What a difference a year can make. Last Halloween, when a group of friends thought the best way to spend the masked affair would be to jam out some Grateful Dead tunes at a Santa Cruz house party, little could they have guessed that by the next Day of the Dead they’d be garnering notice for playing solid original tunes under the name Birdhouse. Now, with no covers in sight, the quartet balances jazz virtuosity with jam band dexterity, and the resulting patchwork morphs with each show. A conglomerate of UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College students, the guys in Birdhouse, according to drummer Jeff Wilson, formed “to play old time, good feeling rock music with a country feel, but we’re all jazz guys.” With guitarist/lead vocalist Daniel Talamantes (“He’s constantly on his typewriter all day writing,” Wilson says), lead guitarist Jeff Carter, and bassist Chris McIntyre rounding out the crew, Birdhouse lights up an ever-changing set through a knack for tight improv and technical precision. An appreciation for bluegrass and funk certainly informs the set, with Wilson favoring African rhythms and atypical syncopation as the lively undercurrent to the band’s rock meanderings, while Carter’s stinging pedal steel guitar is scene-stealing.