Last Night: Little Rock Jazz Quintet, Whale Fire and Velvet Kente | Rock Candy

Last Night: Little Rock Jazz Quintet, Whale Fire and Velvet Kente

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Whale Fire last year at Sticky Fingerz. Photo by Brian Chilson.

Occasionally it’s nice to clear your head from that time-tested Little Rock beer/cigarette smoke/distorted guitar fog. At least for a spell. Last night, the freshly-formed Little Rock Jazz Quintet, or (LRJQ…enjoy changing the emphases on the syllables) took Ferneau for a few sets of minor sevenths-laced reinterpretations. The band consists of an undeniably tight and clever roster of locals: two thirds of Parachute Woman, two ex-Natives (the Spillyards brothers, Josh and Judson) and Whitman Bransford, who one would never expect to be such a trance devotee by his uncanny fluidity on the keys. Like the blues redux sound of their P. Woman, Michael Goodrich and Chris Atwood take the same scalpel to jazz music with the quintet, dissecting “In a Sentimental Mood” and reattaching it to “Waitin’ For My Man.”

Then it was off to Sticky Fingerz, for the tail end of Whale Fire, the town’s new popes of pop. Coming out of this month with a strong EP under their belts, the guys consistently bring some of the tightest harmonies and catchiest melody lines you’ll find in the state. Also, their flyers are fantastic. Just saying.

The night ended later than I intended and, ultimately, earlier than I wanted with Velvet Kente. While their shows — which are entirely too scarce for my liking — are consistently mind-blowing, something about last night verged on ethereal. Instead of a crowd full of nodding heads, last night people were covering their mouths and shaking their heads in disbelief at the undiluted skill on stage. Their opener, married The Police to Shuggie Otis and, like the very best songs, seemed fresh, recognizable and familiar even on first listen. Best new song I’ve heard in months.

John Tarpley

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