Nice Guy Trio: “Root Exchange” @ CMC

4 Jul

5415_826293274516_2513264_47491201_5430027_nLast night I caught my buds the Nice Guy Trio doing the second show of their monthly series “Root Exchange” at the SF Community Music Center.  The NGT is Darren Johnston on trumpet, Rob Reich on accordion, and Daniel Fabricant on bass – they play a loose, wonderfully swinging avant-street thing, with some pretty freewheeling playing anchored by really focused writing.  Darren contributes the majority of the compositions – his tune “Ducci Calypso” (written for his cat, though I believe the cat’s name is “Ducci,” not “Ducci Calypso,” hee), is always a showstopper, and the guys have gotten the quick trading that goes on in that tune down to a science.  I’m a sucker for the circle of 5ths, and the second half of that tune doubles as, like, a circle of 5ths workout routine.  Daniel and Rob contribute some really tasty compositions, as well – I’m still honored to have been a member of the first band to play “Fabby’s Footsteps.”  Though I like how the Nice Guys do it better (that modulation blows my hair back every time, guys).

This is the trio’s second year doing a “Root Exchange” series – last year was at the Red Poppy Art House.  The concept behind the series is that each month, the band plays with a special guest or two, adding various instruments to their own compositions while also playing tunes written by the guest artists.  Last night featured two local saxophonists, Evan Francis, an alto/reed player whose ultra-burning flute playing I really enjoyed during Adam Theis’s Hip-Hop Symphony a few months back, and Kasey Knudsen (who also played on Adam’s show) on alto and tenor.  I hadn’t heard Kasey play much outside of a section, and I really dug her style a lot – very vertical, with a big, rich tone.  I heard a lot of Konitz in there, and it worked really well with the flighty style of the Nice Guys.  Add in Evan on alto (and, on his own tunes, flute and clarinet), as well as  Rob’s accordion more on the “horn” end of the horn/rhythm spectrum, and the group got a sort of small chamber-ensemble sound that was really cool.

In addition to playing his ass off, Evan’s compositions sounded effing great – he writes these jarring, parallel horn voicings, sort of like how Gil Evans would do, but… pointier?  His closing tune, a calypso that sounded a bit like Ducci got dropped on its head, got into a really jangly, dissonant space that totally did it for me.  Kasey’s site says that she’s doing a bunch of playing with Spaceheater, as well as Evan’s own group and the Noah Lemish Quintet coming up – check her site for dates, I bet that it’s hard to go wrong with any of them!

So, anyway – it was a really good show.  The Trio is playing the first Friday of every month through October, with a different guest each week – I’ll absolutely be at the next one (August 7th, with Peter Jaques guesting on clarinet and truba (not a typo, look it up), and you should come, too!  They play at 8:00, and the cover is $10 – well worth it for two sets of great original jazz with no bar or audience noise distracting from the music.

What’s more, as my grandma would say, they’re just such nice boys.

Nice Guy Trio Root Exchange #2

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