Likeminds Create Alike

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:00

A new collective debuts at the Jazz Standard

Jazz musicians couldn't be more individualistic. It's the nature of the art. If you're not your own man or woman, who are you? Every gig is another chance to explore a new direction, find a different sound, mesh with another group. The downside is you are truly and absolutely on your own, even when it might feel a lot better to have some support, other than an audience's applause. Recently, four brilliant jazz musicians decided to do something unusual ? form a collective and to present a united front in their professional lives. Not since the Art Ensemble of Chicago formed in the 1960's has a group of musicians united so fiercely for a common cause.

Pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Eric Revis, drummer Nasheet Waits and vocalist JD Walter fittingly named their new outfit, Likemind. In its debut at the Jazz Standard September 3-8 as a collective, each has his own night as leader, which sometimes includes the others and sometimes not. It's Likemind's debut week.

"We think the same way about the music, our families and the business," says Evans, who like the others, has several CDs and many successful gigs under his belt. "Our families hang together and drink wine together. They come first. We want enough money to sustain them." He started down this road in 2006 when he formed the collaborative endeavor, Tarbaby, with Revis and Waits, to prove the point that musicians didn't have to compromise on adventurousness. "Tarbaby is one of the most powerful, dynamic and exciting jazz bands around," wrote critic Bruce Lindsay in "All About Jazz."

Now he, Revis and Waits have brought in Walter to take it further ? not a surprising choice, as Don Heckman of the Los Angeles Times, called him, "An original in an art overpopulated with copycats." Rather than hire individual publicists, they use just one, Jana LaSorte. Now they are investigating establishing their own label and applying for grant money to start a jazz camp. "There's power in numbers," he says.

They have solid relationships that have been years in the making. "The jazz world is so fragmented, with everyone self-promoting," says Walter. "We look after one another. We are not just playing this music; we are living it. It's not an easy path to take. But now Orrin, Eric, Nasheet and I are all on it together."