Happy Thanksgiving! Before I get into my suggestions for jazz entertainment over the holiday weekend, I’d like to rundown a couple terrific Jazz Nights Out I had last week. On Wednesday the 18th, I attended the mid-season finale of the fabulous 2015-16 Wexner Center jazz season: the Julian Lage Trio. Accompanied by bassist Orlando le Fleming and drummer Kenny Wollesen, guitarist Lage exhibited his virtuosic skill in a warm and engaging 90-minute set plus encore. The setlist was varied, a mix of old-time traditional tunes, offbeat standards, and Lage’s own material, including pieces from his recent solo guitar album World’s Fair reworked for trio.
Their version of the latter’s “Gardens,” I believe, was a nimble flight of fantasy, with an intricate improvised solo intro that gave way to a bass-led melody that juxtaposed sunny strumming with bursts of rock-inspired frenzy. A beautiful rendition of Charles Lloyd’s “Island Blues” employed a colorfully bluesy intro that led to a folksy feel with everyone getting into the act, including Lage’s flowing fingerstyles, le Fleming’s long and grooving bass solo, and Wollesen’s full kit workout. The most striking aspect of the show for me was Lage’s ability to play outrageously technical passages, but present them in a friendly, personable way so that his clean tone and the rhythm section’s backdrop merged into a heartfelt whole with homespun charm. Set finale “Ryland,” also from World’s Fair, showcased this technique, as the western-tinged number possessed a quiet bombast that gradually climaxed into quickly-strummed fireworks. This unassuming display by three world-class musicians was a great representation of the Wexner Center’s well-booked display that will continue with more great jazz in February.
After the Lage show, I ventured down High Street to catch the last set of Clave Sonic at Brothers Drake. Bassist (and JazzColumbus founder) Mark Subel told me that the crowd has been great for the band’s recent Jazz Wednesday appearances there, and this was certainly true on Wednesday. The enthusiastic audience danced and reacted strongly to the quartet’s sizzling Latin jazz fusion. Keyboardist Dean Marcellana uncorked an abundance of fiery keyboard lines, Subel guided the groove and had several well-executed solos, electric cellist Bradley Mellen plucked and bowed with musical precision, and drummer Nathan Parker’s rhythms were steady yet exciting. It was a great reminder of the veteran quartet’s skill with buoyant Latin flavors and dancefloor-ready heat that is sure to please local jazz fans.
On Thursday, I finally caught my first show of the ongoing Jazz Dinner Club at the Refectory Restaurant. These combinations of exquisite fine dining and extremely intimate jazz performances have grown in number over the last several years, now averaging six events per month. After a four-course meal that I am ill-equipped to describe (but I can tell you the filet mignon was mind-blowing), the Bobby Floyd Trio put on a jovial, engaging two-set performance that thrilled the cozy room. Floyd’s five-star talents were on full display, covering ample ground ranging from soul to oldies to evergreen jazz standards. The rhythm section of bassist Derek DiCenzo and drummer Reggie Jackson matched Floyd every step of the way, whether setting the tone for the leader’s driving melodies or contributing their own delightful solos. The trio’s humor kept the proceedings lighthearted, including DiCenzo’s whistled accompaniment to his own solo on “Whistle While You Work.” The Jazz Dinner Club’s pairing of the best in great food and great jazz (at a very reasonable price!) is a great treat, especially with the holidays in sight – stay tuned for more details on their excellent year-end calendar.
Thanksgiving Jazz Guide
Wednesday, November 25th: Pianist Dave Powers’ weekly 6pm gig at Vittoria Ristorante in Powell will surely be a great way to get your festive juices flowing. If you want to be proactive about working off your holiday feasts, the John Vermeulen Swing Orchestra’s appearance at Swingin’ Wednesdays at Nyoh’s Buckeye Bar (West Campus) gives you the chance for a lively dance workout. The Tom Davis Trio will play its creative brand of top-notch guitar trio jazz in a 8:30pm Jazz Wednesday show at Brothers Drake that will surely be pleasing to jazz fans and holiday revelers alike.
Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 26th): As usual, Dick’s Den is providing the only live jazz (that we know of) on Thanksgiving Day. Saxophonist Randy Mather will be spreading cheer with an all-star cast dubbed the Jazz Pilgrims that also includes Roger Hines on bass, Joe Ong on drums, Brett Burleson on guitar, and Natalie Adams on vocals. Festivities start around 10pm.
Friday, November 27th: If you are still in the shopping spirit by the time happy hour rolls around on Black Friday, regular gigs at Kroger stores by the Brian Lang Duo (5pm, Stoneridge Plaza, Gahanna) and the Dave DeWitt TRio (5:30pm, Brewer’s Yard Tap Room, Brewery District) will surely help you shop (or relax) in style. A top choice for dinner jazz is a 7pm show by vocalist Rachel Sepulveda with pianist Tony Bonardi at Worthington Inn. As part of a visit home for Sepulveda during her pursuit of her Masters of Music in jazz at Western Michigan University, this last jazz show at Worthington Inn for 2015 is a great time to experience the performers and the venue. As the evening progresses, the annual birthday performance by ragtime piano virtuoso Terry Waldo (Bungalow Jazz, 7:30pm) and the monthly Swing’s The Thing Big Band swing dance party (Emerald City Ballroom, Dublin, 8pm) will entertain local classic jazz fans. Friendly and adventurous trio jazz by guitarist Stan Smith, bassist Roger Hines, and drummer Adam Smith will continue a jazzy week at Brothers Drake (9pm).
Saturday, November 28th: Great options for dinner and jazz abound, including the Bobby Floyd Trio at Hyde Park Arlington (7pm), Louise Salvador Quartet at Haiku (7pm), and Goodwin, Hines & Royalty with vocalist Rene Goodwin at Denovo (8pm). If you have yet to check out new Brewery District venue Notes, the Dennis Hodges Trio’s free 7:30pm show featuring their inventive renditions of modern “standards” would be a great time to do so. The Jazz Brew Concert Series rolls on with a “Latin, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban Jazz” performance by the FYI Quintet and Noe Salsa Project at Westerville South High School at 8pm. Brothers Drake rounds out its jazzy weekend with “Miles Davis/Herbie Hancock Tribute: A Future Listening Experience,” an homage to the legends helmed by multi-instrumentalist Doni Jai and featuring a roster of local jazz and soul luminaries (9pm).
Sunday, November 29th: The TRio jazz unit will be busy, as the Derek DiCenzo TRio’s monthly performance at Natalie’s (noon) is one of three great brunch options, and they will then reconfigure into the Dave DeWitt Trio for a 3pm show at the Wolf’s Ridge Brewing Tap Room downtown. Before the series takes a little break, the Dave Powers Trio will play their annual House Jazz Concert Series Holiday Show at the Clintonville Woman’s Club at 5pm. For a great later dinner and/or a show, The Walrus (Downtown) presents a free Jazz Sunday performance by the Liz Woolley Band at 8pm.
Have a great week! Here’s a video sampler of the artists above: