too. When we got him in the band, everything just took off."Matlock modestly agreed."They were already a great band but they were always looking for a keyboardist that fit their style," he said. "When I came in I think we all just felt comfortable playing with each other. It just clicked."Matlock leans toward the funk, listing influences as Billy Preston, Ivan Neville, Richard Vogel from Galactic, Papa Gros (Funk), Orgone (Dan Hastie), Art "Papa Funk" Neville and talk box pioneer Roger Troutman."It's just so fun to bring that nasty groove," he said. "This band is funky and groovy. It appeals to such a wide range of people. I loved my last band but it was a niche of certain people were into and certain people were not into. But this band. If you like dancing, or you like music at all, then I don't see you not having a good time with us."Jelly Bread began with a jam.Reno natives Berry and Porter coincidentally relocated to their old home towns after stints in Southern California and Arizona, respectively.Porter heard there was an empty drum set on stage at Cantina Los Tres Hombres. He saw that Berry was playing - with his eyes closed - so he went behind the drums and joined into the music. When Berry opened his eyes, it was a happy reunion."He said, 'Man, I was looking for you,' and I said, 'I was looking for you,'" Porter said. "He and my older brother grew up together."That was on a Tuesday in 2009. They jammed at Porter's barbershop and by Friday were playing a gig. They recorded an eight-song CD to sell at shows, and last spring released "No Dress Code." Jelly Bread plans to return to the studio in January."We got a hand full of songs written and a plethora of ideas on other stuff," Berry said. "I'm always writing and have stuff to bring to the band. We have a lot of ground work for songs but have not had time to hash them out."All four of the members will bring ideas to the studio."This is really feeling expansive here," Matlock said. "It seems like things are snowballing really fast. It feels really cool to be in a band that seems like it has a good shot at getting out there to a lot of people. We've had some great festival successes and some great tours and the new management has helped us moved forward."Porter knows what success sounds like. He played are recorded with a decade-long gospel theater group and his family's band Four With God. He became interested in music when he was 5 when his uncle Little Joe Blue gave him a drum kit.Born Joseph Valery in Vicksberg, Miss., Little Joe Blue was a Chicago-style blues player who had a hit song, "Dirty Work Going On" on Checker records in 1966. He died in Reno in 1990.Jelly Bread might be a hit song away from becoming a national touring band."We are all humble guys and don't take anything for granted," Porter said. "We're very humbled by everything that is happening. All we want to do is just keep playing. We are very blessed and very happy it's starting to reach a lot more people. It's growing and were just riding it, man. We're just riding and enjoying it."
Headliner: Dragon Smoke (Ivan Neville of Dumpstaphunk, Stanton Moore and Robert Mercurio of Galactic and Eric Lindell)Opener: Jelly Bread, Lake Tahoe Action's Band of the YearWhen: 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16Tickets: $17 in advance or $20 on the day of the show