By Steve Graham
Lettuce has been bringing the funk — and the noise — for 27 years, but they can still surprise fans.
Adam Smirnoff, who only identifies himself as “Schmeeans” during a phone interview, said he’s cooking up something new and fun for their first shows at the famous (and infamous, if you’re a ghost hunter) Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.
“We’re going to have a haunting surprise for you,” he said. “… Maybe we’ll unlock some doors to different dimensions.”
The band also plans to surprise fans with a new album this year. They made the record at Denver’s Denver at Colorado Sound Studios with engineer Russell Elevado, who has worked with Kamasi Washington and earned a Grammy for his work on D’Angelo’s “Voodoo” album.
It is a follow-up to the band’s 2017 release, “Witches Stew,” a contemporary jazz-fusion album that paid tribute to Miles Davis.
The band also is warming up for its fifth Red Rocks show this June, an epic night of funk, including a Jerry Garcia Band cover set, a second full Lettuce set and opening slots from TAUK and the Soul Rebels.
“Red Rocks is a beautiful place to play where you feel connected with the earth and the sky,” said Smirnoff.
The Morrison venue is a long way from the band’s humble beginnings. The core members met in high school while attending a summer program at Berklee College of Music. As broke teens, they often asked to borrow equipment or sit in on gigs.
“We’d have to be going to these jam sessions and house parties, and saying, ‘Would you let us borrow your bass amp? Would you let us sit in and play during this house party?’” Smirnoff said.
Hence the band’s name: All that “let us” groveling turned into “Lettuce,” and the name has stuck for nearly three decades.
Smirnoff said Lettuce has been working together for so long that members have developed something of a telepathic connection.
“When you play with a group of musicians for a long time, you have this natural ESP of making musical decisions of where a song will go and where a jam will go,” he said.
Several members of the Lettuce family live in Colorado, including Smirnoff.
“I was searching for the good life,” he jokingly said of his move from “the weight and anxiety and pressure of living in NYC.”
He said Colorado is a good place to raise a family, and it’s a great place for musicians.
“The people here are live music lovers and they are so appreciative when you play,” Smirnoff said.
He said their mostly instrumental music reaches across generations, genders and ethnicities for a positive feeling and universal appeal.
“Our goal is to uplift people and try for half a second to take you away from all the craziness that life has,” Smirnoff said. “If you can rise above that stuff for just a second, we’ve done our job.”
See Lettuce Feb. 22 and 23 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, or Feb. 24 and 25 at the Belly Up in Aspen. For tickets and information, visit www.lettucefunk.com.