WPGU/Buzz Local Music Awards 2007

-Scott Dwyer

Jason Finkelman’s Nu Orbit Ensemble is Tom Paynter (keyboard, flute), Chad Dunn (drums, percussion), Jay Eychaner (synthesizer) and of course Jason Finkelman (berimbau, percussion). They are an improv-jazz group with a flair for world styles. Unfortunately they don’t have a Web site where you can check them out yet, but if you manage to find their demo, check out “Adjika” for its funky percussion. Don’t miss them at the Canopy Club on Tuesday, March 13th as they put on a groovy live show.

-Scott Dwyer

Jason Finkleman’s Nu Orbit Ensemble sounds like the background music they play during Adult Swim commercials. While you let that sink in, let me say it is by no means a negative assessment. It contains varied jazz and world motifs and one’s enjoyment will likely depend on his or her opinions on free jazz and experimental music. The songs are given structure by Finkelman (berimbau, perussion) and Chad Dunn (drums, percussion) over which the other members are essentially given free reign. Absent are traditional solos and even what one generally classifies as melody. This is not to say that melody and musical themes are completely lacking, but a cursory listen won’t provide memories of distinct hooks as much as a central “idea.”

As with many jazz acts, a live performance would likely yield more information on the musical relationship the members have with each other and the flavors that classify each member. Give it an open-minded listen. Not a must-hear, but a decent listen.

-Steve Plock

Combining elements of Samba and Bossa Nova, the seven members of Champaign-Urbana’s Desafinado create a smooth blend of melody and rhythm that is rooted in traditional Brazilian jazz. Consisting of Simone da Silva (vocals), Chad Dunn (percussion), Greg Jahiel (guitar and vocals), Connie Johnson (vibraphone), Tim Johnson (guitar and vocals), Tom Paynter (flute and melodica) and Giraldo Rosales (congas), Desafinado’s unique approach to jazz has the ability to transport the listener to a place of relaxation and carelessness. With this being the band’s second nomination for Best Jazz Artist, Desafinado have proven themselves worthy of the title by having played at venues all across Illinois and having recorded two successful albums within the past two years. For more information on Desafinado, check out their Web site, desafinado-music.com, or check them out in a live setting on March 16 at the Iron Post in Urbana.

-Steve Plock

Portuguese for familiarity, Cohecimiento, the newest album from CU natives Desafinado, provides itself fully to the translation of its title. Grounded in Brazilian Samba and Bossa Nova, Desafinado’s music does indeed have a sense of familiarity and comfort. Containing guitar, flute, vibraphone, percussion, melodica and vocals, the music on Cohecimiento is so light and relaxing it’s as if the music was carried to your ear on a cool, ocean breeze. The songs on the album contain both original compositions by the band along with classic pieces composed by some of Brazil’s most premiere composers. With the combination of tradition and innovation, Cohicimiento provides enjoyment to both fans of the Brazilian style and those who appreciate jazz in all its forms. When you are packing for your spring break vacation this year, be sure to pack this album to enhance your vacation to levels of relaxation you never thought possible.

-Scott Dwyer

Jazz Sandwich! Can you guess what the play? Me neither. Anyway, Jazz Sandwich is Josh Walden (aka Mayo) on bass, Josh Quirk (aka Hot Relish) on drums, Jesse Brown (aka yellow mustard) on keyboards, Tom Paytner (aka TOMato) on flute and keyboards and Jeff Hegelson (aka toasted wheat bun) on trumpet. Their moniker is as clever as their nicknames and reads, “Jazz Sandwich offers us a unique musical outlet to play all things that would get us fired from our other bands.” The meaning of this is still undetermined, but fortunately their music does indeed groove. See and hear them online at myspace.com/jazzsandwich and check out “Low Impulse Control.” Jazz Sandwich doesn’t have a show until the end of March at the Cowboy Monkey, so until then we’re all going to have to be content with regular sandwiches.

-Josh Fisher

There have been few radical shifts in instrumentation of music in all genres since guitar became the lead instrument of choice for a majority of music acts. Mark Smart is helping to end this trend.

Mark Smart has been playing all sorts of different music over the past 25 years, from playing guitar with the U of I jazz bands, to an experimental prog-rock group. Recently, Mark has spent time helping to engineer one of the most impressive innovations in instruments since synthesizers.

The Continuum Fingerboard essentially is a synthesizer. It has monophonic and polyphonic outputs, along with the ability to produce MIDI. What separates this instrument from synthesizers of the 20th century is how it’s played. The fingers strike the surface of a long rectangle; the position affects pitch, timbre and volume.
The resultant sounds can be as rich and textured as a brass ensemble, or as smooth and mellow as a fretless bass. Unfortunately, the learning curve and the price also separate Continuum from its predecessors. These problems will fade eventually, and Continuum will turn many more heads in the future.

To see and hear Mark Smart play the Continuum Fingerboard, the Champan Stick (which any stringed instrument fan should take a look at) or with any of his old bands, got to http://www.marksmart.net. The video of Smart playing Continuum blew my mind and sold my LMA vote for Best Jazz within five minutes. Enjoy.

-Alyssa Vale

I will be the first to admit that I know very little about any type of blues music. I do, however, like to think that feel-good music is something we can all recognize, and Kilborn Alley is capable of conveying just that sensation. Their music is captivating, and it actually leaves you transfixed as you tap your toes to the upbeat rhythms and the catchy tunes.

Kilborn Alley is composed of five members: Andrew Duncanson, Joe Asselin, Josh Stimmel, Chris Breen and Ed O’Hara. Together they form what seems like a small orchestra of three guitars, a harp, electric bass, drums and vocals.

If this sounds interesting enough and you would like to educate yourself, check them out at myspace.com/kilbornalley. Three songs are featured, none of which are downloadable, but do yourself a favor and listen to “Too Tired.” It really gives you a feel for what southern soul is supposed to sounds like.

-Josh Fisher

The Impalas burst onto the Champaign-Urbana music scene in 1992 led by lead guitarist Bruce Rummenie. The Texas-Blues group has been laying down great live shows across the area ever since. Somehow, Rummenie manages to balance time among three different bands in the area, the other two being The Virtues and The Javelinas. Bruce writes original tracks for all three bands, as well as playing songs written by the finest Texas-Blues acts. Lead singer Dawna Nelson is The Impalas’ current lead singer, and clearly, with two nominations, the group has made quite a statement on the local music scene over the past decade.

Nelson’s powerful, intense vocals are the perfect compliment to Rummenie’s riffs, which come straight from central Illinois. “Bruiser,” as friends of Rummenie call him, is from Quincy, Ill., where he attended Quincy University. The most curious thing about The Impalas is the fact that they almost remind you of ZZ Top, but you quickly realize that the saxophone player, Peter Roubal, keeps the blues influence on the surface, rather than the rock influence. Texas-Blues is a fine mixture of both rock and blues, and The Impalas know which came first: the blues. Keep an eye on the buzz CU Calendar for upcoming shows featuring any of these three bands.

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