The shape of jazz to come
Kids take over:
Innovation and tradition—forces that are deeply entangled in jazz music—unified last week at JB’s Lounge. Jazz has always counted on fresh, new ideas and bold, young artists to innovate and take the music forward.
And so, a group of Russian musicians traveling as cultural ambassadors, who arrived in America on November 1, performed at JB’s under the name of Open World Jazz Quartet last week. The group played with the Brubeck Institute Jazz Quintet, who was voted as Best College Jazz Band in the Nation by DownBeat magazine. I was fortunate to catch these young professionals improvising, collaborating, exchanging ideas—and providing a glimpse as to the state of jazz to come.
OWJQ consists of Denis Foman on double bass; Ivan Polanskiy, alto saxophone; Artem Yurlov on drums; and Yuliya Zolotareva at the piano. The Russian musicians never met until they reached the United States and speak very little English. Similarly, their American counterparts speak even less Russian.
But get them together for a few hours and magic happens.
The current BIJQ includes saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown and bassist Zach Brown, both in their second year as Brubeck Fellows. Freshman trumpeter Nick Frenay and pianist Noah Kellman are right out of high school. Drummer Corey Fonville is technically a sophomore who hails from Virginia Beach, Va., and transferred from the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York City. Fonville’s command of the drum set was truly amazing.
All of them will study jazz for two years at University of the Pacific in nearby Stockton.
It’s not easy to be accepted as a Brubeck Fellow. “The competition is great and the talent level is high, virtually at a professional ‘young lion’ level,” says BIJQ musical director Joe Gilman. “Each also has a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the recorded jazz history of their instrument and are completely up to date with cutting-edge trends in small-group jazz.”
It’s obvious that there are so many young individuals in jazz doing amazing things, so the music is very healthy. Exposure is a monster challenge, though, as is the case with any music that’s an art form; jazz certainly is not a commodity.
Enter JB’s Lounge, located inside the beautifully remodeled Red Lion Hotel: The venue is intimately gorgeous, sexy, contemporary and very comfortable. JB’s Thursday jazz series is growing. The kids occasionally take over. There’s no cover and the venue is all-ages, which negate the usual excuses for not getting out in this difficult economy. The improvisation happens from 8 p.m. until ’round midnight. (Doug Watkins)
Walking into Luigi’s Fun Garden from the cold of Friday night and hearing Weinland was like warm cider for the ears. Frontman Adam Shearer looked like a trucker behind his guitar, sporting a plaid shirt, a baseball hat with Old Glory on it, and the most important accessory of all: a full, bushy beard. No beards appeared onstage, however, during headliner Loch Lomond’s set. Perfectly orchestrated, Loch pleasantly blasted the pizza hall with their capable pipes—especially the exquisite voice of Jade Eckler—and lush clarinet. Sparkly, soothing and sweet with an earthy edge, this band may share its name with a lake, but demonstrated they sound more like swimming in a sea of champagne. (Shoka)
Mars-like Satellites: Friday night at the Fire Escape Bar and Grill in Citrus Heights marked the first show for little-known indie five-piece Behind the Satellites in nearly two months. An energetic crowd of about 50 people turned out for what proved to be an impressive performance by a band that was surprisingly better than I remember.
Musically, they were nearly flawless. The guitar work was dynamic—ethereal and bluesy during some songs, heavy and aggressive during others. The drumming was in the pocket and uninhibited by sloppy fills and the vocals perfectly suited to the band’s unique style, which sounds like a mix of Dredg, Modest Mouse and the Mars Volta.
They played everything from their recently released EP plus two unrecorded songs, and looked cool doing it. Hopefully, what I saw on Friday will become typical of Behind the Satellites. If so, they’re a band worth seeing again. (Cameron English)