Up first this week is news of an intimate concert honoring an excellent new Columbus jazz album! The Robert Mason Trio performs at an Album Release Celebration for State of Soul on Sunday, December 8th at 8pm at Upper Cup Coffee in Gahanna – no cover, food from Willowbeez Soulveg, info and RSVP here. State of Soul, now available at CDBaby and all digital outlets, sees the cohesive trio of keyboardist Mason, bassist John Allen, and drummer Willie Barthel seizing the moment with a powerful collection of standards and originals. Keep reading for my thoughts on the album, a ROBUST Holiday Jazz Guide and This Week at Brothers Drake!
State of Soul establishes a relaxed confidence from the opening lilt of “Fulfillment,” bringing classics to mind but having its own swing. “Missing Amber” is an emotional triumph, climaxing with Mason’s keys singing over the mighty rhythm section. Allen’s somewhat ominous bassline gives way to the legendary melody on “Caravan,” where the group rides the shifting rhythms with ease and offer some masterful solos. “He Does Great Things” is a heartfelt spiritual tune, including some passionate passages from Allen and Mason. “No More Walls” takes a slinky Mason riff and settles into a nimble and memorable melody. Mason goes solo to tackle two immortal jazz standards: He has a reverent take on “Monk’s Dream,” and renders Horace Silver’s well-loved ballad “Peace” in a beautifully contemplative fashion. Allen and Barthel return for the final two tracks: “Move” is an efficient piece centered on more of Mason’s earworm riffs, and Allen employs one more engaging bassline for the Latin-tinged “Bolivia,” which sees the ensemble again lock into step for a high-powered conclusion. Check out the album online and pick up a CD at the show!
Holiday Jazz Guide
There’s a massive amount of swingin’ holiday jazz to be had this week! With its first night underway as of press time, Columbus Jazz Orchestra’s annual “Home for the Holidays” program, this year featuring Nicki Parrott & Z.F. Taylor, continues at the Southern Theatre Thursday, December 5th through Sunday, December 8th – details and tickets here. The seasonal slate for Friday, December 6 also includes Cherie Mannino performing with Cap City Swing at Pat’s Record Store in Delaware for the First Friday Delaware Christmas Tree Lighting at 7pm, the Otterbein Jazz Holiday Showcase at Battelle Fine Arts Center on the Otterbein campus at 8pm (info here), and salsa band Al Son del Iya’s monthly gig at Brothers Drake rings in the season with “Rumba Por Navidad” – the band starts at 10:30pm, more info here.
Saturday, December 7th: The day’s bursting docket includes five more big holiday events, starting with “A Jazzy Christmas 2019” featuring Urban Jazz Coalition, NexLevel, E-Flat and more at The Columbus Africentric Early College on the East Side at 6pm – tickets and info here. The star-studded WSAX 4th Annual Jazz Brew Fundraiser: Harlem Comes To Columbus gets underway at Whitehall-Yearling High School at 7pm – read our article here – and also at 7pm is “Jazz On The Avenue: Holiday Jazz Celebration” at King Arts Complex with acclaimed vocalists Mary McClendon, Dolly King and Sabrina Tutstone (tickets and info here); and Nostalgics Big Band’s Christmas Holiday Dance and Sing-a-Long at Olivedale Senior Citizens Center in Lancaster. Finally, the swangin’ Whirlybirds present A Very Whirly Christmas! at Natalie’s at 9:30pm – tickets and info here.
Natalie’s keeps the spirit going on Tuesday, December 10th at 8pm with “Christmas with the Dave Powers Trio” (tickets and info here). There are two fun options on Wednesday, December 11th – smooth jazz titan Dave Koz leads the “Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour 2019” at Palace Theatre at 7:30pm (tickets and info here) and Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society’s monthly event becomes a Holiday Open Trad Jazz Jam + Dance at 8pm at Rambling House in Old North Columbus – visit the COHJS website for more. Happy Holidays!
This Week at Brothers Drake – Wednesday, December 11th
Alex Burgoyne: “This week at the Meadery, we have the Zach Compston Big Band, with a special opening set from the Columbus Community Jazz Band. Zach is a great drummer, percussionist, educator, and jazz evangelist in the community, and in the 14 years we’ve known each other, it’s been a gas to grow up with him as a player, but in particular it’s been a pleasure to watch him become as excellent an educator as he is a musician. Here’s what he’s got to say about this week:
‘This edition of the band is a bit smaller, 13 musicians instead of 17. The reason for that has to do with the orchestration of the music, penned by two incredible musicians, Byron Rooker and George DeLancey.
One of the most exciting things about this band is that whenever possible, we try to focus on playing music that is written by musicians from our community. Byron Rooker has been a first-call woodwind player for nearly 50 years and during that time, he’s written a lot of music that has not been played nearly enough. He’s inspired by the music of Gil Evans and Gerry Mulligan in particular, and that really comes through in his writing. George DeLancey grew up in Cambridge, OH and spent a lot of time here in Columbus before college and his eventual move to NYC. Since then, he has become one of the strongest young bassists anywhere, and has written/recorded his own tunes that are modern, yet steeped in the jazz tradition.
We will open up with a set by the Jazz Academy’s Columbus Community Jazz Band, which is a band comprised of people from wide-ranging careers and backgrounds who love jazz and want to continue to play their instrument.’
Jazz Wednesday at Brothers Drake. 8:00-11:00PM. Free as always. You mead it.”
Have a great week!