Local Music Wrap-Up: Choir Fight, Faux Fir, Slow Walker, Jimmy at the Prom
by Evan Rytlewski for Express Online – Link
November 16th, 2011
Choir Fight’s gorgeous cover of Death Cab For Cutie’s “Brothers On A Hotel Bed” has been a staple of the local jazz sextet’s live shows for a while now. Now the group has released a studio recording of the song as part of its new Kiwi Sadness EP. The two-track release, posted for free streaming and download on Bandcamp, also includes readings of a couple of Miles Davis standards, “In a Silent Way” and “It’s About that Time.” Choir Fight shares a show with The Soul Trio this Saturday, Nov. 19, at Mad Planet.
Choirfight Punches Down Walls of Jazz
by Bobby Tanzilo for onmilwaukee.com – Link
November 15th, 2011
In 1957, Sonny Rollins played “The Surrey With the Fringe on Top” from Broadway’s “Oklahoma!” and in January 1970 guitarist Grant Green recorded the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.”
Jazz, you see, has never been afraid to dip into pop music for chord changes and melodic inspiration. And these are relatively recent examples. Many jazz “standards” are songs culled from popular music.
That same spirit of inclusiveness drives local jazz ensemble Choir Fight, which recently issued a two-track EP for free download.
“The Kiwi Sadness EP” features readings of Death Cab For Cutie’s “Brothers On A Hotel Bed” and Miles Davis’ “In A Silent Way” and “It’s About That Time.”
“We’ve been working on a ‘sound’ for about five or six years and I still feel like we are a relatively new band,” says bandleader and trumpeter Jamie Breiwick. “It has taken a while to develop what I believe is a unique sound, but I think we are ready to start hitting the scene a bit now.”
In addition to Breiwick, Choir Fight also includes tenor saxman Aaron Gardner, guitarist Steve Peplin, keyboardist Scott Currier, bassist Bryan Mir and drummer Jeremy Kuzniar. All play in other bands, including Kings Go Forth, De La Buena, Ulu, Static Chicken and others.
The group’s been honing its chops at the Jazz Estate and Mason Street Grill, but is beginning to expand its reach and plays at The Mad Planet on Saturday, Nov. 19 with The Soul Trio and DJ Hitmayng and on Dec. 9 with Todd Richards at Club Garibaldi in Bay View.
Crossing into venues that are not traditional jazz clubs makes perfect sense for a band whose musicians play across a range of genres and view jazz more as freedom than shackles.
“To be honest, much of the group’s – or, my own, I guess – direction has been inspired by artists who have not been afraid to cross boundaries when dealing with jazz, or jazz-rooted music. In particular, jazz artists like The Bad Plus, Brad Mehldau, Dave Douglas and Ben Allison have been super inspiring for their willingness to stay true to a personal vision vs. merely recycling what has already been done/said, a la Miles Davis.
“Douglas in particular has been a very direct inspiration, specifically his record ‘The Infinite’ – on which he covers Rufus Wainwright, Mary J. Blige and Bjork on the same record. That record was particularly mind opening for me, because it was validating what was going on in my head. It’s OK to play a Nirvana tune, or a Beatles tune, and use it a vehicle for improvisation. I love all that music, just as much as I love Kenny Dorham or Freddie Hubbard.”
When a group of open-minded musicians takes on a wide variety of material, it’s no surprise that the results are hard to categorize, too. While Choir Fight’s reading of the Death Cab tune from the 2005 CD, “Plans,” has a sound and a vibe that many associate with jazz, it’s a fairly faithful instrumental rendering of the song, with very little of the kind of improvisation found in “traditional” jazz.
Breiwick says that although his skills are rooted in years of playing jazz, his musical vision isn’t restricted.
“I certainly went through – actually, am still in – a phase of immersing myself in the jazz tradition, but exposure to some of the aforementioned artists at key moments helped me to realize my own vision,” he says.
“The band has been the conduit for that vision. I feel like its a really great mix of musicians who are very much like-minded. We certainly all have a grasp on the jazz tradition, yet are open-minded enough and fluent enough in other styles to pull of a Beatles tune with out it seeming contrived.”
Choir Fight Makes it’s Point
by Graham Marlowe for Inside Milwaukee - Link
July 17th, 2011
Thick, homey fumes of authentic Mexican food wafted through Charles Allis Art Museum Thursday night as Choir Fight, a fiery Milwaukee jazz sextet, proved to a modest thirty that, while jazz may not be the fringe culture springboard it once was, the music itself is far from dead. For a band so moist with creativity, the odor was especially fitting.
The evening’s natural, off-white light show was somewhat romantic for jazz, which often burns from whatever midnight oil venues are willing to provide. But as that sunset poked its weary head through faux-stained glass windows, it made me wonder how such intimacy continues to slip the cracks of a music industry that seemingly discourages it.
Choir Fight is, perhaps, the perfect jazz for adrenalized rock fans. However, the group has a sensitive interpretive touch unmatched by most “modern” jazz acts. Not only have they successfully modernized the materials of jazz, they also have a refreshing perspective on nineties rock, the Beatles, and of course Miles Davis.
Surrounded by thin, reverberant walls, audience members sat, transfixed by the coolness of spirit that they’ve come to associate with the group.
“Eleanor Rigby” began set one with a light, crisp hip-hop flavor, and channeled the dizzy, offbeat blues of “Come Together” before actually reaching it. The bandmembers read each other like the chapters of a weathered paperback, one memory at a time. This trait serves them well in otherwise angsty, garage-noir cuts like “Heart-Shaped Box” (Nirvana) and “Black Hole Sun” (Soundgarden).
Fed through the Choir Fight filtration system, the songs resonate more hopefully than the originals, and with time to spare they veered into dub-jazz danger zones that evoke Miles’ In A Silent Way album-suite, part of which was also played.
Behind the hushed balladry of Jeremy Kuzniar (drums), bandleader Jamie Breiwick spit one bitchy blues lick after another through his trumpet as Steve Peplin (guitar) sustained a post-hot tub calm, granting the perfect smile to every agreement and disagreement with the soloists’ note selection.
In any other setting, middle-aged men covering those songs would be a trite attempt at personal artistry. With these guys, it’s akin to peeling the bleakness off the original to reveal a subtle, jazzy infrastructure.
“Brothers On A Hotel Bed” gave Scott Currier (keys) a chance to think out loud on his own eclectic terms, which at times bumped elbows with the stratosphere.
Bryan Mir (bass) and Aaron Gardner (sax) may not be mobile onstage, but they hold a presence of relaxed precision, nodding along in complete focus as the others guide each collective musical risk.
“Title and Registration” continued a loose theme of lost youth, this time with Peplin stepping away from accompaniment to make the song shimmer with desert-blues yearning.
That theme was not lost, though by the end of the gig, the set’s pensive atmosphere gave way to pure, off-the-cuff fun. A ballsy move to be sure, Peplin led the group in a wouldn’t-be-laugh-out-loud-funny-if-it-weren’t-so-damn-good rendition of Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” last summer’s over-the-top-sexualized pop hit.
The reading was part satire, part fun, to which mindless catchiness (“Oh, it gets so hot/We’ll melt your popsicle”) gave way to middlebrow blues jamming. Nearly everyone appreciated the gesture, and it clearly took the edge off a long, thoughtful workday with room-filling hilarity.
Jazz and rock don’t run into each other at parties much anymore, but the definition of jazz has morphed so much that many have forgotten what it includes.
Nevertheless, if there is a group with the ability to remind young people what is (and was) beautiful about jazz once again, there is hope for a revival of sorts.