Taking it back again to Thursday night of the Utica Music and Arts Festival for my final review of fest time; a rundown of a local Utica, NY instrumental jazz jam fusion trio, Mazza, Allanson, and Lockwood at The Green Onion Pub.
I like to round out my UMAF evenings at The Onion. It’s cozy, close to my abode and the libations and service are always top notch. I also am of the opinion that a lot of the acts that bust through this bar end up sinking deep into the psyche here. Cozy also means small, and groups that can pump their energy out of a small space and command attention do well. I seem to keep missing this particular act around town (formerly, Side Effect) and that problem had to go. That night, the trio had wrapped up a set at The Radisson and dashed over to load in uptown. Randy Niles, the infamous Pat the Cough, and myself extracted ourselves from O’Donnels and settled into a booth in the back in the middle of a kicking number. The place was packed and lively and the band had no problem asserting themselves through the din.
Anything to do with jazz styling is all about musicianship. The free form structure and drift can seem deceptively magic, but while intuition does play a large role, if every player isn’t tight, the whole thing crumbles. If blues is for the soul and reggae for the body, jazz is brain music. Watching these three musicians in question throw down, it’s apparent that everyone is right on point and serious about what’s happening.
Otto Allanson rides the kit with flair and style. Heavy on the finesse, sharp snare stings and colorful cymbal splashes, he engages synapse connections, sometimes shuffling along as a steady spine for the meanderings of the tonal components beside him. I like not knowing quite what to expect or where a percussive expert will set the down beat and accents, it keeps me on my toes while listening. I also enjoy occasional departures from rock drumming’s bass pedal addiction and straight rhythms. Allanson delivers.
Gabe Lockwood’s bass is nice and present, well rounded and colorful. When the group takes a turn into more proggy numbers, it’s the bass that drives them there, mixing elements of slap, injections of funk, and confident, heavy runs. The syncopation is electric, rhythms and counter rhythms advancing and then stepping back to showcase the other elements of the music. You can feel the rumble and pop deep in your core and I think you could get used to it. He seems equally confident lending more subtle depth in the slower more laid back songs, illustrating complexity.
Gary Mazza’s guitar style is very jazzy and he tickles melodies tactfully over the waves undulating from the bottom end. Either hard or soft, the high end soars, showcases and compliments. Clearly secure in his theory, Mazza exemplifies an intelligent nurture of obvious natural gifts. Inside the structure of the songs, these musicians are weaving their individual expressions precisely without knocking the mix out of balance. In this case, all the while crammed into a space about the size of a hall closet. Right on!
Fans of groups like Dopapod and Aqueous are sure to note some similarities between these bands and MA&L., but I think what sets them apart is a more solid commitment to the style of traditional jazz. One could equally compare them to MMW in many ways as well. I suggest it’s time for some larger venues and stages to work from, including the festival circuit!
Already established on the scene here, I hope and expect to see the following of this trio continue to grow and expand as more people encounter them and catch the itch to have some again. Walking away from a Mazza, Allanson and Lockwood performance, it is difficult not to feel impressed. I’m looking very forward to the next time and hope you will also.
Get out there and take in some music. It’s everywhere in the Central New York!