(photo: Tim Nagle)
Following the release of last fall’s self-titled Resavoir, the Chicago-based band started the first night of their tour at SFJAZZ’s Joe Henderson Lab on February 29 as part of the Noise Pop 2020 lineup. The band, led by trumpet player Will Miller (Whitney), is a tight-knit group of musicians whose stage chemistry makes their funky ’60s jazz-inspired compositions all the more engaging. Miller introduces the band and tells us they’ve been playing to gather for years. “This guy right here?” Miller says, pointing to percussionist Peter Manheim. “He’s been my day one homie. We did some breathing exercises in the park today. That’s why my face is so red,” says Miller, pointing out his sunburn to a chuckling crowd.
Off stage, they share a bit about their history and how excited they are for this tour. “We obviously hate each other,” says drummer Jeremy Cunningham, whose hypnotic performance was an incredible pleasure to watch.
“Yeah,” chimes Akenya Seymour (keys, vocals), adding with a joking laugh, “I don’t like any of these guys. They’re hard to be around.”
Back on stage, the band opens their second set with “Taking Flight,” where Seymour nails a solo to the applause and smiles of her bandmates. Throughout the night there was an obvious friendliness between the musicians, which is a refreshing and fun energy for a jazz show. A stand out moment was the tune “I Love My Life,” the only song with vocals. Seymour is a musician to watch: her range is incredible and those high notes are goose bump-inducing.
Another favorite was a new song, called “UFO,” which Miller says, “It’s very spacey.” A few songs later he looks out into the crowd and asks, “Any of you guys have house plants?” the crowd laughs, a couple folks raise their hands. “Well,” he jokes, “We’ve got some plants for sale out on the merch table. Just kidding, this song is just about house plants. It’s written for the house plants. It’s a very interesting life they live.” Song “Plantasy” is a lovely, quieter tune that relaxes the soul. The group’s debut album has a lot to offer: It’s poppy and experimental; crisp and open and welcoming, and I highly recommend taking it for a spin.