Howdy jazz fans! This week’s post marks one year since my inaugural weekly column! It’s been a great year, spent immersing myself in the rich Columbus jazz scene, and there are many who have helped get this thing off the ground. First, I want to thank Mark Subel, JazzColumbus founder, for giving me a chance to babble and putting up with me from week to week. Second, I want to thank all of the musicians, promoters, and venue booking agents who have shared information with me for my columns – I can’t do much of a column without you! And finally, of course, big thanks to everyone reading along and letting me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you – if you ever have suggestions, hot tips on upcoming shows, or anything else about Columbus jazz, please comment on a post, comment on Facebook, or contact us here. Thanks!
Jazz Nights Out
On Wednesday the 12th, I ventured to Double Happiness in the Brewery District to see a triple bill of jazz(y) bands in more of a rock band setting. The opening set was the debut of saxophonist Alex Burgoyne’s Small Songs project. The group played a trio of songs written by Burgoyne’s young piano students about their pets that were then expanded by Burgoyne and crew into improvisations that often ventured into free jazz styles. The tunes usually had multiple sections, and would build momentum and then dissipate into chaos. The occasional vocals of Fran Litterski helped accentuate the other-worldly nature of these unusual compositions. Next was Knots, who delivered a far-reaching set of their driving yet idiosyncratic material. “But I Want To” opened with drummer Troy Kunkler switching to glockenspiel. The piece eased into a mellow jam, which was punctuated by some powerful chords courtesy of keyboardist Caleb Miller. The duo’s juxtaposition of low-key melodies and bombastic outbursts was as attention-demanding as ever. The headlining set was delivered by LA-based drummer Dylan Ryan’s Sand project. His trio (Chris Welcome on guitar and Willie Blair on bass) played a concise set that showed Ryan emphatically putting his stamp on some improvisational post-rock workouts. In the relaxed rock bar environment, their material leaned hard toward heavy metal, including an Iron Maiden cover, but always retained something of a jazz feel. The band entertained the light crowd with some thunderous group jams and plenty of enthusiastic solos from Ryan. It was a varied night of great modern music from all three acts.
The next night, I attended a performance in a venue new to me – the Recital Hall at Graves Piano & Organ. That is where pianist Jim Maneri, home for the holidays from a job playing a cruise ship, displayed his recently-honed chops on Graves’ new 9-foot Steinway grand piano. The hour+ piano recital was a thorough demonstration of Maneri’s skills that doubled as an educational exploration of jazz history and jazz piano styles. In the middle of the recital, Maneri used the “Happy Birthday” melody to display the evolution of jazz styles, starting with ragtime, shifting through stride, bebop, cool jazz, the evolving 1960s, and ending with the energetically-crazed avant garde stylings of the 1970s. Another highlight was a piece called “Crumb Jazz,” Maneri’s usage of mid-20th century classical composer George Crumb’s experimental techniques in something of a jazz context. This tribute entailed Maneri playing the inside of the piano, plucking and holding strings and using the piano’s internal structure as a source of percussion. I can honestly say I had never seen that before, and the guttural, metallic results were mesmerizing. The remainder of the performance was more conventional, as he presented tunes by some of his favorite composers, settings of popular songs in particular jazz styles, and a few originals. Maneri entertained and educated the gathering of family, friends and jazz fans with a heartfelt presentation of the piano’s jazz capabilities.
Shows To See This Week
Thursday, November 20th: Maxwell Button Presents the Music of Milt Jackson at Dicks Den. Drummer Button’s monthly tribute series keeps rolling with a show honoring the legendary vibraphonist Jackson. Nate Anders (Caribbean Jazz Quartet) will be featured on vibes, and he will be joined by Derek DiCenzo on guitar, Chris Berg on bass and Button on drums. These tribute shows are always joyous, high-level affairs, and this installment should be no different. As Button told me, “Those guys swing so hard, it’s going to be so much fun for people to listen to!”
Saturday, November 22nd: Radarhill & Triangulus at Wild Goose Creative. As mentioned here previously, this show marks the beginning of a quarterly residency/community partnership for Radarhill in alliance with the campus area arts organization and venue. The show is free, with limited free drinks available (the show is otherwise BYOB), as the band’s philosophy is that “good/exciting/new/fun music shouldn’t be reserved for people who are willing to pay for it.” The band hopes to build the residency into a large, regular event, presenting new bands in an entertaining environment. This kickoff show is a reprise of a July event at Wild Goose, featuring the new quintet lineup of Radarhill, with the recent addition of trumpeter Nick Simko, and Triangulus, a “conservatory alternative” group that enlists “electronics, guitars that don’t sound like guitars, and a drummer from West Virginia.” Help an exciting community new music project get off on the right foot.
Sunday, November 23rd (1pm – 6:30pm): Fall Harvest of Bands at Makoy Center, 5462 Center Street, Hilliard. The last Central Ohio Hot Jazz Society show of 2014 is their annual holiday charity event, featuring three great Ohio traditional jazz bands. The lineup includes two regular performers at the Harvest, Cincinnati’s Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band and Toledo’s Cakewalkin’ Jass Band, as well as the Harvest debut of Athens’ Local Girls, a vocal trio reminiscent of the Boswell Sisters that has appearances on A Prairie Home Companion and at the White House on their extensive resume. The event benefits the Society’s annual food drive, so please bring non-perishable food items to donate. More information is available at the COHJS website.
Have a great week!