Why, yes, the Friends & Neighbors show at The Kentucky School was even better than I’d hoped it would be


This language typically gets included with any show preview I put out there:

We have no way of knowing what any one live show will ultimately sound like, but here’s a sense of what’s what…

And this, then, is followed by an embedded track of a recent album.

For the Friends & Neighbors show at The Kentucky School in Lexington’s North Limestone (NoLi) neighborhood, this was especially true.

Their previous releases could be summarized as updated visions of an Ornette Coleman free jazz era.  There are unconventional expressions that range from chaotic to whimsical, depending on your frame of mind while listening.  The recordings are exciting and fun, and the general sense was, were one to hear it live, the band would radiate all kinds of energy.

Well, that last part was true of Saturday night’s show in the outdoor area behind Al’s Bar, where the Kentucky School is setting down roots.  The wide open sky was filled with the quintet’s exuberance.  But the sound was more spiritual than spasmodic, or, to carry forward the jazz giant analogy as presented… more Coltrane than Coleman.

There was a solemn tone to much of Friends & Neighbors quintet’s sound, even at ita most frenzied, a sort of reverential approach to melody instead of one more whimsical.  There were a few exceptions to this in both the second piece of the night and the quintet’s finale.  But for the most part, the music expressed more soul than smile, and the result was quite beautiful and a little bit awe inspiring at times.


And it was a perfect fit for that outdoor stage.  Spring has finally begun to make its presence felt in Lexington, and that cool evening marking the start of the weekend, in that neighborhood which has so much culture in its roots and the essential qualities to a community… residents walking about, sitting on front stoops, an abiding sense of Home… the sound of Friends & Neighbors music filling the air with that solemn tone, a resonant cry of sax, trumpet, keys, bass and drums, it became, on that night, a part of the fabric of the community, a part of that neighborhood’s lives… whether they were sitting in the crowd, walking their dog down the nearby street or just distant notes carried on the warm breeze, the quintet’s music became of part of all that.  That the quintet calls themselves Friends & Neighbors couldn’t have been any more symbolic of their music’s presence that night.

The different sound is also reflected on their new album, What’s Next?  Released on Clean Feed Records just a few months ago, the quintet’s focused lyricism reveals a different facet to an already interesting group.  And where opening track “Influx” is symbolic of those changes to the groups sound, “WLB,” both in concert and on the new recording, show that their eccentricities and sense of humor haven’t gone anywhere.  But even in this instance, there’s a different kind of locomotion to the tune, a driving intensity where their previous recording would be more likely to hop and sway and dart side to side.  It’s always exciting to hear the evolution of a band, especially when the result is as rewarding as this one.

You can buy their new album on Amazon.  You can also purchase it direct from Clean Feed Records.

The band is:  Thomas Johansson (trumpet), André Roligheten (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Oscar Grönberg (piano), Jon Rune Strøm (double bass) and Tollef Østvang (drums).

Friends & Neighbors are currently touring the U.S.

Their Upcoming Shows (as best as I could find them):

  • April 7th: Hungry Brain (Chicago) !!!THIS IS HAPPENING IN JUST A COUPLE HOURS!!!
  • April 8th: Trinosophes (Detroit)
  • April 9th: Bop Shop (Cleveland)
  • April 10th: One Spirit Center (Rockford, IL)
  • April 11th: Arts & Literature Laboratory (Madison, WI)
  • April 12th: Popelka Trenchard Glass (Sturgeon Bay, WI)

But, again, please confirm for yourself where they’re performing and when.  But here’s a link to a Facebook post on the artist’s site.

They are selling their current CD, previous recordings, and related side project recordings at their merch table.  For me personally, this was pretty cool.  Look, I have lived in the middle of nowhere Kentucky for the last ten years, so seeing an array of Clean Feed Records label recordings spread out on a table before me is no longer the (relatively) common experience it was for me back in Chicago.  In addition to their new album, I also scooped up a copy of the ensemble All Included, which counts personal favorite Martin Küchen among its number.  Go check out my write-up of this album, Satan in Plain Clothes.

And take note, this show is just the precursor of many other excellent shows coming through Lexington over the next sixty days.  That list includes:

  • Friday, April 12 – TIm Daisy & Raleigh Dailey @ UK’s Niles Gallery
  • Tuesday, April 16 – Dave Rempis, Brandon Lopez, Ryan Packard @ KY Fun Mall
  • Friday, April 20 – Keigo Hirakawa @ TeeDee’s Progressive Bluegrass Club
  • Tuesday, April 30 – The Chicago Plan (of Steve Swell, Gebhard Ullmann, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Michael Zerang) plus the quartet of Keefe Jackson, Christoph Erb, Jason Roebke, Tim Barnes @ UK’s Niles Gallery
  • Friday, May 3 – Regina Carter & Xavier Davis @ First Presbyterian Church of Lexington
  • Wednesday, May 15 – Brian Krock’s liddle @ JGumbosLex

Details for all of the above shows to follow soon.