Leaning into an antique Wurlitzer, banging on a Hammond B3, tickling a baby grand ... Asheville keyboardist, composer and bandleader Michael Bellar is up for it all. Whether fronting his own instrumental trio, The AS-IS Ensemble, or collaborating with such nationally acclaimed pop-rock acts as Amos Lee, Howie Day, Art Garfunkel, or Charleston's own Jay Clifford, the skillful keys man knows what's up and how to execute.
Bellar's AS-IS Ensemble recently celebrated the release of a deeply funky new album titled Turned on Turned Up. He and bandmates bassist Rob "Johnson" Jost (Imogen Heap, Björk), and drummer Brad Wentworth (Zs, Aretha Franklin, Ryan Keberle) took their groove-based act on the road this month, playing cool clubs and concert halls in New York City and down the East Coast.
Eye Level Art welcomes the trio on Saturday for a jazzy night on Spring Street (in the wake of local faves Gradual Lean, earlier this month).
"A local connection I have with Charleston is my association with Jump Little Children," Bellar says. "I have been friends with those guys since college, and I've played all but one of their Dock Street Theater shows. I've also toured and recorded with them and Jay Clifford. I really missed that time in Charleston, especially playing those songs which have been so very important to me in my life."
As a sideman, Bellar has also toured or recorded with Wheatus, Teddy Geiger, and Italian pop star Giorgia.
While the ensemble has gone through some different lineups over the years, Bellar is confident that this is the best it's ever been.
"Those guys have really absorbed my musical ideas," Bellar says. "We've developed a real trust in what each of us brings to the musical table."
Those in attendance on Saturday may expect bits of dynamic modern jazz and a warm style of organ-funk that may resemble Vince Guaraldi and George Duke jamming on School House Rock favorites. And more.