Couth Buzzard Jam


Couth Buzzard Jam photo courtesy of Bruce Greeley


For a number of years now, some of the most interesting music locally has been coming out of the fairly unassuming Couth Buzzard bookstore on Greenwood Ave, the first Friday of every month. Featuring Kenny Mandell’s ongoing project, New World Ensemble, these evenings are followed by a rotating range of groups. No passport is needed for these journeys! 

On the first of March, the house band of the evening was unfortunately missing their usual saxophonist, but was instead joined by bassist Dan O’Brien.

Mandell started things off on his buzzing thumb piano, while percussionist Gabe Skoog enthralled the audience with merely a rattle, and O’Brien scraped away at his bass. Together, these three were conjuring up Whitney Balliett’s perfect description of jazz as ‘the sound of surprise.’

As the evening carried forward, Mandell called out: “Take us to the Promised Land, Danny!” Whereupon the veteran bassist set up a Dave Holland kind of line — catchy and complicated while Kenny M (not G!) began creating pastoral sounds, soon veering off into more atonal extreme realms. Skoog joined in on the fun and began to abrade his West African agogo bells. A Fulbright scholar, Skoog laid a folk guitar on the floor and tapped on the strings with a couple of simple toothbrushes, conjuring up a Persian santoor! (There are no percussionists so unassuming as Gabe — though, at some point, he may also stand up on one leg like a stork!) Following the house band, came the Jump Ensemble, a solid quintet that’s been playing together since the 1990s. So, of course, they were tight as can be: mining a fine selection of hard bop tunes a la The Crusaders.

Led by Greg Robinson on electric keys, the group features James Peters on trumpet and flugelhorn and Ed Spangenberg on trombone, along with Marty Hasegawa on electric bass and Mark Filler on drums and percussion.

The group gravitated towards a sumptuous rhapsodic “Infant Eyes” with a plangent plunger from Spangenberg, making us all miss composer Wayne Shorter, who passed almost one year ago to the day.

Isn’t such variety one of the most attractive aspects of jazz — how so much can fall under this nearly all-encompassing umbrella?!

Check your calendars and don’t forget to visit the humble Couth Buzzard next month, where you may get to hear all kinds of music, as well as foreign language lessons, current affairs discussions, creative writing groups, and so much more. Oh, and they have snacks and drinks, and, gosh, there are even books too, yes!


Posted on

March 26, 2024