Executive Tea Set along with Brennan Connors and the Stray Passage played at the third concert of the InDIGenous Jazz Series on Friday at Madison’s Memorial Union.
Brennan Connors’ band followed Executive Tea Set, who had musicians on piano, drums, trumpet and bass. The band started off with the drummer, Michael Brenneis, followed by piano, played by Mark Siegenthaler and base, with Bradley Townsend. The trumpet player, Paul Dietrich, joined in last, swinging his notes.
Dietrich took a break, and the audience applauded. Brenneis then started beating the drums rapidly, almost like a drum roll, until the trumpet player joined back in. Brenneis was heard for the majority of the song, continuously playing louder and quicker.
At the end of the song, Brenneis explained the band had been playing together for about 10 years, but that Dietrich had recently joined.
The audience seemed to have high praise for the band, and some audience members commented on their performance saying their music was soulful and “wonderful.”
The band had a short time for questions from the audience, and one person asked the drummer how he composes his music.
“I really don’t have a set process,” Brenneis said. “I can write songs on my phone.”
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The band ended their concert on what they said was their theme song. It had a steady beat and was a traditional jazz-sounding song. The show then had a brief intermission before Brennan Connors and the Stray Passage played.
In Connors’ band, he played on tenor and soprano saxophones, while drums and percussion were played by Geoff Brady and cello, contra-cello and electric bass were played by Brian Grimm.
The band had a much slower approach to their music, at least at first. The trio created a complex mix of loud and soft notes that increased in speed, and then later decreased.
During their first song, Brady was rapidly hitting the drums while Connors was loudly playing the saxophone. The overhead lights began to dim though when Connors started playing so softly he was barely breathing air into his instrument. At the end, it seemed like he was gasping for air, and Connors took a short break.
Grimm differed between using his bow to plucking the strings on the cellos. At one point, he even changed the tune of his cello. Brady also changed his style of playing, switching between types of drumsticks, and even using a metal cup to hit the drums.
Overall the trio used a mix of traditional jazz and upbeat funk in their music. They ended the concert with huge applause.
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Connors discussed his involvement in the band along with his inspiration for music. Connors said Brennan Connors and the Stray Passage is the first band he’s ever put his name on, and the first to last for a long duration.
“The stuff I do is starting with ideas I started working on in 2010 or 2011, and it got to the point where I wanted other people to help me work out ideas,” Connors said.
He also said that although he’s the executive, all members are cooperative and involved in decision making, which can sometimes be a long process.
After spending time in Chicago, Connors came back to Madison to continue playing, but he hopes to do more traveling in the future and try new types of music.
“Jazz is wonderful, jazz is amazing — but it’s not the only thing I want to play,” Connors said.
Friday’s show was the third out of four concerts in the InDIGenous Jazz Series. The next concert will be played on Nov. 2 at Memorial Union in the Play Circle.