New Growth was in the house at Urban Roots on the night before New Year’s Eve, and the vibe was electric. The jazz quartet features Adam Ledbetter on keys, Aaron Tomasko on bass, Grant Goldstein on guitar and Jemar Poteat on drums. Everyone – and by everyone I mean me – only knew Adam as one half of Adam and Kizzie; his phenomenal jazz quartet had somehow managed to dodge my radar until last night, despite their supernatural talents.
New Growth, however, isn’t new at all. The ensemble has been around for half a decade, playing together at different venues in the Oklahoma City metro area. Even Urban Roots owner Chaya Fletcher reminisced about the early days when they played to an audience that sometimes consisted of only her. She would occasionally be joined by a jazz aficionado like self-described “jazz bunch groupie” Desirae Davis, who has followed New Growth since her teens.
Chaya and Desirae were of course present for the gathering, as were a host of other musicians and local jazz enthusiasts. The New Growth Reunion Jam was a jam in the true sense of the word, as local musicians of all ages showed up armed with the tools of their trade, joining and at times even subbing for members of the quartet. The configuration of musicians changed regularly throughout the evening, and each represented himself well. Young cats showed out, clearly riding the wave provided by New Growth’s core foundation backing them up in workmanlike fashion, letting their guests get their fifteen minutes worth.
The latter portion of the night belonged to the original New Growth, however, with one notable accoutrement. Kizzie, the other half of the aforementioned duo, added her stunning vocals to “I’m a Dreaming Fool”, a beautiful, reflective piece penned by Adam in her honor. New Growth acted a fool on their instruments, cutting loose on a tune titled The Pugilist, also written by Adam as a tribute to the late, great Miles Davis.
If you aren’t up to speed on New Growth, you are sleeping on some of the hottest talent in town. Aaron Tomasko is a beast on the bass, almost seeming like he is in a trance as he hitches his shoulder and makes the strings of his instrument sing a low lullaby to anyone within earshot. On guitar, Grant Goldstein, though clearly an original, evokes images of Eric Clapton – while resembling a young Harry Connick Jr. – as his understated skillfulness completely dwarfs his ego. Jemar Poteat is a monster on the drums, but in the spirit of a true jazz musician, he expertly uses his musical gift to complement and never compete with his counterparts. Adam Ledbetter is a genius on keys, a fact that is often overlooked when he and Kizzie perform together, but that is often placed front and center in the purely instrumental setting of New Growth. Good music – especially jazz – is timeless and ageless, and New Growth is proof positive that good music is alive and well.
In case you missed it, here’s a tiny taste of part of the jam session:
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Happy New Year!
Brian C. Scott