Jazz Friends

By Tosten BurksApril 18, 2024

Jazz Friends
OUTSIDE WORLD, 71 Studio Bar, Los Angeles, April 5, 2024.

On my way to the jazz duo Outside World’s release show in Hollywood two Fridays ago, I learned from my younger sister through tears over the phone that our grandmother was starting hospice. I walked up that annoying stretch of Cahuenga by the dormant Cinerama dome where the old Variety office–turned–Amoeba Music building now hosts ticketed TikTok art traps with Grandma Andy on my mind. When she arrived in Los Angeles from small-town Iowa to model, the night’s venue, 71 Studio Bar, was a printing business, then a recording studio; now it’s a brass-plated cocktail lounge and performance space that advertises its rock and roll lore and offers four distinct bottle service packages. Baritone saxophonist Henry Solomon in neon-bleached hair dyed with black stars and bassist Logan Kane in a New York City tourist T-shirt, backed by pianist Chris Fishman and drummer Benjamin Ring, were playing their second song as I squeezed, on assignment, into the modest concrete room hung with mustard curtains and packed with baggy jeans.

That morning Solomon and Kane released their new record, Outside World 3, on my friend Yousef’s independent label Minaret, which has developed a youthful following through a steady stream of improvised music gigs across living rooms, backyards, and Peerspaces in the years since a virus killed many small venues and a humongous corporation assumed booking duties at others. Outside World played the very first Minaret show in a warehouse by the downtown rail yards two weeks before lockdown. The duo, formed a decade ago at USC, writes propulsive melodic work with a playful technological sensibility that grins at more tranquil en vogue jazz forms. Funky grooves, tricky staccato heads, and twitchy drum programming whip into catchy frenzy on the album’s most thrilling tracks; one climaxes with a frog’s ribbit. I love when music reminds me to listen to other music that slipped my mind. Outside World 3 reminded me to listen to Carla Bley’s Night-Glo (1985) and Venetian Snares’ Badminton (2003) during the week I tried to remember old conversations with Andy.

Onstage, Outside World conjured some of their production winks with effect pedals; Fishman, sideman to Thundercat and Pat Metheny, cycled fusion textures on synth and keys. For the show, the boys wrote new arrangements, printed on real-life paper scattered on chart stands, that elongated the record’s jams. “Neon Groceries” grew an introductory Ring drum solo that Solomon knelt down and blasted with damaged tones on an old delay modeler. Kane’s dense electric phrases inspired crowd grunts and, to my left, at least one ooga booga. The room was full of people who knew these artists by first name. “Henry wrote a song for this album called ‘Friends,’ and it’s pretty meaningful. These are literally, like, my best friends,” Kane said before the finale. Afterward on the rooftop, I planned to do more journalism but mostly talked with my own college friend Pat about classmates and Clippers woes before ducking to the street. Some guy in cowboy boots and a several-gallon hat strutted past, toes high. “He’s rooting and tooting,” Pat laughed. “Where do you think he’s going?” I’ve been asking of myself the same thing.


Photo of Outside World by contributor.

LARB Short Take live event reviews are published in partnership with the nonprofit Online Journalism Project and the Independent Review Crew.

LARB Contributor

Tosten Burks is a writer and editor in Los Angeles. He’s currently editing his great-grandfather’s memoir.


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