The usual jazz night crowd was treated to the Todd Kelly quintet last Thursday in place of the Knox combos on McGuillacuddy’s stage.
Much to the appreciation of the audience, the quintet flawlessly played two sets of technically impressive music that mixed the smooth transitions with the gritty feel of their genre together perfectly.
Based out of Peoria, the group also has ties to Galesburg, as bassist Andy Crawford graduated from Knox and has taught lessons there since. The other members of the quintet are associated with colleges across Illinois, yet they come together to make some pretty sweet music.
While there was variety in the types of tunes played last Thursday, many of the songs were snappy and upbeat, inviting the audience to dance along, or at the very least tap their toes to the beat. While flugelhorn player Todd Kelly and saxophonist Steve Heinemann impressed the audience with their quick fingers and slick melodies, Crawford and drummer Tom Marko provided slick accents and driving beats to accentuate what the others were doing.
In the third tune, one of the more bluesy pieces, the melodies blasted in the beginning, which led to the ensuing chaos when the percussive instruments strategically placed “clunks” in the middle of the melody’s gliding notes. This madness only added to the atmosphere in the bar and proved how utterly skillful these musicians are.
Much of the music had a frantic pace and mischievous feel, which played well with the Jazz Night crowd. The last piece of the first set was a crowd favorite and my personal favorite because it blended the percussive and wind sounds so smartly.
The fast-paced winds energized their notes with short, crisp runs while the underlying support from the percussive instruments shined as rhythmically sound and interesting to the ear. A soft, menacing feature from Kelly clenched the piece.
In all, the performance earns several thumbs up from myself and was much appreciated by the McGuillacuddy’s crowd. While the Knox Jazz Ensembles are always excellent, it is nice to hear from old friends once in a while.