One thing is clear. When seeing live jazz in Richmond, there's an undeniable sense of community, a positive energy crocheted by a rotating cast of musicians.
The opener last Friday, Feb. 8 -- which easily could have sufficed as the headliner-- was a trio consisting of Brian Jones, J.C. Kuhl, and Allen Parker. Performing originals composed by Jones, the music represents an emerging breed of contemporary experimental jazz. I use the words "emerging" and "contemporary" with a cringe, since this brand of jazz has been brewing for many years, yet remains relatively unnoticed.
Opening the set with "Banjo (For Ry Cooder)," the trio introduced Jones' shifting compositional aesthetic. With a tendency to shuffle genres the trio deals out new textures that approach each instrument from a different perspective. Among the contrasting styles, we find a product that is complex and pleasing.
Of note was "Tin Nickel," emphasizing the multi-faceted potential of Allen Parker and his guitar. At times Parker embodies the clarity of Wes Montgomery and the improvisational intuition roles shoes throughout the composition, taking turns at bassline, rhythm and melody. As quickly as Parker takes the spotlight, he bows out, allowing Jones and Kuhl to rip up the drums and sax. The three always fall back into a happy medium, giving each other space while complimenting one another with a cultivated ease.
The Brian Jones Trio closed their set with "Missionaries," possibly the most noteworthy composition played this evening. The looping guitar lines provide a math-rock backdrop for Kuhl's lead melody, delivered with the precision and lyricism that I've come to expect from him. Jones's rapid-fire break beats guild this genre-defying lily, as the parts collect into a breed of jazz which is equally recognizable post-math-rock, in the vein of Faraquet. The new Brian Jones Trio is a must see.
Next on the bill was The No B.S. Brass Band, raising the evening into its circus with four trombones, three trumpeters, a tuba, a sax and roto-toms. While this group is comprised of some of Richmond's most noteworthy young jazz musicians -- Reggie Pace, Mark Ingraham, Bryan Hooten, Jason Arce, Sam Savage, Taylor Barnett, Marcus Tenney and others -- their compositions tend to fall short. This is not to diminish the free-wheeling good time that is a No B.S. show, but when following the Brian Jones Trio, it's hard not to make comparisons.
Many of No B.S.'s songs have a New Orleans-style brass sound, generally employing heavy head-nod vamps, celebratory solo sections and spotted application of hip-hop elements.
"Gettin' the Boot" stood out the most within No B.S.'s set. This tune starts with a sultry minor melody, building to a section that is reminiscent of the theme from the 1960s "Batman" series, and settling back into the opening head. The No B.S. Brass Band is whole lot of fun to see live.
Tonight, Richmond's jazz scene manifested itself at The Camel, complete with its characteristic rotating cast. There is something special in the air on nights like these. Come see for yourself sometime, it never fails to be a good time.
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