A couple of years ago, I was getting out of my car at the end of a long day when I suddenly heard salient live jazz grooves blooming in the vicinity. Pulled by musical gravity, I followed the polyrhythmic beats and found myself at the steps to a quaint red house. There I was, smack in the middle of a normally quiet Westside neighborhood; I could almost see the cartoon musical notes fluttering out the window and into the dark night. What else to do but knock on the door to investigate further? When that door opened, guitarist Sweeney Schragg stood perplexed as I told him how his music had led me to his home; his crooked-necked expression looked at me like I was a peculiar character who’d lost my way off Pacific Avenue. ... And that was my first meeting with Santa Cruz jazz guitar trio Quasimodal. Still practicing in that same tight living room, Schragg and co. (Pete Novembre on bass and Chris Haskett on drums) are celebrating a new CD on Thursday, Oct. 29. Delivering Discordia Concors to Kuumbwa’s dinner and jazz series, Quasimodal brings metal-loving Novembre’s aggressive attacks on standup and electric bass, Haskett’s uptempo swing and Latin nuances, and Schragg’s rhythm and blues rock past and Cabrillo College-trained jazz songwriting. “There’s method in the madness,” a soft-spoken Schragg explains how he constructs chord progressions as vehicles for improv, in which instrumental mayhem meets to morph into harmony. “I want to write interesting melodic structures,” the 59-year-old begins, “so that people appreciate it with intellectual curiosity.” Stridently funneling all three musicians’ diverse techniques into one sound that’s footed in traditional jazz, Quasimodal can juggle light bossa nova ballads to heavier tones of rock power all on one stage. Offstage, however, I still sometimes catch Schragg crisply fingerpicking his Gibson L-5 and conjuring his next tune on his porch in front of that same ol’ door. The address? That’s my secret—the rest of y’all can catch him with Quasimodal at the Kuumbwa.
7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29. Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. $12/adv, $15/door. Jazz & Dinner $24.60. 427-2227.
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