‘What we decided to do was present jazz music in the same way that rock, pop, or hip-hop music is presented — in other words, we wanted to throw a party, instead of giving a performance,” says Jesse Fischer, 25, of Soul Cycle. Fischer was driven to create this new performance approach after going to countless jazz concerts where the only other people there were older fans or other musicians. He felt that the music didn’t need to change in order to attract a larger, younger audience — just the presentation.
The funk-jazz trio appears at Small World Coffee on Saturday, February 26, at 8:30 p.m., and performs every Tuesday night at 11 p.m. at the Old Bay Restaurant in New Brunswick. The Old Bay gigs capture best what Soul Cycle is all about. At the band’s weekly session, liquor flows quickly, a DJ plays classic breaks and old-school soul tracks between sets, and fans alternately listen, have conversations, and dance. Guest artists routinely include the area’s finest horn players, percussioninst, singers, and rappers. “We get a very positive response across the board from college kids, jam-band scenesters, hip-hop heads, on up to the older crowd who remembers a lot of this stuff from the first time around,” says Fischer.
Soul Cycle — whose name refers to the cycles of taste in recent musical history and the coming around again of soul after the electronic push of the ‘80s and ’90s — epitomizes what Fischer describes as “high-energy jazz with solid, infectious beats, and an adventurous attitude towards improvisation, a musical extension of early 1970s jazz-funk fusion.”
The band features Fischer, who is also a composer, on keyboard; Corey Rawls on drums; and bassist Antar Goodwin. The group has performed in New Brunswick at Harvest Moon, Old Bay, Delta’s, North, and Gaebel’s; in New Hope at John & Peter’s; in Princeton at Small World; and in New York at Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.
Fischer, a Princeton native, graduated with a B.A. in computer science and linguistics from Rutgers in 2002. He started Nutshell Web Design in 2004, with a clientele heavily weighted toward musicians, dancers, and performers — people who Fischer says “get short shrift from high-end designers. He also does production work, including engineering for singers and rappers, and composing music for hip-hop musicians. His parents are both teachers — his mother teaches science at Roosevelt Public School, and his father teaches math at Princeton Friends School. His younger brother, Ezra, is production manager of U.S. 1 newspaper.
Not many people would dare say they were influenced by a high school teacher, but Fischer lauds Anthony Biancosino, Princeton High School’s former band leader, who died in 2003 after a two-year battle with colon cancer. “Dr. B” was revered by his students for 26 years, leading five separate jazz bands and the “studio band.” His obituary in the Tower, the school newspaper, noted that the charismatic Biancosino “led the band to earn a place in high school band history with the most number of wins at the Berklee National Competition.” By the time Fischer entered Princeton High in 1994, he was already playing guitar, bass, and drums. “I learned all my performance and rehearsal technique, dedication, professionalism — everything that made music into a career for me — from him. He wasn’t afraid to tell people the truth about how they sounded. He had a lot of energy, creativity, and honesty.”
Fischer makes it clear that Soul Cycle is not a revival group, but says rather that the group “pushes the limits of post-post music, while at the same time finding a resonant harmony in all phases of the (soul) cycle. I think what matters most is for people to see us on stage having a great time, putting in a lot of energy, and creating something new and beautiful each time we play.”
Soul Cycle, Saturday, February 26, 8:30 p.m., Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, Princeton. 609-924-4377. For more information and free music downloads, visit www.soulcyclemusic.com.