ASU jazz duo books gigs, records first album

Charles (left) and Jake (right) Crawford are brothers and ASU students who are releasing their first jazz record. Photo by Jeremy Conigliari

Jazz music feels fitting in Tommy V’s Urban Kitchen and Bar in Old Town Scottsdale.

Many tables have white tablecloths, and atop each is a low-burning candle. The bar stretches like a long “L” illuminated by overhanging cylindrical lights, with the tip of the “L” pointing to an impressive wine collection visible through clear glass walls. The venue feels modern.

On Friday and Saturday nights, live jazz music creates the appropriate ambience.

From 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. during these nights, ASU students and brothers Jake and Charles Crawford play the upright bass and the keyboard, respectively.  Listening to the duo for a mere five minutes is enough to appreciate the musical talent and the symbiotic rhythm the brothers share.

Every song begins as a standard jazz piece but soon evolves into a highly individualized improvisation.

Jake and Charles incorporate their own jazz licks in what eventually becomes a classy, smooth and cohesive flurry of keyboard solos, deep bass riffs and tuneful pulses created on the spot.

Charles, a sophomore, explains that only about 15 percent of each song is actually based on existing jazz pieces, while the remaining 85 percent result from a keen awareness and execution of music theory. Now, Crawford Brothers Jazz is on the rise.

The Crawford brothers grew up under a musically gifted father, who is able to relive his life as a gifted musician through his sons.

“If you are Kobe Bryant’s son, you will probably play basketball. That’s what it was like,” Jake, a senior at ASU, said.

Jake focuses on playing the bass and the cello, while Charles also plays multiple instruments.

“I started when I was five on piano,” said Charles, who, in addition to playing the piano, knows how to play the violin, viola and the triangle. He picked up cello in high school.

“(Charles) just started trying to play cello in high school just so he could be better than me,” Jake said. “He played the same song as me in competition, too, just to try to prove me wrong. But it didn’t work. It got shot down.”

Charles did not deny that Jake plays a better Vivaldi’s sonata in G minor on cello.

Despite their musical abilities, Charles and Jake are not majoring in music performance. Both are pursuing degrees in business. Upon being asked why they are not majoring in a music-related field, Charles explained that music would be a passion regardless.

“We would graduate just doing what we’re doing,” He said.

Business knowledge has already come in handy for Crawford Brothers Jazz, as it finds opportunities to perform for the community and spread the word about its studio album, which is a major accomplishment for the duo.

Crawford Brothers Jazz started out playing gigs last November at Xtreme Bean, a local coffeehouse in Tempe. Although the band no longer plays at Xtreme Bean and is currently playing gigs at Tommy V’s, the brother’s involvement with the coffee shop eventually led to an album opportunity.

“Joseph Lee, who booked us at the Xtreme Bean, was the one who actually recommended (the album recording) to us. He said, ‘You guys should record a Christmas CD,’ and I thought it was a good idea, so we did it,” Charles said.

Crawford Brothers Jazz pursued this opportunity and recorded its first album — a Christmas record — just last Saturday. The duo did not have to complete any double-takes in the studio. The smoothness the band displays during its nighttime performances at Tommy V’s transferred to the studio.

The album has some nice surprises.

“In the song (Charles) made up, my belt was pressing up against my bass, so you could hear this clicking sound, and my bass was making slapping sounds, so it sounds like I’m messing up,” Jake said. “But it actually sounds like a snare drum in the background. It sounds like we have a drummer, which is awesome. It’s a freebee, another member of the band would be my belt buckle.”

Jake claimed the accidental drums are his favorite feature on the CD.

The album is releasing this week in hard copy, on iTunes, on Amazon and even on Spotify.

To support Jake and Charles and their exciting jazz duo, visit their website at Crawfordbrothersjazz.com, where their CD is available.

For some dinner and music, show up at Tommy V’s on a Friday or Saturday night to hear powerful jazz performed by fellow ASU students.

Zoran Klisara, owner of Tommy V’s, joked that the two musicians make themselves at home when they perform.

Photo courtesy of Tommy V’s Urban Kitchen and Bar

“They show up whenever they want, take breaks all they want, they do whatever they want,” Klisara said.

After getting some laughs from Jake and Charles, Klisara turned so they couldn’t hear him and said, “No, I enjoy them being here. They do a very good job, and I really like them.”

 

Reach the reporter at jconigli@asu.edu