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Originally published by robertwbrown.com - Denton, TX

Jazz Orgy: A Review

By Robert W. Brown

2004.03.02 -- I make frequent trips to my hometown of Silver City (SC), New Mexico where I shake off the North Texas funk and reconnect with my friends, family and the inspiring New Mexico spirit. There is something about the sky, the mountains, the stars and the air that refreshes my outlook after working in the land of endless flatness and strip malls. On my many trips home, I have occasionally brought musicians and new found friends. They always comment on what a striking place it is. Apparently I am not the only person who makes such introductions as a local fellow made the necessary connections for a group of jazz musicians to visit from Oshkosh Wisconsin.

I simply had to make time to hear their music. Any band of jazz musicians that would travel so far to share their music deserves to be welcomed. But I am funny that way. I was really happy that I made the smaller sacrifice of traveling into town.

This band had already made their presence felt in SC for a week before I finally caught up with them on a Saturday night at a local coffee shop called Rejuvenationís. I wasn't really sure what to expect as I made my way downtown and the band was already playing to standing room only. I recognized many of my friends although I didn't see any of the local musicians that I commonly associate with the SC music scene.

Jazz Orgy is a band versed in a variety of musical forms that transcend the usual local fare. I heard great jazz standards sprinkled with contemporary rock quotes, and material that I always crave like Herbie Hancock and Jaco Pastorious. You live in Silver City and have never heard of Jaco Pastorious or Herbie Hancock? It isn't your fault. Contemporary jazz is hard to come by even in large urban areas unless you already have an ear for such things. A native of Silver City would then find it even harder to identify with. But the crowd didn't mind the lack of familiarity as the music was played well and was loaded with rhythmic energy. As I looked over the crowd, I was happy to rediscover that there is a core of open-minded folk in Silver City.

I suspect that if the music is good enough, then the right people will turn out because the human spirit craves this kind of expression. Many of Jazz Orgie's new fans followed them around as they played different locations around town. The recognition of quality and freshness inspired a small yet loyal following. Being that they were versed in musical trditions that aren't the standard Southern NM fare was also helpful. Yet the conspicuously absent weighed on my mind as I contemplated the character of the SC "music scene." Many people think of jazz as stuffy society music. This couldn't have been any further from the case as this band proved themselves with joyous energy crossed with a respectful degree of cultural awareness.

At it's best, jazz is a type of music that is bold and rhythmically compelling. Great jazz takes musical elements from all the other popular forms and is magnified by the hearts, minds and hands of musicians that have a passion beyond the scope of the pop music mind. Great jazz is great music! Many musicians can be rigid in their attempt to be popular, but it is rigidity that frustrates their endeavor. Jazz Orgy played effortlessly as they morphed pop tunes into something so human, and so undeniable, that the audience had to move their bodies. It was shear passion and love of their craft that came through.

Jazz Orgy also graciously invited any local musician to sit in with them. What showed was a slice of musicianship I had not seen before in SC. I was surprised to hear Miles Davis being covered by some local developing musicians. I will be keeping an eye out for this new talent because that is future of the music scene in SC. When musicians take the time to learn from the best, something good always comes from their effort. Jazz Orgy adapted and made music with whoever had the nerve to step up to the plate. In doing so, they were not only fine ambassadors of jazz; they were also worthy ambassadors of music.

Jazz at its heart is a music that always draws from other genres. Classical, Rock, Folk, Blues, Afro-Cuban, European art music, you name it, jazz always draws from anything and everything. So I was so satisfied when I heard Pink Floyd and Polka mixed in the same set. I was also happy to hear Andy Mertens whip out the bow and play those bass solos. That is such a hard thing to do and so I forgive the intonation issues that seemed to bug a few of the local music aficionados. Jazz has its roots in African music that was so unconcerned with the European intonation. The jazz rhythm and phrasing is what I enjoyed so much in all of the solos I heard. Jazz bass bowing can be a metaphor for the roots of jazz. The Silver City ear isn't very accustomed to that kind of sound, but I here it often in an area where there are more acoustic bass players that fretted electric players. I had no complaints. The conviction was there, and fast bowing in the heat of battle typically leans to the sketchy side due to the level of difficulty.

The next evening they blended well as a backup band to Brandon Perault at the Buffalo bar as they played a tribute performance for the beloved Janet Hammel who recently passed. Brandon was really quite good as he also adapted to their style. I was happy to see folks once again enjoying the offering of energy along with the local flavors. It was a great night that was once again missed, not only by many a local musician, but also the purveyors of imported blues spectacle. This music just doesn't seem to be on the radar screen for some folks.

I recommend that if these fine musicians ever come back to Silver City, then more of the music community needs to turn out and enjoy their groove. I'll be there to renew my spirit. Thanks to Rejuvenationís, the Buffalo Bar, the kind individual who organized this bands introduction to SC, and the spirit of those who supported this great music!

Mark Martin burnin up the keys!
Andy Mertens slapping the bass silly!
Mike Underwood driving the band with some fierce drumming!

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