First Night Knoxville 2012, Part 2: A little Jazz and a little Jodie

Dixieland Jazz at the Square Room, First Night Knoxville 2012

From the beginning of First Night choices had to be made. I wanted to see most of the music and I was interested in how the music would work in some of the venues I’d never been in before. I’ve never been much on comedy, so I let that go upfront, though it would have been interesting to see both Erin Donovan and Einstein Simplified. Maybe some of you caught them and might tell us how that went. I also sacrificed two of my favorites, Robinella and the Black Cadillacs because I’ve seen them so many times.

Dixieland Jazz at the Square Room, First Night Knoxville 2012

Those of you who regularly read this blog know I had to make time for some of the jazz. They made that part easy: Jazz started in the Square room at 5:30, nearly two hours before the other artists. I caught a bit of the first set and most of the second. The room was packed for both sets with probably two to three hundred people and little over-lap between the audiences for the two sets (Vance Thompson asked for a show of hands).

Most of the band is affiliated with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra, the UT Jazz Program or both. Vance Thompson led the band and also leads the KJO and teaches in the program at UT. I’m pretty sure the trombone, bass and guitar players play with KJO. The other members of the band are familiar subjects to this blog: I wrote about them last week after hearing them at Barley’s. Brothers Kenneth (drums) and Keith (piano) Brown and multi-instrumentalist Will Boyd looked quite a bit different in their New Year’s Eve dress-up outfits after seeing them a few days earlier in more comfortable clothes.

Dixieland Jazz at the Square Room, First Night Knoxville 2012

It was a classy night all around and the musicianship was superb. The musical focus was Dixieland Jazz which was a far cry from what the Nu Jazz Fourtet plays. It was fun to hear the old songs from “When the Saints Go Marching In” to “Basin Street Blues.” I forget how fun Dixieland can be and how good it can sound with a modern sound system. Most of the Dixieland I listen to was recorded on crude machines early in the last century. I particularly enjoyed watching Keith play an entirely different style on the piano. I also realized that the  rhythm section of a jazz band are the hardest working men on stage. Everybody else plays a solo and takes a break; the drummer just keeps on pounding.

Jodie Manross, Miller’s Atrium

Next I rushed over to listen to Jodie Manross. I stayed for about half of her set before I rushed away to the next artist. Her portion of the evening was in the Miller’s Atrium and I didn’t really have any idea what that meant. I’ve never had a reason to actually enter the Millers Building and so had no indication that the core of the building is a pretty awesome open area from bottom to top with beautifully tiled marble flooring.

Jodie Manross, Miller’s Atrium, First Night Knoxville 2012

Jodie opened, as she did last time I heard her, with “Make You Feel My Love.” It’s a great song in any case and it certainly works for her. It seemed more together this time than last with the simple percussion fitting more comfortably with her gorgeous voice. The marble and the shape of the venue added a little natural reverb that fit this song perfectly. Unfortunately, the reverb didn’t serve the other songs quite as well. While the instruments seemed clear, I couldn’t quite catch the vocals the rest of the time I listened. Her voice was beautiful, but I’m, at the end of the day a word man and I couldn’t understand them.

Jodie Manross, Miller’s Atrium, First Night Knoxville 2012

Still, it was a charming setting and Jodie is always a treat. About two to three dozen people drifted in and out and that was to be the norm for the night as people scrambled to hear a bit of the many artists offered. It was the same for me. After a half-dozen songs or so I left for another venue. More on that in the next post.

Jodie Manross, Miller’s Atrium, First Night Knoxville 2012


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