Photo by Bradley Cook

Jazz Funk [Soul]diers

Natsukashii Soul hits the ground running post-pandemic shutdowns

It all came together in a matter of hours, according to Eugene musician Frank Visconti, trumpeter and manager with Natsukashii Soul, a brand-new jazz, R&B and funk quintet performing regularly in Eugene. Visconti’s band plays Friday, Feb. 3, at Sam Bond’s Garage.

About a year ago, Visconti, with a day job in architecture, and his future Natsukashii bandmate, keyboardist and backup singer Vince Panero, were between musical projects. By happenstance, the two were introduced to singer Autumn Rose. In an instant, all three knew they had something special. 

Visconti recalls that first meeting. “When she sang, we were like, this is incredible. What a voice!” Bassist Milo Brosamer was contacted, a drummer was found — a role now filled in the band by Elijah Wojcik — and almost just as fast, the group’s very first gig was booked. 

“We knew with Autumn, what she was trying to do, and what we were trying to do with jazz and funk — this really works,” Visconti says. “We knew that we had this vibe all the sudden. We all met each other and formed a band that same day.” 

Rose says that first meeting felt special, and that the musicians quickly bonded over a shared interest in acid jazz and pushing beyond jazz convention.

“What I loved most about meeting everyone that day — seeing how kind each person was, the way they communicated with each other,” Rose says. “I like that they didn’t want to play the songs as they have already been heard. We want to make our version, have fun and make people dance.”

Natsukashii Soul has been perhaps the hardest-gigging local band since the pandemic shutdown, playing familiar jazz and pop tunes with a growing list of original compositions.

A musician since a very young age, Visconti grew up in New York and trained under acclaimed jazz musician, trumpeter and music educator Laurie Frink, who also taught award-winning Oregon jazz trumpeter Tony Glausi. 

Since moving to Eugene, Visconti has accompanied folk-rock dance band The Sugar Beets and jazz and blues musician Paul Biondi. 

“Natsukashii” is a Japanese word used when something evokes a warm memory from one’s past. In Natsukashii Soul’s song selection, the band transforms jazz standards into something more energetic, Visconti says, a winning blend in Eugene, with a strong audience for jazz and an overall preference for dancing. 

Natsukashii Soul’s originals are in the same vein, adding neo-soul elements from artists like Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse with jazz structure, unique chord voicings and polyrhythms, he adds.

Unlike some other jazz bands, Natsukashii Soul, with members ranging in age from their late teens to their late 50s, places a high premium on melody. With a lot of jazz, in Visconti’s opinion, musicians tend to get the melody out of the way to solo. 

“That’s all great,” Visconti says, “but the melodies have huge staying power, and they’re beautiful, so we like to highlight the melodies and solo a little less.” 

So far, the band has played everywhere from The Jazz Station downtown to venues more typically thought of as rock and pop clubs. 

The band’s lack of a lead guitar — or any guitar at all, for that matter — also makes Natsukashii Soul’s sound unique, Visconti says.

 “It’s rather minimal,” he says, describing his band’s music. “When we play, we try to create a vibe. That’s the best thing we put out, a vibe of really positive energy.”

Natsukashii Soul plays a mix of contemporary soul and funk music with jazz standards and originals 8 pm Friday, Feb. 3, at Sam Bond’s; $5 door, 21+.

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