When you think of Nashville, jazz probably doesn’t come into your head any more than bluegrass does when you think of Detroit or polka does when you think of London. But if rising saxophonist and hometown product Rahsaan Barber has his way - and judging by the instant appeal of his terrific new album, Everyday Magic, don’t bet he won’t - a change is coming to the traditional image of Music City.
“When I tell my New York friends there are all these fantastic jazz musicians in Nashville, they say, come on, really?” said Barber, at 31 an integral part of its music scene as a performer, studio musician, and educator. “It’s tough sometimes. But as a local kid who has played with or heard a lot of those musicians, I’m really hoping to help bring more attention to them.”
Barber wrote, arranged, and produced Everyday Magic, his second album as a leader, with the support of his exceptional band, also called Everyday Magic. It features guitarist Adam Agati, pianist Jody Nardone, bassist Jerry Navarro, and drummer Nioshi Jackson. Along with The Movement, the radio-friendly 2010 debut by El Movimiento, a Latin-jazz and world music group he co-leads, Everyday Magic is proof positive that you can live in the nation’s country music capital, work with country and soul and blues artists, and still produce uncompromising, original jazz.
You know that decisively from the first cut on Everyday Magic, “Jubilee,” a bruising tenor saxophone vehicle in the John Coltrane mode that also reveals the influence of Coltrane acolyte Kenny Garrett. And jazz doesn’t get any deeper or more boisterous than “Why So Blue?,” a supercharged lowdown blues. It features trombonist Roland Barber, Rahsaan’s twin brother, who plays off his sibling’s raspy testifying on tenor with a carousing muted solo that conjures his memories of playing with the great trombonist Al Grey shortly before he died.