Blushed pink and golden lights danced across the stage, falling softly on the rough red bricks of SOHO Restaurant and Music Club. Jazz enthusiasts of all walks of life gathered around scattered tables this past Sunday evening, surrounded by the glow of dim candlelight, ordering ice-cold beverages in anticipation of the coming rush of music.
The night opened with the lively group Yung Fuzz, consisting of a handful of energetic and passionate musicians from University of California, Santa Barbara. Included in the talented group are Nathan Kruse on keys, Jalaal Ahmad on guitar, Nathan McCall on bass, Andrew Zakoor on alto saxophone, and Jarod Fedele on drums. Opening for the Dumpster Cats, they played just under an hour of soulful tunes.
Of the most notable pieces performed, jazz and funk enthusiasts noticed a harmonic minor spin on the classic tune “Kipling Theme.” The contrast between the original piece and the arrangement was shocking at first, as listeners faintly recognized the tune before realizing its darkened tone, making it quite a thrill.
Amongst the opening pieces, “Head and Shoulders” introduced a meshing of rhythmic dichotomies that soon became thematic as the night progressed. “What a legend!” a voice from the crowd exclaimed into the sea of observers as Fedele delved into an intense drum solo. Following soon after, Zakoor pierced the silver ambiance and the glow of hushed voices chattering with the call of a lone saxophone into the night. The group was warmly welcomed onstage, and as they left, the crowd was reluctant to see them go.
After a brief intermission, the Dumpster Cats took the stage and were met with wild applause from the exuberant audience. Everyone rose from their seats to catch a better view of the quartet, leaving empty chairs across the room and pushing their way to the front of the crowd. Percussionist John Butler introduced his fellow musicians, beginning with Jay Real on keys, Simon Blondell on tenor saxophone, “the almighty Timothy Beccue” on string and electric bass, and himself: “Hi, my name’s John, and I play drums.”
According to Real, although there “wasn’t really a theme” for the setlist –– as they’ve done in past shows –– the content was more along the lines of “The Best of the Dumpster Cats.”
The Cats showcased a variety of their favorite pieces, including “Butter Bill” from The Kirby Games (arranged by Real), “Dear Old Stockholm,” “Angel Eyes,” and Mario theme. The crowd was surprised when Real entered on a baby grand piano with the simple tune to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” cheering him on, and was astounded when the piano riff evolved the theme into a complex, jazzed arrangement.
At the very end of the night, Yung Fuzz joined the Dumpster Cats in collaboration. Ending the night were just two more pieces, and the groups’ laid-back and quirky natures collided onstage in an array of color as they blended styles. With Blondell on tenor saxophone, and Zakoor on alto, their duet melded into new textures as they traded off melodies.
Despite Yung Fuzz’s lack of media outlets, the likelihood of the groups performing again together is very high, according to band members. The best way to follow them both is to find the Dumpster Cats on Instagram or Facebook and stay updated with upcoming concerts. Until their next performance, the sky waits for the call of jazz in the chilled Santa Barbara evening air.