The Protagonists have been making music together since 1990. They've been hailed by music critics, audiences, children, and drunks alike as a band without equal in San Antonio. Their specialty is classic jazz in the tradition of Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson. No fancy noisemakers, no electronic gimmicks -- just great improvisational music.
The San Antonio Express-News has called them classy and classic, irrepressible, and top-flight, and says that in the world of the Jazz Protagonists. . . the music is hot and cool, . . . art and fun coexist.
Their style is a cool blend of the old and the new, with classic jazz standards like Mood Indigo and Blues By Five, mixed in with out-of-the-way numbers like Dido's Lament (from the opera Dido and Aeneas) and Amazing Grace, further mixed with unlikely recent tunes like Thriller and The Boy is Mine, as well as a steady stream of originals, all performed with playfulness, confidence, and high style.
The Jazz Protagonists host a weekly radio show, The Protagonists Jazz Party, on KRTU (krtu.org) in San Antonio. The highly acclaimed show has been called near-essential listening by Jim Beal of the Express-News, and often features the region's best players, including trumpeter Logan Keese, trombonist Ron Wilkins, Kyle Keener and Polly Harrison of Small World, cool- jazz legend Larry Natwick, crooner Ken Slavin, drummers Steve Glaeser and Jay Mitthauer.
Every month they do a live show that harks back to the old days of radio, often focusing on their trademark taste for out-of-the-way material, always transformed into solid mainstream jazz performances: 80s pop such as Every Breath You Take (see below), 90s pop such as Fiona Apple's The First Taste (see below), present-day hits like the theme from Harry Potter (see below), and unusual favorites such as Thunderball. Their website has links to hours of these performances.
DARREN KUPER is the drummer for the Protagonists. While earning a degree from UTSA, he was the guitarist/composer for the popular rock group Bluecanoe. Since switching to drums in college, he has become renowned for his swing style, and has performed and recorded with numerous artists, including the Ron Wilkins Four-tet, Ron Westray of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, the irreverent swing band Spank Sinatra, the surf-rock band King Pelican, and award-winning children's folksinger Owen Duggan, for whom Kuper contributed to the album An Elephant Never Forgets, which was honored by the Parents' Choice Awards and the National Parenting Publications Awards in 2006.
String bassist GREG NORRIS is a sought-after performer and studio musician. He attended the prestigious University of North Texas, known for its jazz program. Norris performs with the history-making Jazz Ambassador and Texas Women's Hall of Fame member Beverly Houston (named Best Female Vocalist eight times by the Current Music Poll), the surf-rock band King Pelican, the Gypsy Jazz Trio, and Latin Grammy winners Lara and Reyes.
Pianist BARRY BRAKE began playing at the Gunter Hotel as a high-school student, before earning a Composition degree from Baylor University, and a Master's in English literature from UTSA. He is now a free-lance composer, arranger, and performer of music, with numerous film soundtracks, stage shows, commercials, and CDs to his name. The San Antonio Current has described him as a respected pianist-composer whose music captivates us all. His clients include Taco Bell, Sea World, the Wall Street Journal's WSJ.com, and Subaru. In 2007 he produced the album I'll Take Romance, for singer Ken Slavin, who was named Best Musician of 2006 and Best Vocalist of 2007 by the San Antonio Current Music Poll.
Cool Jazz Sounds that Captivate Us All! (Current)
Cool and Hip Jazz ... Finger-Snapping Fun! (Express-News)