Back in the mid-aughts, even after Caravan of Dreams was shuttered, Fort Worth was a pretty jazzy town. The Black Dog Tavern was packed most Sunday nights for a jam hosted by Berklee-educated Fort Worth drummer Dave Karnes, who also sat in at a weekly Wednesday-night jam at The Moon near TCU. At Sardines Ristorante Italiano in the Cultural District, pianist Johnny Case and his trio pounded out top-notch straight-ahead jazz for more than 25 years on a nightly basis. Eventually, the Black Dog, Moon, and Sardines all closed, and while we have gained Scat Jazz Lounge and the library’s monthly series, we’re still not quite the jazz paradise we once were.
Maybe Jazz Confusion will serve as the kick in the pants you lazy bums need. Assembled by the Near Southside record label and studio Dreamy Soundz, the album features 14 new or previously recorded tracks from several North Texas jazz acts, including Dallas’ Lazy Summer, Mora Collective, Tidbits, and Yells at Eels and Fort Worth’s Flipside and Los Noviembres. Also included are tracks by spoken word poets Joncliff McKinley and Tony Rizzo accompanied by pianist Joey Carter, trumpeter Cara Pollard, bassist Jeremy Hull, and drummer Steve Waller. Lazy Summer’s songs were recorded a couple months ago at Dreamy Soundz with studio/label co-owner and -founder Jennifer Rux as producer; Mora Collective’s tunes and the spoken-word pieces were done at Eagle Audio Recording on the Near Southside around the same time with producer Britt Robisheaux. Robby Rux, Dreamy Soundz co-owner and -founder and Jennifer Rux’s husband, got the idea for a jazz comp late last year while recording a compilation with the Fort Worth proto-punk label Lo-Life Recordings.
“I thought it would be cool to do a comp featuring a lot of the cool local jazz and music that is outside the box in the local scene,” Rux said, adding that he’s a huge fan of jazz and fusion. “Given the rich jazz history in Fort Worth –– Ornette Coleman, King Curtis, Prince Lasha, Ronald Shannon Jackson, Dewey Redman, and more –– it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
The result is pretty stellar, but first a few quibbles: There’s not enough piano, not enough free jazz, and a little too much pop. And where the hell is Gunga Galunga? Regardless, there’s a lot to love about Jazz Confusion, especially Tidbits, a band I’d never heard of but want to hear more from. These cats are mixing free (no time signatures, lots of squawking and banging) with bebop, hip-hop, and rock and field recordings and glitchwerks. Tidbits are like a hyper-contemporary version of local outré-jazz giants Yells at Eels, a.k.a. the Gonzalez clan: father and trumpeter Dennis, drummer and son Stefan, and bassist and son Aaron. On the opposite end of the jazz spectrum, there’s Lazy Summer, three players of ukulele, trumpet, and bass whose music is soft, melancholy, and catchy, and Los Noviembres, who do that internationally flavored atomic-age stuff to a tee. Rux, who hand-picked the contributors, is “super-stoked” about Jazz Confusion, he said. “It’s the most eclectic project I have ever been a part of.”
His mission, he said, is simple: to get the music into as many ears as possible. “I want people to see that there is a current jazz and fusion scene in DFW,” he said. “I am also hoping that the comp will introduce many to jazz and fusion that may have not previously been fans. I think there is something for everyone on here.”
The album will officially be released on Saturday, Nov. 9, at The Grotto (517 University Dr., 817-882-9331), where Yells at Eels, Tidbits, Mora Collective, Lazy Summer, and poets McKinley and Rizzo will perform. The show is 21 and up, and cover is $7. Unlike most previous Dreamy Soundz efforts, Jazz Confusion will not be released on vinyl but on polycarbonate. Copies will be available at the show and at Doc’s Records & Vintage, Record Town, and in Arlington at CD Warehouse. You can also check out the disc at dreamysoundz.bandcamp.com.
The time to get jazzed about local jazz is now, music lovers. There has to be someone out there willing to fill Dave Karnes’ Skechers.
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