I am very pleased that schedule and weather allowed me to enjoy a full Jazz Day Out at the 2015 Jazz & Rib Fest on Friday the 17th. Of the lunchtime sets, I was most pleasantly surprised by the Michael Shirtz Quartet on the AEP Stage. Shirtz, a vocalist and pianist based in Sandusky, Ohio, described and displayed his love of the American Songbook, and was joined by a crack band including local guitarist and trombonist Doug Neel. The band swung hard on Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm,” with cooking solos from Neel and organist Kyle Turner and thunderous breaks from drummer Nelson Overton between scat vocal passages from Shirtz. Up next was one of my most anticipated performances – a set by Dayton’s Keigo Hirakawa Trio at the NBP stage. Playing through a mercifully gentle rain shower, the experienced trio of Hirakawa, bassist Eddie Brookshire, and drummer Fenton Sparks kept the crowd’s attention with their thoughtful modern jazz. While the live versions of tunes from And Then There Were Three were great to hear, new tunes like the warm stroll of “It’s On The Tip Of My Tongue” and the propulsive intricacy of “Unfinished Business,” with a bassline Hirakawa said that only Brookshire could play, were even more exciting.
Columbus ex-patriates Huntertones followed the Hirakawa Trio at NBP, joined by students from their DIY workshop at the Jazz Academy. The set was a “variety hour” of sorts, including performances by the band, performances by the band accompanied by the “orchestra” of students, and originals performed by student small combos with names like “Soul Food.” It was great to see the band members performing and teaching simultaneously, the kids had fun and were talented in their own right, and the band still managed to squeeze out some well-orchestrated grooves! Meanwhile at the AEP stage, a very rare appearance by the full James Gaiters’ MUV-Ment group was taking place. The one-time local quartet, now spread across the country, reconnected on stage, interpreting tunes from Exodus with improvisational flair and fiery solo work from every member of the ensemble.
The MUV-Ment was followed by Brooklyn’s energetic Rad Trads, happy to be in Columbus, their apparent home away from home. With Huntertones’ Dan White sitting in on tenor sax, the horn section was afire, and the band’s vocalists brought the party to the people with a mix of American classics and roadhouse-tinged originals like the raucous “Contents Under Pressure” and the snarling “Check Cashing Day,” which I enjoyed hearing on WCBE 90.5 en route to the festival! The Linda Dachtyl Quartet had since taken the NBP stage – I arrived to hear the end of their soulful take on “Silver Spoon,” a reverent tribute to Columbus legends Hank Marr and Gene Walker. The set was a mix of organ standards and tunes from Dachtyl’s discography, resulting in great blues and soul that hit the dinnertime crowd in the sweet spot. The Turrentine/Scott classic “Trouble” was a highlight, with a slow-building burner of a solo from Dachtyl and a greasy passage from guitarist Don Hales, and the no-nonsense groove of Jimmy McGriff’s “All About My Girl” was a perfect set closer.
The 7pm slot at NBP was ably helmed by the Pharez Whitted Sextet, with tenor saxophonist Eddie Bayard and keyboardist Lovell Bradford having made their way from their roles in Gaiters’ MUV-Ment. Whitted presented his own varied display of jazz, R&B, and even hip-hop flavors, but the set started with three emotional instrumentals, opening with the hard-charging “Afghanistan” that found Whitted and Bayard trading licks and Bradford supplying electricity with fiery organ stabs. After taking a break, I was surprised to hear an MC rapping when I returned, and was even more surprised when it turned out to be John Robinson, jazz fan and member of the 1960s jazz tribute act Jay Are with Columbus DJ J Rawls. Robinson’s verses on “Miles & Trane” were an unexpected delight. Set closer “Kayode” was a hot set closer, featuring bassist Jonathan Wood on several exposed parts. Before heading home, I’m thankful I caught the first set of the Cincy Brass at Jazz Cafe. Their “N’awlins Soul Meets Cincinnati Funk” was brought to life by eight horns and a drummer, and they churned through originals and classics with equal fervor. All of the the horn players were great, but Phil Hilger on baritone sax was a particularly eye-opening talent (though I’m a bit biased toward the bari). Their varied book of covers were most appreciated by the crowd, including a mindblowing version of the JBs’ “The Grunt” that almost brought me to tears. Great end to a great day of jazz!
Shows To See This Week
Thursday, July 23rd: knots and Groove Plexus at Spacebar, 2590 N. High St. This bill at the North Campus bar features a trio of duos – Columbus “post-jazz” sweethearts knots headline, and are joined by Toledo’s Groove Plexus and local psychedelic pop band Sweet Teeth. Manned by Galen Bundy on Rhodes keyboard and synths and Dan Konold on drums, Groove Plexus’ eccentric blend of jazz and electronic music should make for a spacey Thursday night adventure. Check out some of their tunes here.
Sunday, July 26th (7 – 9pm): Bill Dobbins at Bungalow Jazz. Dobbins, Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media at the Eastman School of Music and an internationally recognized pianist and composer, makes the first of two stops in his annual return to Columbus. Dobbins will be joined by excellent accompaniment in bassist Andy Woodson and drummer Jim Rupp, and the trio will present a tribute to Billy Strayhorn in the continuing celebration of the 2015 centennial of the legendary pianist and composer’s birth. On Monday at 7:30pm, Dobbins will join Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra for their weekly gig at Clintonville Woman’s Club for what will surely be an ecstatic celebration of classic jazz.
Wednesday, July 29th (8 – 11pm): Liver Quiver at Brothers Drake. While guitarist Aaron Quinn left Columbus for New York City, he hasn’t forgotten his one-time home. During a brief return visit, Quinn will join alto saxophonist Alex Burgoyne and drummer Seth Daily for the first performance by their Liver Quiver trio in many months as they grace the meadery’s stage for Jazz Wednesday. Expect journeys of improvisation and humorous weirdness – check out their 2014 self-titled album and some live recordings from Dick’s Den to get the picture.
Have a great week! Here’s a taste of Groove Plexus in action: