San Jose State professor Aaron Lington’s tribute to trumpeter Donald Byrd last week launched a new cycle for Blackbird Tavern’s Thursday series, The Residency.
Next up is vocalist Ren Geisick, who will be revisiting the complex catalog and legacy of Nina Simone, followed in the coming weeks by two more tributes to jazz icons.
Geisick was previously a standout guest vocalist as part of weekly series Fatale. This marks her first time leading the bandstand at Blackbird. Asked “why Nina and why now?” Geisick explains that Simone’s approach and respect for the craft shines through in her music.
“She’s just an incredible artist who’s so connected emotionally to her work,” she says. “She’s not confined in any one genre. That’s my goal in the long term—to feel my voice and my presence are enough to connect all the different genres and styles that have influenced me and that I would want to sing.”
Bad Five trumpeter Shawn Williams pays tribute to two trumpet greats, the legendary Freddie Hubbard and the unsung Thad Jones, the following Thursday, May 22.
For Williams, his tribute offers him opportunity to highlight two key inspirations he wouldn’t otherwise be able to honor. Thad Jones has been particularly hard to highlight.
“I’ve never been able to bring it out because nobody is really familiar with [his work]. I thought this would be a really good opportunity to do that,” he explains.
Brian Ho closes out the month of tributes with a nod to legendary pianist Herbie Hancock on May 29. While noted primarily as a B-3 organist, he plans to pull out all the stops for this performance, utilizing organ, Rhodes, clavinet and piano.
“That’s the cool thing about these tributes: it forces you [to be creative],” admits Ho. “I don’t just want to do exactly what was on the album. I want to create my own personal touch to it.”
Over the last six months The Residency has given both leading and emerging local jazz and funk voices the opportunity to play once a month. The first two cycles focused largely on original work and included groups like the JurassiC, the Bad Five and Super Soul Bros.
With a continued focus on providing a stage for emerging musicians to hone their craft, Ho applauds Blackbird Tavern’s commitment to live music.
“They’re not just doing one genre, and they’re not just sticking to one genre or type of music. They’re really spacing it out. That’s what we need—venues that support music,” he says.
The Blackbird Tavern, San Jose