JazzColumbus Weekly – April 2, 2015

Happy April, jazz fans! I had three fine Jazz Nights Out last week, so let’s get to it. On Tuesday, March 24th, my friend Rick and I went to Natalie’s to see drummer James Gaiters debut his new band, Soul Revival. This quartet brings together regular Gaiters collaborators tenor saxophonist Eddie Bayard and organist Jon Eshelman and adds guitarist Craig “Superfly” McMullen, his nickname earned by playing in Curtis Mayfield’s band for the famous soundtrack. In my first time hearing him, McMullen’s grittier style, reminiscent of the R&B sides of early King Records, caught me off guard at first, but I soon grew to enjoy this different facet to the group’s sound. Accordingly, while the first set was very enjoyable, the second set was definitely my favorite.

The group’s rendition of Freddie Hubbard’s “Gibraltar” was the mind-blowing release I was hoping for, as McMullen uncurled his best solo of the night, Bayard blew fire for what seemed like forever (though I never wanted it to end), Eshelman’s unassuming attack ascended to great heights, and for a finale, the ensemble cooked on a looped chorus while Gaiters put on a clinic. This twenty-minute take on one of my soul-jazz favorites was a tremendous treat! After a sanctified Eshelman feature on Hank Marr’s arrangement of “Amazing Grace,” lovingly dedicated to the Columbus organ master (and Eshelman’s mentor), the quartet wrapped up the night with another heartfelt favorite, Duke Pearson’s “Jeannine.” Look out for more shows from this group and their articulate approach to soul-jazz – hopefully we see them again soon!

On Wednesday the 25th, I took full advantage of a second chance to see the Brandon Coleman Quartet after having to miss their February stop in town. Their Jazz Wednesday appearance at Brothers Drake was a simmering performance that teamed excellent musicianship with a more lighthearted sensibility. One of my favorite tunes was “Unmarked Path,” composed by the band’s pianist, Keigo Hirakawa, which put Hirakawa in a driving lead part but soon opened up into great solos, like a dexterous turn from bassist Matt Wiles, a grand and stately passage from the composer, and some major-league shredding from guitarist Coleman. Older Coleman tune “Geometry” was another highlight, as Wiles’ chewy bass line and drummer Jeff Mellott’s mathematical yet booming rhythms set the table for a great ensemble groove. The quartet plans to release their new album Infinite Loop in the coming months, so stay tuned for more state-of-the-art modern jazz in the near future.

Finally, I stopped by Dick’s Den on Friday the 27th to catch the second half of the Zebec show. Guitarist Ishmael Ali, a Columbus native, led the touring group through free jazz workouts as well as funkier small ensemble material that brought to mind Steven Bernstein’s Sex Mob. Saxophonist Billy Wolfe was celebrating his birthday in his college stomping grounds (he’s a Capital grad) in fine fashion, delivering fiery solos on all of the different types of tunes. Locally-based trombonist David Fletcher was also a key part of the band’s sound, with a handful of great parts himself. Though a bit deeper than most weekend club shows, Ali and crew entertained the crowd of revelers with their emotional brand of modern jazz.

Shows To See This Week

Thursday, April 2nd: Burleson/Mills/Richeson/Rogers at Rambling House, 310 East Hudson St. In the midst of a bustling Thursday night schedule for live jazz in town, this, the first of two jazz shows hosted this week by the local soda makers (Stan Smith plays there Saturday) is a fine choice for your evening entertainment. This band is a quartet comprised entirely of faculty at Denison University: Guitarist Brett Burleson, tenor saxophonist Pete Mills, bassist Doug Richeson, and drummer Seth Rogers; the latter two are also the rhythm section for another all-Denison band, the gypsy jazz purveyors SpeakEasy. As Burleson told me:

We have been playing semi-regularly at Moe’s in Granville for the past 6 months or so. We play various jazz standards and post-bop jazz compositions that we all know and move freely between the tunes with relatively little verbal discussion. These guys are masters at jazz improv and it’s a blast for me to try and keep up with them!

Sunday, April 5th (3 – 5pm): Richard Lopez presents CUBOP: The intersection of Salsa and Jazz at Columbus Museum of Art. After the handful of fine brunch options for Easter Sunday, the latest installment of pianist Lopez’s Jazz Master Sessions series will warm up the afternoon with “hot sounds when Afro-Cuban meets Bebop.” Lopez will be joined by Michael Cox on saxophones, Jim Masters on trombone, Jim Powell on trumpet, Pat Ankrom on percussion, Roger Hines on bass, and Matt Wagner on drums, so this all-star band should be putting forth some spirited Latin jazz. Tickets are available here.

Monday, April 6th: Cory Henry & the Funk Apostles w/ The Nth Power at Woodlands Tavern. Henry, keyboardist of Snarky Puppy, formed his new Funk Apostles band in January and immediately hit the road. I heard rave reviews about their February stop at the Tavern, so this Monday night modern fusion throwdown should be no different. This current tour pairs the band with the Nth Power, a jazz/funk/soul/etc. supergroup of sorts that features occasional Soulive/Lettuce member Nigel Hall on vocals and keyboards. Advance tickets are recommended, and available here.

Have a great week! Here are some videos from the Funk Apostles’ first round of shows:

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