I had one great Jazz Night Out this week. On Wednesday, June 4th, I went to Jazz Wednesday at Brothers Drake for the Athens-bred, Columbus-based duo Knots. After appreciating the music of keyboardist Caleb Miller and drummer Troy Kunkler from afar for the last few months, it was nice to finally see them play live. They played three sets, with two longer duo segments book-ending a shorter middle section that featured Radarhill, a quartet formation of Knots that adds Jordan Reed on saxophones and Eli Chambers on bass.
Influenced by modern keyboard-focused groups like The Bad Plus and the Vijay Iyer Trio, the pair often showcased their ability to create moods, build tension, and transition explosively between the different parts of a tune. Miller is adept at forming bright melodies on rough rhythmic terrain, while Kunkler employed beats with military precision before changing up to the next groove. The three Radarhill tunes were written by saxophonist Reed and conjured up a cinematic feel while using similar tactics. “Hostage Ransom” started melancholy, burst into a wailing center statement, and then hit a poignant strut before an abrupt end. While the crowd started out small, it had built by the third set. The duo mixed in covers with new originals, tackling a B-side by rock band Grizzly Bear and then turning in a twinkling, unrecognizable rendition of Blink 182’s “All The Small Things” that drove a couple to slow-dance. The set peaked at the end, as Miller was reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal and Bob James on the penultimate tune and both musicians poured out their remaining melodic bombast on the finale.
Knots is definitely a band to watch. Though I was reminded of various musicians and bands at times, especially the gritty yet nuanced duo groove of my favorite jazz album of the 2000s, the guys are carving out their own unique sound, one that is quite different from most bands in Columbus. I hope to see this band more in the coming months, and chances appear plentiful. Knots plays a Backstage Jazz at Shadowbox Live show on Friday, June 13th, then opens for a rock band back at Brothers Drake on Monday. On Saturday, June 21st, they kick off a monthly series of shows on the 3rd Saturday of each month at Ruby Tuesday. Check these guys out!
Shows To See This Week
Saturday, June 14th: Tony Monaco Trio at Rumba Cafe. While the beloved jazz organ maestro continues to maintain a busy international touring schedule, he is also playing some local gigs this month, culminating in his traditional closing set of the I Wish You Jazz Stage on the Sunday night of Comfest. First up, he plays Rumba this weekend with guitarist Josh Hill and drummer Jim Rupp in a powerful variation of a powerful trio that will showcase a warm blend of greasy organ jazz, slinky jazz-funk, and classic standards.
Tuesday, June 17th: Bucky Pizzarelli & Ed Laub at Natalie’s. Pizzarelli is a world-renowned jazz guitarist whose career spans over 70 years and includes performances and recordings with countless jazz legends. While he now has two guitars inducted into the Smithsonian Institute, he also stays active, contributing to Paul McCartney’s 2013 Grammy-winning album, Kisses On The Bottom. His duo with Laub, a renowned guitarist and vocalist, features instrumental and vocal arrangements of the Great American Songbook as well as the music of the classic guitar duos of the 1930s.
Wednesday, June 18th: Ken Messer Community Benefit at Brothers Drake. Local saxophonist and composer Messer was seriously injured in a car accident last month. He is currently in a rehab facility, and is steadily improving toward being released in a week or so. This benefit is being held to assist Ken with medical and other expenses. This free show will feature live music by members of Ken’s band, The Phoenix Project, as well as other Columbus musicians. Donations are encouraged and appreciated.
Have a great week!