This Memorial Day weekend offered a peak experience for those who faithfully follow classical jazz anywhere in the country, and certainly for fans in Southwest Ohio. Jazz icon Eddie Brookshire was seen performing his magic on bass with the Chris Comer Trio at View 162, the elegant rooftop restaurant at the Crown Plaza Hotel in downtown Dayton, OH.
The Chris Comer Trio is already widely known and loved in Cincinnati, Ohio and the surrounding area. A brilliant musician, he’s played piano and keyboard at many auspicious Cincinnati centers for arts and entertainment, as well as restaurants, pubs, parks, and special events. His extensive list of clients includes The Cincinnati Art Museum, The Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra Club, Orchids at Palm Court at the Cincinnati Netherland Plaza, The Blue Wisp, Washington Park and numerous others.
Lately Chris Comer has been seen repeatedly at View 162, and his name is becoming one that elicits smiles of recognition and words of praise from jazz aficionados in the Dayton area. The only constant element in the trio, he also acts as an impresario in booking talent on bass, drum, and sometimes brass to play with him on gigs.
He hit the jackpot when he called Eddie Brookshire, one of the most famed bass players around at 73 years young, to accompany him on bass at View 162.
The refreshing and rousing sound of their performance Saturday night was one of melodious jazz contrasts from mellow to ultramodern. Brookshire’s surprising yet obliging counterpoint to Comer’s skilled romp on the keyboard seamlessly shifted, bringing Brookshire to the forefront, playing virtuoso jazz bass without apparent effort, while Comer accompanied him to perfection, sometimes fading to silence while he played solo… and so it would continue, in seemingly endless variations of unique and uplifting harmony. The total effect was a triumph in proclaiming that jazz is still alive and thriving for artists of their combined caliber. (A well-known drummer Joe Prescott complemented them both with a never-failing beat that further dazzled listeners.)
The amazing bassist Eddie Brookshire can be seen and heard in the Dayton area and beyond. As leader of the Eddie Brookshire Quintet and the Eddie Brookshire Big Band, he draws his own following of loyal fans, who appreciate his adroit command of rhythm and sound. But if you’re lucky enough to see him play now, don’t be fooled by his modest manners. He’s a living history of jazz that stuns the most erudite enthusiast.
Born in Carthage, Massachusetts, Brookshire’s family moved to Dayton, Ohio when he was six years of age. He taught himself electric bass while he was in the army, and then first recorded and toured with “The Coasters” and Piney Brown’s Blues Band. He went on to form a fusion band “The Casual Society” and recorded Friday Night Funk for Saturday Night Brother with Rusty Bryant in 1970. He studied acoustic bass with Larry Gates, and joined a jazz group with James Newton.
This experience alone is impressive, but once he received his masters degree from Northern Illinois University, his music career skyrocketed. As listed on his website eddiebrookshiremusic.com: “he traveled with vibraphonist Johnny Lytle and performed as a sideman with various jazz masters such as Jimmy Scott, Elvin Jones, Norris Turney, Bootsy Wood, Sandra Reeves Phillips, Buddy Webb, Cal Collins, Pherez Whitted, Karl Allen, Little Johnny Taylor, Lowell Folson, and Bill Holman. Other ensembles included Bob Curnow, Maria Schneider, Claude Williams, Snookie Young, Von Freeman, Jimmy Wilkins, Early Warren, John Carter, Billy Harper, Benny Maupin, Jimmy Owens, Nathan Davis, Woody Shaw, Slide Hampton, Gerri Allen, Jay McShan, Roy Ayers, Wilbert Longmire, David “Fathead” Newman, and Azar Lawrence.” These are astounding credentials by any standard.
On the Saturday night of Memorial Day weekend at View 162, I watched and listened with awe as he strummed jazz classics with the Chris Comer Trio. Together they created a timeless homage to the memories of jazz as well as a promise to its future in an uplifting performance that I will long remember.