I had a wonderful Jazz Night Out when I saw Whirlybirds play Rambling House on Saturday the 17th. A “modern swing/pop group formed after the untimely demise of the good ol’ DewDroppers,” Whirlybirds retained half of the popular DewDroppers’ lineup – Joe Gilliland on lead vocals and guitar, Joseph “Brenny” Brenneman on clarinet, saxes, and vocals, and Trent Sampson on double bass and vocals – and added Nick Simko on trumpet and vocals, Jacob Campbell on keyboards, and Max Marsillo on drums. The sextet had a big crowd ready for them to play, and they delivered with infectious “swangin'” energy right out of the gate that instantly inspired a few couples to dance in the cozy performance space. The band played a hearty mix of originals and a surprisingly wide variety of standards, highlighted early by an explosive take on “Bourbon Street Parade” and a rousing “Creole Queen” kicked off by a beautiful intro by Campbell on upright piano. Soon after Gilliland crooned “Mack The Knife” with strong support from Campbell, Simko and Brenneman (on tenor sax), the first set ended with “Buzz,” the band’s newly released single, which found all six musicians at the top of their powers for classic swing that ended in a thrilling flash. Keep reading for more on the show, along with a Comfest rundown and more previews!
The second set seemingly amped up the good times vibe. After kicking off with a warm swing number, the band took on Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin'” with aplomb, as Gilliland and Campbell delivered an appropriate amount of honky tonk before a barnburning solo by Simko and some bombastic choruses by the ensemble. Original “Infatuation” had a scorching opening before Gilliland and Brenneman’s vocals tackled the topic of crushes. The band swung hard here, and I was particularly awestruck by a synchronized pause by the band before the song’s conclusion – breathtaking precision! After a modern groove break delivered passionately by Marsillo, the second half of the set found Gilliland, Brenneman and Simko playing parts amidst the crowd and favorites like “Just A Gigolo/I Ain’t Got Nobody” and “Help Me Rhonda” certainly kept the energy high, the latter benefiting from powerful work by Simko and Brenneman (on baritone sax). The final tune had a gospel-tinged Ramsey Lewis feel that had everyone dancing while the band left it all on the stage. I’m glad I finally got to see Whirlybirds – Gilliland tells me that plans are evolving for a debut album soon, so stay tuned!
While we provided the 2017 Jazz Schedule on Monday, I wanted to provide more detail to hopefully draw attention to great jazz sets at Goodale Park. All shows mentioned here are on the “I Wish You Jazz Stage” unless otherwise noted. On Friday, the jazz schedule gets going with Triple Play at 12:55pm, as keyboard wiz Dominic Baer and Otterbein classmates Owen Hopper (guitar) and Will Ash (drums) present their original modern twist on the organ trio – check out 2016’s Standards to get more of a picture. Bandleader Roger Parish has been working hard to assemble an all-star cast of vocalists and instrumentalists for the Roger Parish and Jam Network Ensemble set of jazz and funk favorites at 1:50, another gripping reason to leave work early.
The Tim Dvorkin Trio kickstarts an exciting Friday evening with their high-powered fusion at 5:15 – their brand new album Live & Raw is out now (look out for a review here soon) and ready to be sampled and purchased here. Friday night primetime at the Bozo (Main) Stage has a definite jazz tint, as Jim Maneri leads his star-studded Flypaper ensemble in a “40 minute (mostly original) composition that…is a mix of house, trance, jazz, funk, and classical music” there at 8:35 before Miles Davis “lead bassist” Foley closes that stage with his band at 9:45. Of course, organ master Tony Monaco closes the jazz stage at 9:25 – in a trio with Zakk Jones on guitar and Dan Fox on drums – playing his brand of classic organ jazz imbued with modern fire.
Kelly McLennan and her +5 will entertain for the lunch hour Saturday at noon with top-level vocal jazz, and The Jazz Poetry Ensemble follows at 1pm with timely politically-minded jazz and poetry, as it has done for over 30 years now. Renowned Columbus groove masters fo/mo/deep hit at 3:30 before the Emily Syring Band brings a mix of “Neo-Soul, R&B, Funk & Jazz Fusion hits” to the stage at 4:30. After the annual “jazz offensive” by ChickenHawk BirdGetters at 6:35, Danny Bauer’s Safety Squad rides its renewed momentum to a fiery set of modern fusion to end the evening (at the festival) at 7:45.
The early Sunday schedule is stacked with traditional Comfest favorites, with Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra getting things going at noon with big band majesty before Randy Mather leads his Rhinestone Joe Diamond Tribute Band (1pm) and Circus of Cool shares its jazz and poetry stylings (2pm). Young funk fusion purveyors Funk Worthy hit at 5:40, and Columbus’ own funky New Orleans brass band New Basics Brass Band wraps up another year of great Comfest jazz at 6:45. Happy Comfest!
Shows To See This Week
Friday, June 23rd (10pm – midnight): Insane Jazz Posse at Two Truths, Short North. Bassist Ben Johnson’s resurgent and rowdy outfit provides your best option for post-Comfest jazz entertainment Friday night at this new hotspot. Johnson will be joined by Alex Burgoyne on saxes, Danny Bauer on keyboards, Zakk Jones on guitar, and Seth Daily on drums. Johnson shared his thoughts on this exciting NO COVER show:
We’re playing all the hits as well as some of my originals. We were out of commission for a while with Danny being in Texas. Now that he’s back I’m really trying to hit the ground running and get some momentum going. The venue is brand spanking new and I’m very excited about it. Super chill vibe, really really great people. I’m really hoping to make it a long term thing. Columbus needs more GOOD venues so I’m really excited for the future of this place. I know they’re in the process of putting in a kitchen and I heard rumors of late night breakfast. Can’t beat late night breakfast!
Saturday, June 24th (10pm – midnight): Foley & Friends: Tribute to the Music of Prince at Natalie’s. This Comfest after-party will require a bit more travel, but should be worth the trek. Soon to be inducted into the Lincoln Theatre Walk of Fame, bassist Foley follows his Friday Comfest appearance with an all-star review of a dearly-missed, world-changing entertainer. This should be quite the funky good time – click here for tickets.
Have a great week! Get warmed up for a big weekend with videos: