Eclectic Mixes

Musicians blend older jazz and classical music with today’s sounds

Before it was a band, Nerve was a jam session at a little New York bar that quickly grew into a regular dance party at a bigger club and then became a touring band (bass, drums, keyboard, DJ/mix) that blends jazz, electronic music and various experimental strains into a true 21st-century sound.

It’s propelled by Zurich-born one-time jazz “drum god” JoJo Mayer, who in his youth backed legends like Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Sonny Fortune and Monty Alexander.

But Mayer, son of a jazz bassist, realized that much “dinosaur” jazz remained stuck in its mid 20th-century heyday and, if it were to remain relevant to younger listeners, needed to embrace today’s technologies (including, lately, augmented reality) and audiences. He was inspired by his idol, drummer Tony Williams, who along with his mentor Miles Davis realized the same thing back in the 1960s.

Result: a groovy dance party that appeals to IDM and other electronica fans but also packs prog-rock/funk power and jazz’s spontaneous energy — and Mayer’s virtuosic drumming. Experience it at Hi-Fi Lounge Friday, Sept. 22.

More eclectic contemporary sounds are on the program Sunday, Sept. 24, at First United Methodist Church when the new Terra Nova Ensemble debuts with an eclectic mix of jazz, classical, klezmer and tango music. Eugene Symphony and Oregon Bach Festival players (Annalisa Morton, Mike Curtis and Sandy Holder) deploy not only “classical” instruments (oboe, bassoon and piano) in music by Bach and modern French composers, but also sax, guitar and accordion. 

More contemporary-classical-meets-jazz happens Sept. 29 at Springfield’s Cascade Center For Spiritual Living, when Cherry Blossom Musical Arts founders Ben Farrell, Nancy Wood and Paul Safar play duos and trios for voice, clarinets and piano — jazz, classical and Safar originals.

Other classical artists who range beyond that confining category take the stage at University of Oregon’s Beall Hall next week. On Sept. 28, accompanied by Korean pianist Eun-Hye Grace Choi, UO saxophonist-prof Idit Shner plays contemporary classical music by one of the UO’s most promising recent student-composers, Andrea Reinkemeyer, as well as works by Evan Paul, Olivier Messiaen and more. On Tuesday, Sept. 26, at Beall, Shner’s UO colleague Molly Barth plays flute-focused music.

And on Sunday, Oct. 1, the Shanghai Quartet comes to Beall. While they’re certainly adept at the usual Western classics, the band also explores wider territory, including music by traditional and contemporary Chinese composers and 20th-century composers like American Alan Hovhaness.

Shner’s concert also features Tony Glausi’s 2017 composition “Another Sleepless Night.” On Friday, Sept. 29, at the Jazz Station, that superb trumpeter/composer joins local young jazz phenom singer Halie Loren for love songs from Cole Porter and Henry Mancini through Elton John, Elvis Presley and more.

One value in embracing a wide range of music is bringing together diverse audiences. These days, bringing together people from different perspectives is more important than ever, for reasons that transcend music.

Accordingly, Heal the World: A Humanitarian Benefit Concert includes songs from a vast variety of musical genres — folk songs, today’s pop, musical theater and beyond. Instigated by two of our most famous local musicians, YouTube vocalists Evynne Hollens and Peter Hollens, the Saturday, Sept. 30, show at First United Methodist Church features well-known folk singers Mike and Carleen McCornack, musical theater star Dylan Stasack, local singer-songwriters Keenan Hansen and Alessandra Ziolkowski, the UO’s acclaimed Divisi women’s choir (where Evynne Hollens got her start), Oregon Children’s Choir, various local high school choirs and the church’s own Restore band.

They’ll play Broadway tunes from this year’s Tony winner, Dear Evan Hansen and Rent, multi-generational pop from Mumford & Sons to Simon & Garfunkel, civil rights anthems and more. Bring donations to Food for Lane County and to disaster-relief organizations. 

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