I had a wonderful Jazz Night Out when Rick Sanford and I saw the JD Allen Trio kickoff the Black History Month series at Natalie’s on Wednesday the 1st. Modern jazz star and tenor saxophonist Allen was accompanied by bassist Brandon Meeks and drummer James Gaiters for two free-flowing sets of originals and standards. Opener “Jawn Henry,” from Allen’s 2015 album Graffiti, has a well-crafted melody that was destined to be an ear worm, parts of which he echoed/growled throughout the piece. Allen’s solo was the stuff of an intense blowing session, and Meeks followed suit with a broad passage that included high flying breaks from Gaiters. While his bandmates took the forefront, Allen utilized the method of continuing to play while backing away from the microphone, playing with the intimate space and the presence of two other voices in the room, for the first of several times during the show.
This assertive mission statement set the tone, as the trio traversed a variety of styles from straight-ahead to avant garde, but usually restating and reshaping the union of the nuanced abilities of the three players while exploring the sonic possibilities of the performance space. With no song titles announced after the opener and few pauses between tunes, the performance became something like a tenor saxophone trio mixtape, evoking touchstones like Ben Webster, Sonny Rollins, and John Coltrane, as well as many others to a lesser extent, while melding sounds, styles and approaches into a shifting whole. Allen’s tone and technique were unrelenting, but also versatile to tackle ballads, swing tunes, and irreverent workouts. Meeks’ wide, round sound was sonorous but nimble, effortlessly reacting to Allen’s direction but making his own big statements. And Gaiters was well-suited to drive the rhythm for this group, playing with stealthy precision but also ready to unleash a fiery fill or an epic solo at the drop of a hat. This was a fantastic show, and luckily the group returns to a Central Ohio stage again this month! The trio will play the next installment of the Vegan Soul Jazz dinner concert series at Long Street Studios downtown on Friday, February 24th at 7pm – tickets and more info are available here.
Shows To See This Week
Friday, February 10th (8 – 10pm): The Ohio State University Jazz Ensemble: “A Love Supreme” at Weigel Hall. Under the direction of Kris Keith, OSU’s top jazz band will pay tribute to John Coltrane’s legendary 1964 quartet recording A Love Supreme. Arranged for big band by Wynton Marsalis, this newly published arrangement should be a revelation. The 45 minute arrangement will be the only piece performed on the concert. Special guest speaker Professor Emeritus Dr. Ted McDaniel will discuss this historically significant album and will narrate the final movement “Psalms.” This event is free and open to the public, so come witness a classic reimagined by a new arrangement and a new generation. If you can’t make it, the concert will also be live-streamed here.
Friday, February 10th (8 – 11pm): Urban Jazz Coalition at Idle-A-While Bar, 6068 Channingway Boulevard. This East Side live music destination is kicking off a weekend of great jazz with these internationally-respected smooth jazz giants. Also the home of The House Restaurant, great American cuisine and top-notch beverages will be well-paired with smooth, funky grooves played by Columbus’ best. This is a very rare opportunity to see the band with no cover charge – visit the Idle-A-While website to make reservations (strongly recommended) and learn more. The jazzy vibe continues with
the soulful NiNi Love JazzySide Quintet on Saturday at 9pm and (CANCELLED) new jazz, funk, R&B, and pop melting pot FewXion Sunday at 7pm, also with no cover!
Monday, February 13th (7 – 10pm): Jazz Night with the Dan Rowan Trio featuring Kris Keith at Claddagh Irish Pub, Brewery District. The Jazz Arts Group is sponsoring a new weekly jazz night that kicked off last week in the remaining Columbus location of this Irish restaurant chain. Keyboardist/vocalist Dan Rowan, often a featured performer with FLIPPO, will be joined each week by all-star drummer Louis Tsamous and a rotating special guest. Tsamous told me that Keith joins the group this week to play “a combination of standards and some of Kris’ favorite Latin music.” The rest of the month includes guitarist Colin Lazarski on February 20th and bassist Andy Woodson on February 27th. This no cover event looks to be a fun new Monday hang – check it out!
Have a great week!