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Local jazz band For Now explores the state of being ‘Elsewhere’ with album release, show

Local jazz band For Now explores the state of being ‘Elsewhere’ with album release, show

Local jazz band For Now explores the state of being ‘Elsewhere’ with album release, show
May 28
21:19 2018

Denton’s jazz community embodies a kind of vibrancy and flair that has led to an overflow of unique music projects, and this was no different for local contemporary jazz group For Now. During their show at Dan’s Silverleaf on May 22, For Now demonstrated their dynamic presence in the local music scene.

The quintet, led by vocalist, composer and UNT alumna Isabel Crespo, performed songs to celebrate the release of their new album “Elsewhere.”

“The vision and purpose, as I see it for the quintet, is to cover the now,” Crespo said. “It seems redundant, but I wanted it to be a space where I can explore the current state of things.”

For Now achieves this vision by combining Crespo’s creative skill and direction with the perspective of the instrumentalists. Guitarist Skyler Hill, pianist Ben McDonald, bassist Mike Luzecky and drummer Jonny Harmon each contribute their own musical knowledge and talent. “Elsewhere” serves as an example of the group’s ability to unify and create a thoughtful collage of interesting sounds.

As it neared midnight, the crowd listened with admiration and attentiveness as the quintet performed their set.

“I really like to watch the musicians have little head nods and nonverbal communication with one another when they’re cuing each other or whatever it may be,” UNT alumna Brianna Comis said. “I also like to watch them get lost in the music. A few times when Isabel was scatting she looked like she just disappeared right into the song. It was really cool. Every single one of the members was awesome. They all give it all they’ve got.”

Comis wasn’t the only attendee who noticed the group’s chemistry during its show.

“Isabel is kind of like the personification of creativity,” jazz performance major Alex Hodge said. “She is so smart and strong and bold in what she has to say. Her voice cuts really well and makes what she is saying all the more effective. It glides above the rest of the band. It is really cool to know what collaboration, not only with herself and her bandmates, but the Denton community produces. Being able to hear this type of music, this quality of music for $5 is kind of insane.”

As they performed, it was apparent that the songs contained a diverse array of compositional exploration. Some songs, like “Into the Yellow Room,” evoked a sense of optimism and hopefulness whereas others, like the title track “Elsewhere,” conveyed a sense of melancholic longing.

When speaking about the composition process, Crespo said she approached each song with various methods. For some songs, like “We’re Home” and “On Color,” she focused on lyrics first whereas others were less formulaic. 

“Sometimes it’s a cathartic experience where I’m just like, ‘I feel this, so I’m going to write about it,'” Crespo said. “Sometimes it’s like exercise — I get this amount of time or I get to use these chords or I have to write about this theme. I try to push myself in different directions, so that it is different every time.”

As for as the album as a whole, Crespo said it does not focus on a specific concept but rather a cohesive, interconnected set of ideas that describe a visceral state of being elsewhere.

“It’s not like a concept album, but it is more than some songs just thrown together,” Crespo said. “I crafted it so that all the songs are friends with each other and hang out. I made a collage for each song, so that you’re watching the collage and listening to the song as it progresses and by the end it is sort of like an emotional ride.”

Crespo allows and encourages her listeners to interpret the music for themselves, but still intends to provoke thought about certain themes and issues that lead to meaningful, constructive discussion.

“I don’t want to force anyone to think anything, but I do want to invite conversation about particular things in a particular way,” Crespo said. “’Elsewhere’ is kind of whatever you want it to be. Whether that means you are elsewhere, like you are distracted or you would rather be elsewhere. ‘Elsewhere’ can be a place you imagine in an idealized way.”

Many of the songs reflect on and respond to social issues such as ethnocentrism, racism and misogyny. For instance, “Caught in the Double Bind” challenges societal notions that subject women to a limiting set of ideals and deem them as inferior to men. The song addresses this unfairness with an upbeat, rhythmic build-up and vocal improvisation that accompanies bold, compelling lyrics. Towards the end of the song a group of female vocalists joined Isabel in singing the chorus, You think that when I’m right there’s always something wrong, cause its a problem that I’m strong.

“When we did that, it was eight of us or something and we would sing then record on top of it,” Crepo said. “We had like 13 takes of that, and they are all in [the recording].”

Earlier last week, For Now announced a two-week summer tour and launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise money it. Some of the donation rewards include a physical copy of “Elsewhere,” a For Now screen printed T-shirt, the “Elsewhere” collages, a songwriting Skype hang and an exclusive house concert. This tour will give the quintet the ability to perform in various cities like New Orleans, Atlanta, New York and, of course, Denton.

The essence of Jazz music encourages both its players and listeners to embrace change and freedom. These invigorating qualities are Crespo’s favorite aspects of the genre.

“I like the constant evolution that [jazz is] in,” Isabel said. “It’s always taking from external sources and drawing them in to create this really rich tapestry of harmony. I love that there is always something you can learn about it, no matter if it is something more current or something older.”

Because jazz can be intimidating for some aspiring musicians to approach, Crespo said one of the best ways to get comfortable and into the jazz scene is to attend shows because of their interactive qualities.

“Go to a show and try to watch [those interactions] happen,” Crespo said. “Try to watch someone try to communicate with somebody in a different way. It’s almost like a game: you don’t need to understand the technical things. I think people, a lot of times, are trying to make different shapes. At least that’s how I think about it. … There are things you can perceive as a person that doesn’t know exactly what is happening. You can tell if they are trying to be more quiet. You can tell if they are trying to be more busy or really intense. There is something shape-wise you will be able to pick up on, even if it’s not something harmonically.”

Featured Image: Jazz enthusiasts take a front row seat at Dan’s Silverleaf in Denton to watch For Now perform on May 24, 2018. The band held the show to celebrate the release of their album “Elsewhere.” Anna Engelland

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