JazzColumbus Weekly – May 12, 2016

I had an enjoyable and educational Jazz Night Out when I caught the Friends Quartet’s program “Jazz Through the Ages” at McConnell Arts Center in Worthington on Thursday the 5th. The chronological set list certainly covered many jazz ages, as the first song was Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” which was copyrighted in 1899, and the last three songs were a 2015 composition by The Bad Plus Joshua Redman and two newly completed originals by members of the quartet. The quartet of Tony Hagood on piano, Bradley Mellen on bass, Chris Hoyte on saxophone, and Zach Compston on drums each got opportunities to introduce selections, touching on the historical and/or personal significance of the particular artist or tune. Roughly the first half of the concert covered early and classic jazz through the 1940s, and the songs chosen were well-known standards, delivered with style. The band particularly crackled with energy when playing Duke Ellington-related compositions, as “It Don’t Mean A Thing” swung hard, with sprightly solos by Hoyte and Hagood, and “Caravan” (by Juan Tizol) came to fiery life, highlighted by Mellen’s thumping work on the upright bass.

As the timeline moved into the more modern styles of the past 60 years, the chosen pieces were often less established as standards than the earlier material, adding to the exploratory feel. Hagood explained and then demonstrated Horace Silver’s comping style on his soulful “Sister Sadie,” which featured great solos from the entire ensemble, including some thunder from Compston. The dreamy groove of Herbie Hancock’s “Tell Me A Bedtime Story” was an excellent transition into the electric/fusion era of jazz, as Hagood moved from piano to keyboard and Mellen put down the upright and picked up an electric bass, but the proceedings kept sailing along. A heavily groove-oriented take on Medeski, Martin & Wood’s “Chubb Sub” represented the 1990s in funky fashion, led by Hagood’s organ, and the last two arrangements, both involving Joshua Redman’s work, summed up various jazz styles with different splendid methods. The band’s two originals served as a fine conclusion, with Compston telling the story of his “Z (for Zadie),” dedicated to his niece, and the band taking the tune for a warm Sunday stroll. This was a great combination of jazz history education and lively performance – Hagood said to expect more programs of the sort, so stay tuned!

Shows To See This Week

Saturday, May 14th (10pm – 2am): Jim Maneri Quartet at Dick’s Den. In a late schedule change, keyboardist Maneri has assembled a skilled quartet for a fun Saturday night at the venerable dive bar. He will be joined by Aaron Scott on drum set, Greg Wolfram on acoustic bass, and a surprise guest to be named later, either a vocalist or horn player depending how schedules work out. As Maneri told me, “We’ll be playing straight jazz, blowing over standards and such, but I always make it so fun that even non jazz people like it. It’s Saturday night after all, people want to party!” Cover is $4.

Tuesday, May 17th (6:30 – 9:30pm): North Side Jazz Band at Grandstand Pizza, Grove City. After a standing monthly gig at Mozart’s for several years, this veteran classic/traditional jazz and swing dance band has moved its regular gig to a new location starting this month. Enjoy the band’s varied repertoire of jazz styles, including “hot dance tunes, classic blues, New Orleans, West Coast and Chicago jazz, all punctuated by vocals, ragtime piano renditions, and specialty numbers by band members.” $16 admission per person ($30 per couple) also includes an all you can eat buffet and a small Gelato dessert, so how can you go wrong?

Wednesday, May 18th (8pm – 11pm) Ali-Daily’s For The Birds at Brothers Drake. This intriguing Jazz Wednesday collaboration brings together top modern jazz musicians from Columbus and Chicago. Led by Chicago-based (Columbus native) guitarist Ishmael Ali and Columbus drummer Seth Daily, “The group will be playing compositions and structured improvisations based off of bird songs transcribed by the two.” The evening’s sextet includes Joe Brenneman on clarinet, Alex Burgoyne on alto sax, Devin Copfer on violin, Ali on guitar, Michael Humpherys on bass, and Daily on drum set. This free show looks like a great bargain for the adventurous jazz fan.

Have a great week!

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