Akron jazz comes alive at Jilly’s: Jared Lees Trio debuts album at special event

by Brittany Nader

Jared Lees Trio
“After Thought”
Only a few copies of the release will be printed, so email bassyj@hotmail.com for a copy, or download the full LP at jaredleebass.bandcamp.com

Though live music is easy to come by year-round in Akron, spring is truly a magical time, unearthing locals from their homes and encouraging them to enjoy the area’s sights and sounds.

May began with a special event at Jilly’s Music Room, as local musical act Jared Lees Trio celebrated the release of its new album, “After Thought.” Friends, fans and fellow musicians filled the dark venue, some watching the stage from the bar television sets, and others front and center, faces aglow from the sparkling stage lights.

The trio eased into its first number, a slowed-down, soulful cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” before diving into the first track from the group’s new LP. “Push & Pull” is a funky tune, driven by Lees’ intricate bass lines and steered in new directions by Justin Tibbs’ skillful sax. This instrumental number segues nicely into the album’s more haunting and atmospheric second track, “Barrel House.” The trio continued to unleash a hearty taste of its new release, pulling in a larger crowd as diners and bar flies made their way closer to the stage.

Lees is a prolific bass player, having dropped three solo albums and played extensively with local acts like Ryan Humbert, The Strange Familiar and Winslow. Combined with Tibbs’ dynamo sax-playing and Drew PenCook’s powerful drumming, the trio brings an exciting sound to the Rubber City. The blend of jazz, R&B, funk and soul elements, fused with astral melodies, create a sound with widespread appeal beyond the Midwest.

AcidCats_cropAs the trio finished its set, Tibbs returned to the stage with Akron’s acid jazz powerhouse Acid Cats. The five-piece ensemble brought its captivating raw energy to the venue, delightfully disorienting the crowd with masterful playing. Not a note was wasted as the performers bounced from one musician to the next, showcasing solo improvisations and then bringing it back to an intricate, harmonious groove.

Closing out the night, Acid Cats bassist Zachary Wolfe Nagi-Schehl, guitarist Michael Vincent and drummer Cameron Bickley added some rock ‘n’ roll style to the evening, while Tibbs and trumpet player Tommy Lehman accented the high-energy troupe with jazz flavor. Jilly’s was alive with a sampling of the musical talent Akron has pulsing through its streets — and a notable, electrifying sample at that.

Acid Cats plans to record a new album, but the quintet will play this summer for the Tri-C JazzFest on July 10.