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Casino Jazz Trio blends musical styles

Three budding musicians are challenging the boundaries of progressive jazz.
(From left) Jonathan Tobin plays piano

Three budding musicians are challenging the boundaries of progressive jazz.

Jonathan Tobin, Stephan Smith and David Park emerged on the local music scene four years ago playing simplistic funk as the Casino Jazz Trio. The Grade 12 students from MEI Secondary have since evolved into other genres, mixing elements of Latin, Cuban jazz, swing, bebop and alternative rock.

“For me, I feel that jazz is a really powerful means of expression. It’s influenced pretty much every style that’s come after it,” said Tobin. “But we don’t really want to limit ourselves to one audience, so we try to incorporate different sounds.”

Tobin’s percussive, floating and occasionally dissonant piano lines are accented by Park’s relaxed drumming style and Smith’s flair on the alto saxophone. They’re fusion sound has been influenced by a variety of artists including Herbie Hancock, Eric Marienthal, Moida Band, Incognito, Muse, Radiohead, Mute Math, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Monty Alexander.

The group plays a combination of original compositions and jazz standards. They occasionally invite guest vocalists on stage and perform unique renditions of pop hits like Bruno Mars’ Just the Way You Are.

“It really presents a song in a different light and the

audience can connect with it in a context that they know,” said Tobin. “To be able to

communicate with audiences through music is great, even if it may not be their cup of tea.”

The trio is currently preparing for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival in Idaho (Feb. 23-26) and recording a full-length studio album with local producer Rick Havinga. Their debut EP Casino was released last February and featured several original compositions, including Tobin’s award-winning ballad “The Rain.”

“We’re doing what we love and making music together,” said Tobin. “This is a way for us to hone our skills. If there happens to be an audience there as well, that’s cool too.”

Casino Jazz Trio performs at Gourmet Gallery on Feb. 19 at 7:30 p.m. with Scott Currie. Shows are also scheduled at House of James on March 4 and 5.

“We’re going to throw in a lot more explorational elements to our music,” said Tobin of the concert. “It’s going to have a live jam feeling.”

Gourmet Gallery is located at 3033 Immel Street. General admission is $5 at the door and $3 for students.