Thomas Mackay and Tom Berich bring a little taste of Trinidad to Southern Oregon. Mackay on vibraphone and Berich on steel drums debuted their new Caribbean-jazz project J'ourvet (jor-vae) last month at the Jefferson State Hemp Expo. ("J'ourvet" means "street party" in Trinidadian.)
At first, festival-goers were like "Whoa, what is this?" but once they got acquainted with the sound, they really started grooving and moving, Mackay says.
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17
Where: Howiee's on Frong, 16 N. Front St., Medford
The band, which also features drummer Scott Mangicaro (The Illies, Lost Maven, The Cultivators) and bassist Mike Pugh, fuses jazz chords and improvisation with island sounds and instrumentation. J'ourvet's instrumental music is not a new concept, just one that is unique to this area.
"When people think steel drums, they usually think Jamaica or reggae, but it actually has nothing to do with either of those," Berich says. "It's music from Trinidad, calypso mostly but also soca."
The band will play its second show at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at Howiee's on Front, 16 N. Front St., Medford. Mackay hopes the free show will be the start of a monthly gig at the bar.
Mackay and Berich met at Howiee's Tuesday-night Jazz Collective.
"All I needed to see was the steel drums, and I was like, 'I gotta work with this guy,' " Mackay says.
Berich, who recently moved to area from Bloomington, Ind., had been an active musician in the Midwest but had no contacts in the valley.
The two decided to collaborate, and Mackay called up Mangicaro and Pugh.
"Mike comes from the rock scene, and Scott from the reggae scene, but both were hungry for something different, and J'ourvet was different," Mackay says.
The band turned Mackay's Central Point home into a music laboratory where members met to experiment with a variety of music and adapt songs to fit their instrumentation.
So far, the band's growing repertoire includes several of Mackay's originals, some traditional calypso, and new arrangements of songs by Spyro Gyra, Andy Narell and Lord Kitchener, but all the music is happy, dance music.
"We want to put everyone on an island somewhere," Mackay says.