Get Off Downtown Calls It Jazz

If you've ever kicked a soda can down the street, followed its erratic direction and ended up tired yet exhilarated, then hearing Jazz quartet Get Off Downtown is the aural equivalent. Drummer K

 
Get Off Downtown



If you've ever kicked a soda can down the street, followed its erratic direction and ended up tired yet exhilarated, then hearing Jazz quartet Get Off Downtown is the aural equivalent.

Drummer Katherine Tracy and bassist Brandon Essex deliver sumptuous and muscular backbeats while the lead trade-offs between vocalist/guitarist Eric Evans and cornetist/vocalist Howard Peirce are sprite, self-assured and playful exchanges.

If you catch them live, you'll hear their interpretations of tunes by Miles Davis, Charlie Christian, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk or Henry Red Allen. And although they do swing, do not call them a Swing band, that quickly outdated moniker sullied by the likes of Brian Setzer and stumbling Yuppies everywhere.

"You're going to have to call us a Jazz band," says Peirce. "People try to avoid the 'J' word because there's all these preconceived notions of what Jazz is. Jazz is like a popular music in the purest sense. It's a music of the people, it came up from the streets. Sometimes I go to hear Jazz and I feel like a secret cabal of junior high school librarians have taken over."

What?

"We encourage rudeness," says Evans.

Oh.

The group, together now 18 months, was born of the infamous Wednesday night jam sessions at the Brew House in East Walnut Hills. The group recently released Fresh Baked Buns, its first full-length CD.

"It's a one-take, two-track album," says Evans. In the world of local music, that may sound like a typically chintzy manner in which to make music. Well, OK, it is. But it also mirrors the group's no-nonsense approach to performing.

"We definitely feel that we're more of a live band so when we went into the studio we wanted it to be as live as possible," Tracy says. "It wouldn't have sounded right if we'd have multi-tracked it."

Known around town in joints like Allyn's Cafe, the Brew House and Arnold's as a raucous, swingin' outfit, Get Off Downtown — affectionately known to its following as GOD — tried to capture their organic live feel in the studio.

"If we'd gone in and done this as a studio project, it would've been a lot different," says Essex. "The whole idea was just take the room away and put the studio around us."

The result is a collection of songs so old they're new again, yet without sounding rehashed. This is something your parents would make hip. Scary.

It could be a soundtrack to a gangster flick as easily as it could be weekend driving music. Fresh Baked Buns kicks off with the sweet, rollicking "Raincheck," by Billy Strayhorn, and ends with Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy." In between, there are staples by Cole Porter, Monk, Jimmy Rushing and Charlie Parker, among others.

So, how would a carpenter, technical writer, salesperson and piano refurbisher describe their brand of music?

Peirce takes that one.

"Our band is a band I'd like to go out and see," he says. "There are moments when there's nothing left to do but make some noise."



Get Off Downtown play Friday at the Brew House.

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