The Tucker Brothers took the stage of the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall to play a set of eight songs, including originals and covers. The local Indianapolis jazz quartet played its contemporary jazz set list on Nov. 30 to an audience of University of Indianapolis students, staff and faculty, along with Indianapolis community members.
The band consists of four members: Brian Yard (drums), Shawn Boden (saxophone), Joel Tucker (guitar) and UIndy alumns Nick Tucker (bass). Nick was excited to return to UIndy to play, and compared the experience to a homecoming.
The quartet performed eight songs for the night, five of which were originals: “Platforms,” “Standing Rock” and “Shakshuka,” and two recently-written, untitled songs. They also played “Crooked Creek,” by Brian Blade; “Verona,” by Gilad Hekselman; and “Donna Lee,” originally written by Charlie Parker.
Nick mentioned that the group was formed while he and Joel were in the process of producing their record “Nine is the Magic Number.”
“When we [Nick and Joel] were deciding that we wanted to record an album, we figured we should put a regular band together,” Nick said. “We had all played together before, so we tried it and it worked. We’ve been together [for] two years now.”
Although technically a jazz quartet, other musical styles and influences can be heard in The Tucker Brothers’ sound, according to Nick.
“Obviously, we play in the jazz tradition, and we take kind of a jazz approach to music,” Nick said. “But we really like to implement all of our different influences, including pop music and rock music.”
Along with Blade, Hekselman and Parker, Joel cited several other jazz musicians and teachers as among those who influenced his music.
“Definitely our teachers, I’ve loved all the music that they have shown me and written,” Joel said. “Corey Christiansen and David Baker were big influences on me. Wes Montgomery from Indianapolis was another influence. Even though our music doesn’t sound anything like him, I still love listening to his voice.”
Joel said that it is imperative to establish a tone and feel to a performance when playing at a venue such as the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall.
“Especially for a performance like this, where everyone is sitting down and listening, you want to make sure there is a vibe with the music that you are playing,” Joel said. “You always want to make sure there is a vibe, but it’s different than a bar, where everyone is talking. We wanted to plan it out so that there was a mood to the whole concert, rather than just a mood for each individual song.”
According to Nick, the best aspect of playing jazz during a live performance is the ability to improvise and play off of other band members.
“Performing jazz live is so cool because so much of what happens isn’t planned,” Nick said. “And we’re feeding off of each other. Sometimes, Brian will play something that makes me want respond to a certain way, maybe that will make Shaun play a little higher and louder and Joel can play some denser chords. 75 to 90 percent of what we’re doing is improvised, but it’s within a construct.”
Jazz performances usually have a traditional format of performance within the pieces.
“This is jazz in general,” Nick said. “When you have a jazz song, typically what you do is play the melody and then improvise over those chord changes.”
UIndy Director of Jazz Studies Mark O’Connor was pleased with the band’s performance and enjoyed the way in which the members varied from other jazz artists.
“These guys [The Tucker Brothers] do a great job of taking current or semi-current pop music and converting it into a jazz format,” O’Connor said. “They kind of change the jazz aesthetic a little bit. Typically, jazz songs are ordered by melody, solos, then melody, and you don’t really get that with them. It’s such a better option this way, they make it fresh.”
Aside from the band’s performance at UIndy, they often play around the entirety of Indianapolis. The Tucker Brothers frequent the Chatterbox Jazz Club on Massachusetts Avenue, playing on Wednesday nights for the club’s free jazz nights.
Featuring adjunct music faculty member Nemanja Ostojić, an Evening of Classical Guitar will take place on Jan. 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the Ruth Lilly Performance Hall.