If I could spend the next six weeks of winter in one spot, it would be tucked in a cozy corner of FourFiveSix (199 Richardson Street) surrounded by the eclectic decor and art, absorbing the rhythmic musical stylings of the St. Amour Jazz Collective. On Sunday evening, the collective performed at the popular neighborhood jazz bar, offering a carefree alternative to Super Bowl festivities.
The St. Amour Jazz Collective features Jim St. Amour on the vibraphone, Luke Markham on drums, and Alex Heigl on bass guitar. It’s St. Amour’s passion project: a percussionist of 35 years, he made a natural transition to the vibraphone to start composing his own works.
“As a composer, I am inspired by the drum n’ bass and neo-soul genres of music. The vibraphone is a beautiful instrument, and its range and percussive tonal characteristics really fit nicely with the harmony and melody of both styles of music,” St. Amour said. He integrated the drums and bass guitar into his compositions, thus shaping the group’s unique sound.
Markham has been a drummer for 19 years. He is well-versed in various genres and plays with a number of groups. When he plays, the drumsticks seem like extensions of his own arms. Both he and St. Amour also teach. Heigl was 15 when he started on the bass guitar. His initial genre was punk before classically training with a jazz bassist soon after. This was the groundwork for his success as an independent bassist. As a group, this trio feeds off each other’s energy, talent, and love of music in an authentic way that makes for a spirited and contemporary live performance.
The majority of the pieces performed at their gig Sunday night were originals by St. Amour. At first, the sounds of the vibraphone are undoubtedly different. However, the riveting bass and jazzy drums give it solid footing. St. Amour’s pieces each tell a story that the listener simply needs to surrender to to enjoy. You come to expect the playfulness of the instruments and trust they will collectively land you somewhere musically satisfying.
A highlight was the cover of “We Live in Brooklyn” by Roy Ayers, with a scattered rhythm that feels like everything happening in the city all at once, interrupted by that rare second of peace before erupting back into the swarming city again.
Other songs throughout the set took creative leaps while maintaining the integrity of the collective’s sound. Their rendition of “Let it Ride” originally by The Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Norah Jones, showcased the soulful guest vocals of Laura Gwynn. In “Cubana,” an original, the afro-cuban inspiration is emboldened with riffs and gusto. Markham is set up for a brilliant drum solo in “Vibes,” a tangent that stays true to the Neo-Soul feel.
Hardly mainstream, the St. Amour Jazz Collective is that hidden dive pool rich in effervescent sea life. Whether you’re intentionally immersed in their music like I was, or catch them while socializing at a bar, you’ll find yourself tapping and nodding along to their melodies. To catch their next performance, follow them on Facebook at St-Amour Music or on Instagram @saintamourmusic.