The Spin 

Gadzooks! A touring national jazz act in downtown Nashville! On Second Avenue, no less! Saxophonist John Ellis, who came up on the jazz scene with eight-string guitar wonder Charlie Hunter, brought his quartet to town last Friday night.
He so horn-y Gadzooks! A touring national jazz act in downtown Nashville! On Second Avenue, no less! Saxophonist John Ellis, who came up on the jazz scene with eight-string guitar wonder Charlie Hunter, brought his quartet to town last Friday night, and an eager crowd packed ScoJo’s Café, an intimate little coffeehouse/bar in the thick of the Second Avenue club district. Originally scheduled for one show, the band did a second set to accommodate the folks who couldn’t squeeze in for the first one. ScoJo’s turned out to be a perfect venue—and it’s a good thing, because it was the only club in all of Nashville willing to book the event, which says something about the state of live jazz here. Ellis played mostly material from his new Hyena Records release By a Thread, and showed why he is one of the more sought-after players on the New York jazz scene. Having seen him before with Charlie Hunter, we knew he was a great player, but his talent for composition caught us off-guard. The Nashville jazz guitar mafia (you know who you are) were sitting front and center to watch Mike Moreno, one of the top six-stringers in jazz today and an erstwhile member of Joshua Redman’s Elastic Band, and they weren’t disappointed—his fluid combination of melody, chromaticism and ferocious chops was spellbinding. But the most exciting element may have been drummer Derrek Phillips, for a couple reasons: first, his inventive, dynamic approach took the music beyond typical straight-ahead jazz. (On the evening’s standout number, “Tall Drink of Water,” he blended hip-hop grooves, tambourine and shaker with mind-bending results.) Second, he moved to town last week. Hopefully he’ll be off the road long enough to combine forces with some of Nashville’s fine local players—and to help apply the defibrillation paddles to a jazz club scene currently on life support. Gadzooks! A touring national jazz act in downtown Nashville! On Second Avenue, no less! Saxophonist John Ellis, who came up on the jazz scene with eight-string guitar wonder Charlie Hunter, brought his quartet to town last Friday night, and an eager crowd packed ScoJo’s Café, an intimate little coffeehouse/bar in the thick of the Second Avenue club district. Originally scheduled for one show, the band did a second set to accommodate the folks who couldn’t squeeze in for the first one. ScoJo’s turned out to be a perfect venue—and it’s a good thing, because it was the only club in all of Nashville willing to book the event, which says something about the state of live jazz here. Ellis played mostly material from his new Hyena Records release By a Thread, and showed why he is one of the more sought-after players on the New York jazz scene. Having seen him before with Charlie Hunter, we knew he was a great player, but his talent for composition caught us off-guard. The Nashville jazz guitar mafia (you know who you are) were sitting front and center to watch Mike Moreno, one of the top six-stringers in jazz today and an erstwhile member of Joshua Redman’s Elastic Band, and they weren’t disappointed—his fluid combination of melody, chromaticism and ferocious chops was spellbinding. But the most exciting element may have been drummer Derrek Phillips, for a couple reasons: first, his inventive, dynamic approach took the music beyond typical straight-ahead jazz. (On the evening’s standout number, “Tall Drink of Water,” he blended hip-hop grooves, tambourine and shaker with mind-bending results.) Second, he moved to town last week. Hopefully he’ll be off the road long enough to combine forces with some of Nashville’s fine local players—and to help apply the defibrillation paddles to a jazz club scene currently on life support. This dance ain’t for everybody—only the sexy people The Glovebox show at The Basement Friday night was upbeat, fun-loving and refreshingly silly—at least, the band was. The crowd was another matter. Divided between People Who Came for the Headliners and your basic garden-variety Sticks in the Mud, most people sat during the Australian electropop group’s joyously carefree set of dance tunes. Did we say dance tunes? Aside from The Spin and an older couple who seemed wonderfully entertained—at least, enough to approach keyboardist/composer Grainger Lock after the show to tell him so—the rest of the club-goers were deadweight. Oh, they clapped. And then they sat. A table of sweatered-up ladies up front crossed their arms and eyed each other for what appeared to be moral support to remain uptight. All this while the band cavorted and strutted, belting out cheesy dance hit after cheesy dance hit like they were playing to throngs of fans, with songs about superstars and walking on the beach, and the mohawked Lock in full Fred Schneider mode. At one point, after some obligatory applause, singer Mishka commented, “Well, Nashville, you’re very polite. You’re not just being polite are you?” A sitter belted, “We’re drunk!” If only. Drunk people usually dance. Converse: check. Labret piercing: check Maybe it was the full moon, but last Friday, The End hosted a rather extensive and angsty bill. Autumn People and An Epic at Best opened without incident for Ascent of Everest and Death Comesto Matteson. To quote a particularly disenchanted audience member named Kyle, the first acts were so soft-core emotional we wanted to take a B.M. Ascent of Everest were a seven-piece, string-heavy outfit, and their feely psychedelic post-rock was something like Dirty Three on acid. It was a hell of a show—these guys are Murfreesboro gold. With lush and slow-building songs, sparse vocals and a heavy-lidded female cellist, the band entertained the attentive, yet brooding, crowd. Several people wearing black scooted their chairs center stage and the subsequent hands-in-pockets style head nodding was not only justified, but sincere. Headliners Death Comesto Matteson played a slightly more predictable, but nonetheless lovely, operatic sad-rock show. Before launching into their set, frontman Peter Matteson threatened to wring out the already dazed crowd with what he called “more depressing nancy-songs.” Quick to quell our fears, he replied, “Screw it. It’s Friday night. Have a beer.” True to form, we said, Okay. Short circuit? What The Spin thought was sure to be a played-out zombie-robot joke at the Mercy Lounge turned out to be a killer show. The place was disco-lit and crawling with sexy art school guys and their pixie-cut girlfriends for How I Became the Bomb’s CD release show. Local directors the Deagol Brothers threw together a one-night-only live band to perform the original soundtrack, which prefaced a movie-trailer viewing for their coming-of-age zombie flick, Make-Out With Violence. For Nashville’s indie-rock in-crowd, Lazer Man and the Non-Commissioned Officers’ first-ever performance was a breath of fresh air. Lead singer Eric Lehning belted through hoppy Eno-influenced tunes with a captivatingly sick gusto, hanging off the mic like a corn-fed Ian Curtis. When he called his mom onstage to sing a song, the crowd cheered louder than they had all night. After stumping for donations, the band vanished behind a giant white screen. The lights went down, and the opening logo for Fugitive Brain Productions threw a hush over the crowd as the trailer rolled. Soon after, from behind the blank screen, the first synthesized rumblings of How I Became the Bomb brought a wave of fans in from the deck and side bar. When the screen dropped, the Murfreesboro heartthrobs shone like new dimes in matching Superman II villain costumes. The ’80s video collage projections along with the glittery getups were visible markers of how far the band have come from their formative dive-bar days, for better or worse. Maybe we’re just tired old fans, but it seems like the band’s charming spark of raw charisma is rapidly burying itself in slick production and over-booking. But there were plenty of fresh faces in the crowd, and there’s still nothing like hearing a Bomb song for the first time. Sunday swill When the residents of a local Murfreesboro house venue fell ill, an elaborately orchestrated lineup found its way Sunday night into the ’Boro’s favorite seedy dollar-beer bar, the Campus Pub. The result was one part sing-along, one part birthday party and two parts hipster lovefest in the most unlikely of locales. No fewer than eight scruffy solo artists swapped out a pair of well-worn acoustic guitars to a small but welcoming audience of summer bums and well-wishers. Longtime scenester and local favorite Tyler McDaniel dedicated a song to Michael Acree, the singing-songwriting town ghost who fell into a bottle and never quite resurfaced. Emo-scarred visiting artist Caleb Jehl eschewed the luxuries of microphones and amplifiers, choosing instead to scream at the top of his lungs so that his accompanying violinist could be heard above the din. Henry Daggs, formerly of The Bang Up and currently of too many projects to list, celebrated his birthday with a call to support the touring acts—gas prices are a bitch. The late arrival of the bar’s motley crew of regular drunks did little to offset the communal atmosphere of the evening—those fortunate enough to find themselves at the Pub had the opportunity to look around and see the school year’s survivors, with whom they would be sharing this laziest of seasons. Monday madness Those of you still mourning the demise of Slow Bar, listen up: Juke Joint Mondays, a hugely successful weekly event at the lamented East Nashville dive, are being resurrected at The Basement. Though Juke Joint Mondays will maintain the roots-blues-rockabilly theme, the cast has changed: the core band will feature drummer Jimmy Lester, who stokes the coal in Los Straitjackets’ locomotive; bassist Mark Winchester, a veteran of Emmylou Harris’ Nash Ramblers and the Brian Setzer Orchestra; and guitarist Chris Casello, who currently plays with Carlene Carter and Lower Broad mainstay Brazilbilly. (Casello is a monster, putting a demented spin on roots guitar, not unlike Junior Brown. Check out chriscasello.com for samples.) There’ll be different special guests each week. Juke Joint Mondays start this Monday, May 22; after taking Memorial Day off, they’ll reemerge June 5 and continue every Monday until the world explodes. Start time is 9 p.m.; admission is $5. Jazz is Dead Two legends—one the most prominent jazz guitarist alive, the other a founding member of the mother of all jam-bands—combine forces next month at the Ryman. John Scofield is touring this summer with Phil Lesh and Friends, the ever-evolving side project of the beloved Grateful Dead bassist. Though a jazzer at the core, Scofield has become a fixture on the jam-band scene, and this tour should raise his profile even higher—in that world, playing with Phil is the equivalent of a blessing from the pope. It should be interesting to hear how Sco’s skewed sensibilities blend with the Dead catalog, which accounts for the lion’s share of the Lesh and Friends set list. Tickets for the June 20th show went on sale last Friday, but there were still some left as of press time. Don’t wait long—as soon as the Bonnaroo throngs catch wind of the show, which takes place just two days after the festival’s end, those ducats will get snapped up quicker than veggie burritos in a Dead show parking lot.

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