Marking their first anniversary at the Jazz Kitchen on June 3, trumpet-flugelhorn player Jeff Conrad, saxophonist Rich Cohen and pianist Gary Potter are the original three members. Joining them are bassist Jesse Wittman and drummer Larry Sauer.
Rich Cohen’s arrangements were featured June 10, 2014 at their Jazz Kitchen debut. On June 3, 2015 Jeff Conrad’s arrangements filled the three–set program, 7-10 p.m. The initial philosophy remains, said Conrad, during a quick conversation between sets. “We’ll do 12 tunes during a 70-minute set, each at about five minutes, for the sake of variety,” and then he quips, “So if you decide you don’t like a tune, you only have to wait another three minutes for one you might like. You don’t have to stew through a quarter hour.”
The quintet’s quiet, restrained rendition of “Wonderful World” sums up their reason for playing. “We’re not teaching,” said Conrad last year, “Our goal is to engage our listeners and keep the music interesting and accessible to them, not to "educate" them.”
Avenue Indy plays classic jazz with a variety of styles, tempos, moods, emotional tugs and definitely a mixture of well-known and not-so-well-known tunes. The 9:30 set opened with “Nutville." This galloping blues, mambo, jazz hybrid perked me up — I could not remember who wrote it. Same with “The Preacher” that closed the 7:30 set. I went home to learn about composer Horace Silver. No one told me to — it came organically.
The surprise of the evening was “Yat’s Blues,” a new tune by Conrad that calls out to be heard again.