No stranger to the Piccolo Spoleto jazz events, New York-based keyboardist Nate Shaw (of Big Bucket and New Power Trio) returns to Charleston this week with a new project featuring Atlanta-based baritone saxophonist Will Scruggs and a "special guest rhythm section." They're calling their Charleston gigs — part of this year's Piccolo Spoleto Jazz Series at Tonik — the "New York Jazz Sessions."
Likely more of a groove-heavy "lounge jazz/funk" performance of Shaw-penned tunes, choice lounge covers, and improvisation than any sort of be-bop/standard jazz jam, the gig is one of the stand-out events of this year's two-week series.
So far, Piccolo Spoleto and Lawson Roberts (of Cellar Entertainment) have presented 10 local and visiting jazz, blues, and soul acts at the Tonik nightclub. Already, lounge/jazz combo Vintage Velvet, Latin-jazz act Leah Suarez & Toca Toca, Bobby Alvarez & Friends (doing a tribute to Steely Dan and Michael McDonald), Cuban-jazz ensemble Havanason, and soul/jazz crooner Chris Hyatt have performed at the venue. This week's final gigs include two evenings from Shaw & Scruggs and an encore set from Chris Hyatt and his quartet.
"We're touring this month around the South under the name CC Booker III," says Scruggs of their quartet. "The name comes from our three main influences. 'C' for Ray Charles, 'C' for King Curtis, and 'Booker' for Booker T. & The MG's. The concept kind of evolved over the past months. I spent some time with Nate in Brooklyn earlier this spring. We rehearsed with the band, recorded a little EP, and started gravitating to a more organic, old-school sound."
The four-song, self-titled EP — featuring drummer Matt Kane and guitarist Tony Romano — includes a groovin' rendition of the blues standard "Got My Mojo Workin'," Booker T. & The MGs' "Soul Dressing," the Ray Charles tune "Hallelujah I Love Her So," and the Leiber and Stoller hit "Charlie Brown," made famous in the late '50s by The Coasters. (Fans can check out some of these tracks online at www.ccbooker.com).
"We were totally inspired by some music we had been listening to," says the saxophonist. "We're doing new interpretations of material from these three sources, plus we're still doing originals. Nate and I are definitely gearing up to work more and more together. Of course, we reside on different ends of the East Coast, but in some ways, that makes it cooler because when we have opportunities to play together it's extra fun. We've got some plans in the works already for a fall tour and we hope to be doing a couple trips out together every year. We're definitely psyched to come to Charleston."
New York Jazz Sessions with The Scruggs-Shaw Quartet • Piccolo Spoleto Jazz Series • $10 • (1 hour 30 min.) • June 7, 8 at 7 p.m.; June 7, 9 at 9 p.m. • Tonik Club, 479 King St. • 554-6060