Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Michigan State University Student Radio

Impact 89FM | WDBM-FM

Jazz & Funk Fusions | Blind Venetians Live From the Basement

Andrew Miller-Thomas
Blind Venetians and Host of the Basement, Cam Crawford

As soon as Blind Venetians walked into the basement of Holden Hall carrying a double bass, a trumpet, a keyboard and bongos, I knew they meant business. More than a jazz, funk and fusion quartet from the Lansing area, they’re a group of musicians who are in love with their music. 

Jazz is easy to forget in this era of overly-produced music where bands are constantly trying to make a name for themselves by doing something new. Experimental is in, but Blind Venetians prove raw, instrumental sound is powerful. Something about the way these four college students commanded the stage — albeit the small, cramped corner stage in our radio studio — would make even non-jazz fans appreciate jazz. And they did, in fact, convert two of Impact’s volunteer writers, who said they didn’t realize how good jazz music could be. 

For The Basement’s first performance of the semester, a jazz quartet was a gamble. Would their style be palatable to the Impact’s general audience? While “In a Sentimental Mood” by Duke Ellington is a work of art, it’s more fit for a cafe lounge than an alternative-indie radio station. But Blind Venetians stepped up to the challenge. They brought energy and confidence, which kick-started this semester of the Basement. 

Don’t misunderstand, though. It was still jazz with funk influences. It didn’t give the same energy as a Red Hot Chili Peppers’ basement concert, but, nonetheless, I was head-bobbing and toe-tapping the whole time. Looking back, the concert kind of feels like a dream. I still can’t believe a jazz quartet — an actual jazz quartet — played in Impact’s basement studio. To say the least, it was unexpected. 

I was also a little worried the set list was going to sound like the same song with breaks in between. If you’re not an absolute jazz buff, sometimes the bluesy cords and rhythms all mesh together. Their first song, “Inner City Blues” by Marquis Hill, made me a little nervous because it was classical jazz. Then, the mysterious sounding “Equinox” pulled back the tempo. “Work Song” featured solos that highlighted the talent of each band member, but “Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries” by Willie Bobo is what won me over. It’s a song from my childhood, featured on an album my parents would play every Sunday, so the nostalgia probably contributed to my fascination. Nonetheless, this point in the setlist is where Blind Venetians brought out their style, which meant turning up the funk. 

One of the cool things about jazz is that it’s naturally fluid and dynamic. One band’s rendition of a song will sound vastly different from another’s. Imitation isn’t the goal; it’s about improvisation, highlighting the strengths of each instrumentalist and finding your band’s style. The second half of the setlist was where Blind Venetians stood out as a band, not just another jazz quartet. This is where the bongos made a quick appearance and the upright bass was swapped out for an electric bass guitar. 

The consensus at the end of the night was that bringing on Blind Venetians as the first guest band on the Basement was like buying a classic car: bold but pretty damn cool. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Blind Venetians, check out their socials and look out for their upcoming events. Some of their recordings are up on SoundCloud, but they are expecting to release music with some original compositions in the next year. You can find a recording of Blind Venetians live from the Basement on Impact’s Youtube

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About the Contributor
Gabby Nelson, Entertainment Editorial Assistant
Gabby (she/her/hers) is a senior studying journalism and the entertainment editorial assistant here at the Impact. Gabby enjoys reading, eating sushi and doing yoga. She loves jamming to E.L.O., Wallows, Pearl Jam, push baby and Stray Kids. You can reach her at [email protected].

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