Happy Thanksgiving, jazz fans! Coming to you a day early for a rundown of your holiday week live jazz options, but first I want to share thoughts on a couple fun Jazz Nights Out. On Wednesday the 16th, I stopped by Jazz Wednesdays at Brothers Drake for the first time in far too long to see the Brad Myers Trio. While the venue’s stage is gone, the performance space still rendered cool, relaxed jazz with an enjoyable sound. The Cincinnati guitarist was joined by fellow Queen City musician Michael Sharfe on bass and Columbus’ Shane Willis on drums. The group tackled a variety of standards, often via unique arrangements, as well as Myers’ thoughtful originals. Thelonious Monk’s “Ask Me Now” was given a warm reggae rework, and Vince Guaraldi’s “Great Pumpkin Waltz,” from the Peanuts television special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, found Sharfe on upright bass for a relaxed groove, including a bowed bass solo while Willis played hand drums. Sharfe took the lead on fretless bass for the Gary Gibson tune “Who’s Askin,” and Myers delivered a relentlessly nimble solo. Several of the tunes played were from the forthcoming Myers and Sharfe project Sanguinarias/Hopefulsongs, which is currently available for pre-order via PledgeMusic (details here). From what I heard, the album will be worthy of your support, and I hope to see the players in town again soon!
On Saturday the 19th, my dad and I had a great time at Natalie’s seeing The Claudettes out of Chicago. In my interview with pianist/leader Johnny Iguana, he detailed the band’s progress in its new lineup gelling into a cohesive unit, and I agree that the quartet is now operating at a high level. The band honored its origin story as the house band for Claudette’s Bar in Oglesby, Illinois with stage props, including an electronic sign detailing humorous specials and bar rules. The setlist was a mix of instrumental arrangements of pop songs of all stripes, inventive original vocal tunes, and a few choice vocal covers. The powerhouse instrumentals put a stomping roadhouse spin on classics drawing from sources ranging from Al Jolson to Grandmaster Flash, with the latter serving as a crowd-pleasing encore. New School-trained lead vocalist Berit Ulseth was cool and comfortable with the varied material, whether it was Pink Floyd’s “Us And Them” (enhanced with added classic soul misdirection), casually introspective original “Taco Night Material,” or a stirring take on The Sundays’ 90’s hit “Here’s Where The Story Ends.” The band’s painstakingly vibrant blend of Chicago Blues, soul, jazz and much more led to an extremely entertaining Saturday night. See them when you get the chance and look out for their new studio album in 2017!
Thanksgiving Week Live Jazz Guide
Wednesday, November 23rd: Thanksgiving Eve yields a compact live jazz listing of many styles. Leading piano man Dave Powers continues his weekly gig at Vittoria Ristorante in Powell at 6pm. There are three 8pm options for jazz fans of most inclinations. Columbus native David Fletcher brings his Illinois-based trio Stream Of Consciousness to Brothers Drake, with a mix of genres blending into a sound they call “Sound Sculpture,” played by trombones electric and acoustic, piano and electronics. It was recently announced that SwingColumbus’ 5 and a half year run at Nyoh’s Buckeye Bar (2871 Olentangy River Road) will end this week as the bar is closing and moving, but they will go out with a bang as John Vermeulen’s Swing Orchestra wraps up the Bands-giving series with a swinging throwdown for dancing and listening. Modern jazz trio Birdshack returns to Rumba Cafe with special guest Amelia Bango McClung on vocals for a soulful start to your holiday. Last up are the Skyliners, who join jam band Vibe & Direct at Scarlet & Grey Cafe’s weekly Weird Wednesdays with a set of jamming jazz and fusion classics around 10pm.
Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 24th): Per usual, Dick’s Den is providing the only live jazz (that we know of) on Thanksgiving Day. Bassist Roger Hines will lead a spirited group of Columbus greats for entertaining jazz while you escape the family, catch up with friends, or simply listen. Festivities start around 10pm.
Friday, November 25th: Dave McMahon & Friends make their reliable appearance at the Stoneridge (Gahanna) Kroger wine tasting to help wrap up your Black Friday shopping at 5pm. There are a slew of options pairing live jazz with great dining: Dave Powers at Hyde Park Arlington and Dave DeWitt TRio at M at Miranova (both at 6:30pm), Andrew Waters at Vittoria Ristorante and “Vegan Soul Jazz 2” with E-Flat featuring vocalist Roxie Wolfe at Long Street Studios (300 E. Long) (both at 7pm), and Richard Lopez Trio at Black Point at 7:30pm. Also at 7:30pm is ragtime piano master and scholar Terry Waldo’s birthday bash at Bungalow Jazz. For your swingin’ exercise (and listening) needs, the Emerald City Swing Orchestra makes its monthly appearance at Emerald City Ballroom in Dublin at 8pm. All-star improvisational fusion group Stan Smith + will be joined by the KT Ramsey Coven, both on the bill and in a jam session finale, for a benefit show at Brothers Drake at 9pm where the $5 cover and a percentage of the bar receipts help a bandmember’s relative in need. Also at 9pm, BluesSwing kicks off a jazzy weekend at Rambling House Soda (310 E. Hudson) with a swinging celebration of the American Songbook. Finally, legendary saxophonist Carl Sally assembles an all-star group for his soulful return to Natalie’s at 10pm.
Saturday, November 26th: Two venues just east of Downtown get things started at 6pm: the lively weekly Jazz Jam at Lincoln Cafe and the vibraphone/guitar duo of Dylan Bram and Gabe Koempel at Camelot Cellars. The Dennis Hodges Trio returns to Notes for a free 7pm show with their exciting jazz renditions of unexpected material. Fine dining options are still abundant, with the Dave DeWitt TRio playing its weekly gig at Hyde Park Arlington at 7pm and the Phil Clark Trio offering classic vocal jazz at Black Point at 7:30pm. 9pm finds JUTAO (Just Us Together As One) playing heartfelt smooth jazz at The Idle-A-While Bar (East Side) and the New Basics Brass Band bringing its feisty New Orleans sound to Rambling House. For you nightowls, Dick’s Den features The Governor on drums and Randy Mather on sax along with other greats at 10pm.
Sunday, November 27th: The day starts with Dave Powers’ monthly jazzy appearance at Upper Arlington’s Covenant Presbyterian Church for the 8:30 & 11am services. Keep eating and swinging with brunch, either with the Erik Augis Trio at 3rd and Hollywood in Grandview at 11:30am or the Dave DeWitt TRio at Natalie’s at noon. The Columbus Youth Jazz Lab offers its Winter Final Performance at the Jazz Academy (Lincoln Theatre) at 2pm. The holiday jazz season is now fully underway, as the Westerville Library’s Sundays in the Atrium series kicks off with harpist Trista Hill at 2pm, and Dave Powers’ House Jazz Concert Series presents its Annual Holiday Show at Clintonville Woman’s Club, featuring Powers joined by tenor saxophonist Hal Melia and drummer Andy Smith, starting at 5pm. The NiNi Love JazzySide Quintet continues its run of smooth and soulful shows at the Royal Lounge on the East Side at 6pm, which is also when the Bobby Floyd Showcase continues (while Bobby is out of town) with vocalist Laura Camara fronting the Vernon Hairston Trio at Notes. Art and jazz lovers will enjoy the opening reception for the art exhibition “NONOBJEX – Art by Scott Steelman” at Lemongrass in the Short North, where the all-star lineup of the Non-Objex Orchestra (Michael Cox, Terry Douds, Paul Richards, John Battle, Doug Neel, and the artist himself) will entertain starting at 6:30pm. Otis Davenport and smooth jazz outfit Positive Energy make their regular appearance at The Idle-A-While Bar at 7pm, followed by dependable Sunday options like the Wally Mitchel Jazztet at Dick’s Den at 8pm and the Hoo Doo Soul Band at Rumba Cafe at 10pm.
Have a great Thanksgiving!