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SXSW Review: Jazz re:freshed Outernational Showcase Builds a Tradition of Innovation

By Michael Toland, March 18, 2022, 10:13am, SXSW

While it may not have the notoriety of the Fader Fort or Japan Nite, the Jazz Re:freshed Outernational showcase earns its place on the list of annual SXSW traditions.

Though a move to a new venue – the Fourth Street basement space Sellers – following the pandemic may have impacted attendance this year, the gig still attracted a healthy number of eager fans ready to absorb the latest sounds from one of the most excitingly diverse and inspiringly multicultural music scenes on the planet.

Following a short set by DJ Adam Rocker – aka Jazz re:freshed co-founder Adam Moses – a new band consisting of scene veterans took the stage for what turned out to be only their third live performance. Led by saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi of Kokoroko and SEED Ensemble, Brown Penny came out strong with “Dissent,” with a two saxophones/one guitar/one vibraphone attack that merged into a textured wall of sound. Probably the most traditional “fusion” band affiliated with Jazz re:freshed, the sextet went for visceral impact over cerebral appreciation, and was all the better for it. Though similar in some ways to BP, drummer Jas Kayser and her backing quartet infused their blast with Latin rhythms, making the tunes lighter on their feet. Juggling busy percussion, danceable beats and some spacey trumpet solos. Kayser – whose recorded debut for Jazz re:freshed arrives on April 15 – drove the very physical music’s ebb and flow from her kit, leading the band with her own rhythmic accents.

With Moses noting that she is “like my child, I’ve known her for so long,” Cherise is almost a case study for the organization, as she started with Jazz’s sister organization Tomorrow’s Warriors as a teeanger, before gigging under the Jazz re:freshed banner. Though she contemplates plenty of lover (wo)man topics in her harmonically sophisticated jazz ‘n’ soul originals, the guitar-wielding singer felt most comfortable on songs of personal empowerment, including “Rise” from last year’s Remedy EP, which became a call and response with the eager crowd.

The fourth timeslot housed bassist Daniel Casimir, an MVP from the 2018 showcase, in which he played three sideperson gigs in a row. Drawing from his album Boxed In, Casimir spotlighted his compositional and arrangement skills for a set of melodic originals that sound simple at first, but reveal more sophisticated charms over time. Casimir did include some impressive extended double bass solos, the first one of which actually drew the audience to the front of the stage for a closer look.

Jazz re:freshed saved the most high-energy act for last. Though Colectiva endured a dying (but eventually resurrected) keyboard, stretching their set up time well into the second-to-last hour, the Latin jazz quintet imbued their groove-loving dance tunes with as much energy as all of the other acts combined. Frustration quickly transformed into joy as band and audience shook their groove-things to the turbocharged rhythms without overlooking Colectiva’s level of harmonic sophistication. Smiles all around reminded us just how much fun this brand of jazz is to play and hear.

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