Happy Holidays! Before I get into a live review and a roundup of your plentiful jazz options for the holiday week, I want to honor my favorite local jazz albums of the year. 2017 was another strong year for recorded jazz by some of the area’s finest musicians. My personal favorites out of this strong crop included, in roughly chronological order: Liz Woolley Band – Something I Can Feel, Brett Burleson – Songs For My Friends, Doug Neel – Balance, Tim Dvorkin Trio – Live and Raw, and Paul Baker – Blue Lights Late Nights. I know there are new projects in the works, so I’m looking forward to more excellent albums in 2018! Please remember that JazzColumbus aims to review as many jazz albums by Central Ohio musicians and groups as possible, so please contact us if you are releasing a new project. Come back next week for a rundown of my favorite live shows of the year!
A Jazz Night Out
For the first time in far too long, I got out to see live jazz on Saturday the 16th and saw two excellent bands at the “Winter Wonderland Extravaganza” featuring Safety Squad and Radarhill at Rumba Cafe. While it was unfortunate that Radarhill drummer Seth Daily is recovering from surgery and was unable to play, it was great to see the band’s original drummer Troy Kunkler in Daily’s place. The band tore through slightly older material that they hadn’t played recently, including “Spider Respects Nothing,” which was a pulsing maelstrom with prominent contributions from keyboardist Caleb Miller, and the driving staccato attack of “Petitions” with a huge swooning chorus that gives me goosebumps every time.
An extended 12-member (somehow fitting on stage with ease!) lineup of Safety Squad played a mix of tunes from their debut and songs from their new album which was recorded at Oranjudio two days later. From the former category, “La Fiesta De Trineo” kicked off with an epic gospel organ solo by Andrew Willard before the neon chorus led by guitarist Jordan Millisor and a gigantic percussion breakdown courtesy of Matthiessen Nisch Quan, Kramer Sell and Stephan Fess. Having heard the material, I’m now even more excited for the new album and its party-inspiring tunes. “The Big Crunch” emphasized the guitars of Millisor and Zakk Jones over a live party groove and also included a meaty solo by bassist John Allen, who was celebrating a birthday. “Mr. Mungo’s Revenge” employed huge funky horn lines, more great organ work from Willard, and heavy synthesizer passages from bandleader Danny Bauer. It was a great night of fun modern jazz, and I can’t wait to hear what these bands have in store!
Holiday Jazz Guide
Friday, December 22nd: A busy weekend kicks off with a mix of reliable weekly shows and special events. Cleveland vocalist Helen Welch returns to Notes for a “Home For The Holidays” show that celebrates the release of her Home for Christmas album at 7pm – tickets available here. 7pm is also the start time for the “Holiday Haven” Holiday Party & Open House at The Vanderelli Room in Franklinton, which kicks off with Lisa Bella Donna and others improvising to demonstrate the venue’s new Filament performance space and then brings back Cincinnati post-rock explorers Us, Today to the main stage – more details here. A third strong 7pm option is EBB & Flow presenting a soulful and seasonal mix of jazz and R&B in its “HOME for the Holidays” concert at Long Street Studios (Downtown) – tickets available here. The Rick Brunetto Big Band returns to the 94th Aero Squadron for the first time in December for its Christmas Show for a swingin’ dance party with all 3 of its vocalists – more details here. And at 10pm, the James Gaiters Quintet, with vocalists Janeen Holmes and Christina Myles in tow, will bring cheer to its show at Natalie’s – tickets available here.
Saturday, December 23rd: A newly announced option is a “Holiday Jazz & Candlelight Dinner” with the Rachel Sepulveda Trio at Claddagh in the Brewery District at 6pm – menu and reservation details are available here. For something a bit different, enjoy a variety of avant garde and improvised music in a triple bill of solo sets from Lisa Bella Donna, D. Miñoza, and dRachEmUsiK at It Looks Like It’s Open Studio in Clintonville at 7pm. Notes presents another “Home For The Holidays” night of great vocal jazz at 8pm, this time featuring Chicago-based Columbus native Erin McDougald, who “will be singing her latest arrangements of obscure and original wintry songs with rhythmic treatments of lesser-aired holiday anthems for a night of improvised jazz with Columbus’ Jon Eshelman Trio” – get tickets here. For later revelry, masterful multi-instrumentalist Derek DiCenzo bring his Christmas Show to Dick’s Den for a relaxed good time at 10pm – cover is $5.
Christmas Eve (Sunday, December 24th): There are four events (that we know of at press time) for celebrating with jazz in the last few hours before Christmas. Swingin’ crooner Brian Michael Smith and his Quartet will bring Sinatra-style holiday stylings to the new Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse Downtown starting at 5pm – call 614-686-7800 for reservations and more details. Fresh from releasing their charming A Very Velvet Holiday EP, The Velvet Sirens will present a Holiday Dance Party at the Southbend Tavern in Merion Village at 6pm – more details here. Esteemed vocalist Louise Salvador, with help from pianist Bob J. Mills, returns to Club Diversity for a night of reverent holiday classics and standards at 9:30pm. And evergreen funky party starters Hoo Doo Soul Band keep their soulful weekly party at Rumba Cafe running through the holidays with a Christmas Eve edition at 10pm – advance tickets available here.
Christmas Day (Monday, December 25th): Dick’s Den remains the place to be on actual holiday nights for great live jazz with the only show in the area (to our knowledge). Bassist Roger Hines gathers a group of fellow Columbus jazz greats for his annual Christmas appearance – the material will likely be moving on from now-tired holiday tunes and instead feature well-chosen standards to soundtrack gathering with loved ones or relaxing after holiday parties. Music starts around 9:30pm and cover is $5.
Holiday Week: Most weekly gigs are continuing over the holidays, but check our calendar and call ahead to be sure. The Refectory again presents a great slate of Christmas jazz (and beyond) this week with By the Fireside: Jazz for a Winter Night: Jacob Reed Trio with Rachel Sepulveda on Tuesday, December 26th at 6pm and Dan Wilson’s Holiday Jazz All-Stars on Wednesday, December 27th at 6pm – click the event titles for details and call 614-451-9774 for availability and reservations. And the Emily Syring Band Christmas Show at Brothers Drake on Thursday, December 28th at 8pm will keep the warm vibes coming by mixing funky holiday tunes with jazzy takes on neo-soul and R&B – more details here.
Have a great holiday week!