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Jack Lion fuses jazz and electronic

BY ISAAC HAMLET | JANUARY 22, 2015 5:00 AM

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In jazz, the ability to dig into emotions of the moment is one of the genre’s most defining features. With a rich history of improvisation, it might perplex some why jazz musicians would dabble in the more measured genre of electronic music— yet Jack Lion has brazenly fused the two styles together.

At 9 p.m. Saturday, the local band will present this hybrid genre at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St.

“Maybe [we started making jazz-electronic music] because it’s really hard and doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Brian Lewis Smith, the band’s trumpet and keyboard player.

Jack Lion was formed when the guitarist from the band members’ previous group left town, leaving the three current member of Jack Lion hungry to play music but without the guitar part that was key to many of their pieces.

“A lot of the music we started playing at the beginning was music that Brian produced on his computer and didn’t intend the group to play when he wrote it,” said Justin LeDuc, Jack Lion’s drummer. “So we took a lot of that music and handed out parts, and that became sort of our creative process.”

Jack Lion’s attraction to jazz music is rooted largely to the fact that all three of its members played in the University of Iowa’s Jazz Department. They said their passion for electronic music came from the music they listened to in the early 2000s. When the three were forming Jack Lion, they chose to combine their discordant musical interests.

“Jazz is a very dynamic thing,” Smith said. “Jazz musicians are very reactive, in the moment, spontaneous, whereas electronic musicians will sometimes just hit play at a show; they do all the work ahead of time and produce something that sounds amazing. For us, it’s trying to marry those two worlds even though they’re very disparate.”

Only a little over a year old, the band has been contracted by Goldie Records, a small San Francisco record company. The group’s Saturday performance at the Mill will celebrate the release of the album resulting from the deal, titled The K E LP.

Even with the group’s growing success, the members of Jack Lion remain tightly knit.

“We each have our own role in the band other than just bass player, drummer, trumpet, keyboard player,” said Drew Morton, the band's bass player, keyboard, and vocalist. “I do all of the graphics and visual stuff. Brian does most of the producing, mixing, mastering. Justin does the booking and business stuff that Brian and I hate to do. I think it’s just amazing that we’ve fallen into these roles, and we’re able to operate like that.”

LeDuc agreed, noting that Jack Lion meshes better than any other group he’s played in. 

“There’s kind of a magic three things: good players, good music, and people who are dedicated to the project,” LeDuc said. “And it’s easy to get two of those. Especially with the university here, it’s really easy to get good players who play really good music, but everyone’s got their side projects or are going to move. To get all three of those things — I’ve never had that. I’ve been playing in bands for 10 years, and [those things] have never come together like they have in this group.”

Though the members all consider Jack Lion has been a landmark experience for them, they maintain higher aspirations for the group.

“What’s important to me — and this is very simplistic — is that we use the group to document our existence as people,” Smith said. “To leave something behind that people connected with. When we’re gone, maybe it’ll stay behind, and people will connect with it.”


MUSIC
Jack Lion Concert
When: 9 p.m. Saturday 
Where: Mill, 120 E. Burrlington
Admission: $7


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