Modern Jazz Movement
|The Godfathers of Cajun Music, the Modern Jazz Movement & More
by Arsenio Orteza, OffBeat April 1998
...It's been years since the words "Lafayette," "jazz," and "scene," have been spoken in one sentence, but the Bluerunners drummer Frank Kincel remembers those years. "I was in junior high. I don't know when it began, but I know why it ended: the bottom fell out of the oil field, and everybody left. The reasons were totally economic. Some of the guys stayed, but the majority left and did other things. Dicky Landry was part of it, but he eventually left and did his own thing on the East Coast."
Kincel and his other band, the five-piece Modern Jazz Movement, have been instrumental in laying the groundwork for a rebirth of the cool in Lafayette. Formed in January of '97, the group began as a trio consisting of Kincel, the bassist Dion Pierre, and the saxophonist Denny Skerrett. Several months later, they added the pianist Shin Ishida and the trumpeter Jeff Martin. It's this lineup that performs almost every Friday night at Cornwell's Coffee House across the street from the Heymann Center for the Performing Arts.
"Our sets at this time are about 60 percent standards and 40 percent originals," says Kincel. "And though we're trying to write more originals -- so that we can play a gig, for instance that would be all our own material -- it's not as if we don't like to play the standards. We enjoy taking them and tweaking them and pushing them around a little."
Currently prominent in an average MJM set are such standards as "Well, You Needn't" and "My Favorite Things." But ask Kincel whether their arrangement of the latter is John Coltrane's or someone else's, and he won't know -- not necessarily because drummers can't be bothered with such details, but because the MJM's approach to learning material is unpretentiously simple.
"We'll sit down at rehearsal and open what they call a Real Book," Kincel admits. "Our arrangement of 'My Favorite Things' is out of the book. I don't know if it's a Coltrane arrangement or not. I don't listen to jazz all the time. I do when I get a chance, but since I'm on a really tight budget, I don't have a lot of money to spend on records. Now, Denny will go home, find the recording, and listen to it. And Dion is extremely knowledgeable about jazz. So is Shin. He's studying jazz theory right now in school."
Kincel, who has his bachelor's degree in Theory and Composition, finds the sensitivity that he's developed in learning jazz rhythms and in studying 20th-century music in college applicable to his drumming technique in the decidedly non-jazzy Bluerunners
"My training has taught me to listen to what they're doing. I'm not oblivious to the guitar, bass, or accordion part. I went through this phase, just before I started with the Bluerunners, where I didn't feel comfortable with my playing. So I started going back to my basics, and instead of putting in so many notes, I learned how to groove more. I learned how to push my bass drum out with the bass player but still maintain a steady snare-drum-and-high-hat beat so that Mark [Meaux] and Steve [LeBlanc] can have something to lock into and so that I can move things in and out of time instead of being so straight. In jazz you'll have threes against twos, threes against fours. That's a little extreme for the Bluerunners, but even in a song like 'Blueco,' instead of just making it a standard shuffle, or a standard swing, where it's on top of the beat all the time, I try to relax and let the notes in between fall almost where they may, where they're still in time with each other but not so strictly that they sound like a metronome." ...
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