JazzColumbus Weekly – May 7, 2015

I got back in the groove with two great Jazz Nights Out at Dick’s Den last week. First up was the finale of Ryan Jewell’s April residency on Wednesday, April 29th. I heard the first set, which was great, and I think they were just warming up! Jewell has developed hours of original material for this new group which is solidly jazz but still displays bits and pieces of some of the drummer’s other interests. “Howdy Friend” reminded me of late 1960s Blue Note artists like Andrew Hill, with a swinging but off-kilter chorus that then breaks down into improvisational “organized chaos.” Alto saxophonist Alex Burgoyne is obviously very comfortable in this element, and responded with some fiery passages, while tenor saxophonist Wesley Perry and keyboardist Caleb Miller were a bit more conventional with their approach. John Allen switched from acoustic to electric bass on “Balls,” which was an edgy tour de force. An avant garde intro gave way to a bass groove that inspired great solos, highlighted by soulful work from Perry, and the tune ended with a five+ minute section where the entire band played droning parts, with Jewell providing some shimmering cymbal work. The set was an excellent start to what I’m sure was a superb night of adventurous new music.

Next was my first time seeing the Cincinnati-based Bob Ross Quartet on Thursday, the 30th. This was a well-rounded affair, as the band played sets that mixed Ross’ well-crafted originals with a choice selection of jazz standards. The lyrical qualities of Ross’ sound were on full display, spinning well-tempered solos that burned with a quiet intensity. While I had some idea of what the guitarist would do based on his debut album Arriving, saxophonist Dan Barger was new to me and turned out to be an unexpected delight. A versatile multi-instrumentalist, Barger played subtle soprano sax on a contemplative duet with Ross at one point, and moments later was unleashing a cooking, soulful tenor sax solo – with tastefully ferocious backing by bassist Matt McCoy and drummed Dean Marotta. The band’s take on “Footprints” benefited from more serious solo work by Barger and McCoy, while an efficient Ross led the way on “Summertime.” The focus on guitar and saxophone interplay was a treat, and has me excited to hear more of it on Ross’ upcoming album, The Third Day, so keep an eye out for more fine Southwest Ohio jazz.

Shows To See This Week

Friday, May 8th: Ben Johnson/Danny Bauer Duo at Ethel’s on High, 1189 N. High. Johnson, leader of the Insane Jazz Posse, is also working on getting a new regular “duo night” off the ground, at this Short North bar connected to the Garden Theater. The bassist is playing with a rotating cast of some of Columbus’ best jazz musicians, one at a time, resulting in different instrument pairings. After monthly shows in February and March, Johnson is playing there weekly in May, with keyboardist Bauer also joining him on the 15th and the 22nd, and guitarist Brett Burleson playing on the 29th. Johnson gave me a general feel of the music for the night:

As far as specific tunes we’re gonna just call them as we go. I’m trying to stick to standards and the American Songbook (roughly the ’20s-’50s), though tunes written later than the ’50s are not out of the question. Some personal favorites of mine are Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Henry Mancini, Tadd Dameron, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Thelonious Monk.

Saturday, May 9th: Maxwell Button Presents: A Tribute to Sonny Rollins at Dick’s Den. After a break in April, drummer Button’s monthly tribute series returns with an edition dedicated to the “Saxophone Colossus,” a true living legend. This tribute was originally scheduled in January, but as Button told me, bassist “Dave DeWitt had a shoulder injury and had to bail out after the first tune,” so hopefully the band has better luck this time! Button and DeWitt are joined by Derek DiCenzo on guitar and Eddie Bayard on tenor sax, who is an outstanding local choice to pay homage to saxophone master Rollins. Cheap ($4 cover) and educational fun!

Monday, May 11th (6pm – 8pm): Ross Hammond at Double Happiness. Sacramento-based guitarist Hammond kicks off an 8-date tour, in support of his self-released debut solo acoustic guitar record FLIGHT, with this early show in the Brewery District. After becoming known for more hard-hitting, avant garde-leaning material, the new album finds the guitarist employing a more pastoral sound, earning comparisons to Bill Frisell or even John Fahey. Should be an interesting evening of guitar exploration without staying out late.

Have a great week! Here’s video of Hammond’s unique take on “You Are My Sunshine:”

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