I hear the sound of jazz in the parking lot as I walk towards New City Brewery in Easthampton last Thursday night. People are gathered in the patio area enjoying the music while also enjoying the summer night air. Inside, the old factory building with exposed beams, pulleys, and brick walls are inviting as I look at the multi-colored handwritten beer specials on the chalkboard at the bar. I order the Original Ginger Beer (which is delicious) and sit down on a metal stool overlooking the occupied circular silver metal tables with matching chairs in front of the stage.
Every Thursday night, keyboardist Khalif Neville and drummer Ian Haas play an open jam at New City with a few sets and special guests. On this night they start with an instrumental jazz fusion riding on a wave of lounge music. Neville and Haas are on either side of the stage with special guest bassist Ryan Fess stands center stage with his electric blue instrument.
Neville’s fingers dance across the keys charismatically. The traditional jazz-style smoothly grooves into funk and R&B as each song progresses. I watch drummer Haas in between songs. He changes cymbals, to produce new tones in each tune. My instant reaction was that he shows dedication to making music sound perfect.
After a 15 minute break, Neville, Haas and Fess get back on stage and melt into their instruments once again. The groove into a continuous jazzy jam has started — maybe. I’m wondering whether I’m listening to a jam or something orchestrated to sound fully jamming. I notice Neville eyeing Haus a couple of times. They exchange knowing nods like they could read each other’s minds. The mystery of whether I’m hearing a jam makes their talent even more intriguing.
But Neville and company aren’t the only ones playing tonight. Hartford hip-hop lyricist and multi-instrumentalist — and Advocate Sessions alumni — Tang Sauce is here, too. He jumps on stage and starts rapping. His positive hip-hop poetry is uplifting and motivating. Heads nod back and forth and the presence of the Tang’s vocals change the sound on the stage and add another layer to the jazz-funk fusion.
The rhythmic words flowing out of Tang Sauce’s mind produce a higher energy projected towards the audience. Looking around, I notice the mixed-age crowd and I’m reminded good musical taste can happen at any age.
While the band takes another short break, I venture back to the bar to try another one of their concoctions. I order a Four One Three … get it? The golden beer had hints of smokiness along with a hint of an IPA; it went down way too fast.
The third and final set of the evening takes flight with a new guest, guitarist Aiden Flynn. With the added flair of the guitar and bass magically, the four musicians produce yet another stellar sound.
The effect created by layering musicians onto the band throughout the evening made each set sound like a new band. The best part about it? Neville and Co. do this every Thursday night at New City Brewery, so I’ll definitely be back.
You can contact Jennifer Levesque at firstname.lastname@example.org.