I was lucky to have two great Jazz Nights Out this week. On Wednesday the 21st, I caught the first half of Kinda Blue at Brothers Drake. The show was a tribute to the Miles Davis classic Kind of Blue helmed by saxophonist Alex Burgoyne that featured an all-star cast. While the entirety of the main attraction was saved for the second set, the first set was a selection of related material, including other songs from the Kind of Blue recording sessions. Tunes like “Drips and Drops” and “Stella by Starlight” were spiced with excellent solos by Burgoyne and guitarist Tom Davis, while trumpeter Nick Simko’s stately blowing on “Blue Monk” was also a highlight. Before I left, I did see the first song from the album proper, “So What.” The whole ensemble shone on this legendary tune, including a gently cooking solo from tenor saxophonist Mark Donavan. I hope this group does more loving tributes to jazz milestones in the future.
On Saturday the 24th, I went to dinner with my family to Natalie’s to celebrate my mom’s birthday, and got the added benefit of seeing gypsy jazz band SpeakEasy. This quintet of instructors from Denison University features Andy Carlson on fiddle, Tom Carroll on lead guitar, Casey Cook on rhythm guitar, Doug Richeson on bass, and Seth Rogers on percussion. I’m not very experienced with their style of music, but I was instantly blown away by the spirit and musicianship of their sold out performance. The program for the evening celebrated the 105th birthday of wildly influential guitarist Django Reinhardt, so many of the selections were favorites of Reinhardt and his frequent collaborator, violinist Stephane Grappelli. Most of the tunes, like “Swing 42” and “I Found A New Baby,” were light and lively, but also swung very hard at the same time. Carlson was a force to be reckoned with on all of the tunes, and Carroll matched him song for song with his gently piercing tone. The rhythm section powered the oft-blistering pace of the tunes, while also getting some exposed moments to shine. After having my eyes opened on Saturday, I hope to see this quintet put on another remarkable performance soon.
Shows To See This Week
Thursday, January 29th: Cliffside Jazz Jam at Cliffside Sports Bar, 2978 McKinley Ave. This lively weekly jam started at the Grandview-area bar on Tuesday nights back in September. As of the new year, the jam moved to Thursdays and is apparently doing well in its new night. The house band is Mark Goodwin on keyboards, Todd Collis on guitar, Roger Hines on bass, and Ted Royalty on drums. A variety of other players have been sitting in over recent weeks, including frequent appearances by vocalist Shaun Booker. This looks to be a great place to see or play live jazz in a relaxed, low-key environment, so bring your horn or just drop in.
Friday, January 30th: fo/mo/deep at Natalie’s. The local masters of jazz groove return for an intimate show at one of their favorite places to play locally. The band will play a few new songs, and will feature their former keyboardist Kevin Jones on a couple of numbers, along with a possible appearance by their former trombonist Michael Goecke. Following in the style of their last two shows at Natalie’s that sold out, table seating is already sold out for this show, so I would recommend clicking here NOW for any remaining standing room tickets!
Wednesday, February 4th: Sam Blakeslee Trio at Brothers Drake. Trombonist Blakeslee is an emerging talent in the Northeast Ohio jazz scene. A Columbus native, Blakeslee went to Youngstown State for his Bachelor’s Degree in Jazz Studies, and then earned a Master’s Degree in Brass Performance from the University of Akron in 2013. He is now based in Cleveland where he teaches at several colleges and leads and plays in a variety of groups around the area, including the Sam Blakeslee Large Group, the No Words Quintet, and the Bobby Selvaggio Hendectet. Wednesday’s show will feature a rare trio, matching Blakeslee with NYC-based musicians Nadav Remez (guitar) and Dan Pugach (drums) for what should be a scintillating performance. This homecoming show kicks off a weekend of shows together for these three in various groups across the Cleveland area, so check out his website for more details if you are in that neck of the woods!
Have a great week! Here’s a sampler of Blakeslee’s recent exploits: