I had two great Jazz Nights Out this past week. First up was a trip to Brothers Drake on Thursday, April 2nd to see Cincinnati’s Us, Today on their release tour for T E N E N E M I E S. Insane Jazz Posse opened the night with a set that mixed arrangements of ’90s pop tunes that the band is known for and selections from bassist and bandleader Ben Johnson’s expanding book of originals. Their rendition of Bush’s “When It All Comes Down” unlocked a forgotten musicality from the well-worn tune, as Johnson put in a workout on his upright bass and alto saxophonist Alex Burgoyne’s solo built steadily to a nimble display of technique. The Brazilian shuffle version of the Legend of Zelda theme was a highlight, with warm rhythms paving the way for solos by Burgoyne and guitarist Aditya Jayanthi. Burgoyne also showed his power on the Johnson tune “Clamhammer,” which came to a boiling close with fills by drummer Ryan Jewell. The set closed with “It’s Ya Boy Charles Mingus,” another original that struck a classic post-bop chord and featured a gritty solo by Johnson. While it may not make much sense on paper, IJP’s fusion of a handful of disparate elements results in a casually innovative and enjoyable sound.
After having pored over the new album and older material, the thing that struck me most about seeing Us, Today live for the first time is how much of the band’s sound comes from multi-instrumentalist Kristin Agee’s hard work. While her skill on the vibraphone was evident from the recordings, I didn’t realize that she was often playing vibes with one hand while playing a keyboard or theremin with the other. The band’s setlist was mostly selections from T E N E N E M I E S, and I enjoyed seeing those tunes come to vibrant life. “Le Duex Le Duex” had a smoldering intro, and developed into an oddball dance jam, driven by the machine-like rhythm of drummer Jeff Mellott (whom I had just seen eight days earlier with the Brandon Coleman Quartet). Agee created the mechanical opening of “The Compulsion of Picture Taking” by striking the tubes of her vibraphone with a mallet, and the song was also graced by some effects-laden guitar by Joel Griggs. It was a great night of fun and adventurous modern music.
On Saturday night, I went to Wild Goose Creative for Zakk Jones’ Screeching Owl EP release party. Screeching Owl opened with a program that mixed in other works with guitarist Jones’ originals from the album. Keyboardist Danny Bauer, who was only recorded on one of the EP tracks, played on most of the set and added a funky element to the sound with his Rhodes. “Wake 1-9” (I think), a Bauer original, featured a wide-ranging, soulful solo from the composer and excellent lines from the horn section of saxophonist Justin Dickson and trumpeter Steven Jacobs. “Screeching Owl” was a great solo outlet for the band, as Jones dealt some bluesy licks and Bauer and Dickson also hit hard. The live quintet/sextet setup was a bit stripped down from the studio versions but the arrangements adapted well, as Dickson and Jacobs split the vocal melodies of “Flood Meadow” and “Coif,” the latter of which ended the set with Jones letting loose a rocking solo. The set revealed a sextet of great potential while also entertaining with groove-based jams.
Radarhill closed the night with a set of favorites from The Yeilds along with some new material. I was reminded that one of my favorite elements of Radarhill is that while intricate, challenging songs can sometimes result in quieter, calmer performances, this band plays difficult pieces fast and loud. Keyboardist Caleb Miller is often a leading culprit, and his insistent left hand parts made “Risen Indeed” as intense as ever. A movement from a suite being written for the band by Milwaukee composer Nick Weckman was a new addition, and it employed some measured chaos that mounted to a wailing finale. New tune “Little Bit By Little Bit” got more propulsion from Miller, and bassist Eli Chambers turned in a fine solo before the horn section of saxophonist Jordan Reed and trumpeter Nick Simko came in with some well-placed lines. The set was a rousing conclusion to a night of friendly modern art and music, and the latest installment in Radarhill’s residency program that is making unique contributions to local nightlife.
Shows To See This Week
Thursday, April 9th (8 – 9:30pm): Bill Watrous and Friends at Huntington Recital Hall, Capital University. This performance by internationally known trombonist Watrous and his colleagues will kickoff Capital’s 21st annual Jazz and World Music Festival, which runs through the 21st with a bevy of free performances. Other highlights include a faculty composition recital by guitarist Stan Smith on Sunday the 12th at 7pm and senior recital programs that include Screeching Owl members Zakk Jones (Tuesday the 14th at 8pm) and Steven Jacobs (Thursday the 16th at 8pm). Click here for a full schedule of events.
Friday, April 10th (7:30 – 10pm): Billie Holiday Tribute featuring the Lisa Clark-Augis Quartet at Bungalow Jazz. Tuesday the 7th marked the 100th anniversary of the birth of the legendary jazz vocalist. To continue the celebration, vocalist Clark-Augis and her band of Jon Eshelman on piano, Derek DiCenzo on bass, and Joe Ong on drums will present a special performance in one of Columbus’ finest rooms for jazz. This tribute to Holiday’s legacy will feature “some of her great classics spanning her recording career from the 1930s through the 1950s.”
Tuesday, April 14th (8 – 10pm): The Charlie Hunter Trio featuring Bobby Previte & Carly Meyers at Natalie’s. Master seven- and eight-string guitarist Hunter is coming back to Natalie’s after putting on a great show there with drummer Scott Amendola last April. Hunter has recently been recording with renowned drummer and longtime collaborator Previte and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes, so this show should feature some interesting new material. Meyers is a rising star on the trombone, with several high profile gigs in the jazz-jam scene. Looking forward to another cozy evening of great music from Hunter and his cohorts.
Have a great week!