West Side musicians
showing their stuff in NEO Jazz Odyssey
By Charles Cassady
Published June 1, 2005
a documentary that was a big hit at Sundance called "Rock School."
It shows moppets as young as nine learning to make devil-horn signs
and cover "Iron Man" like Ozzy at a Black Sabbath tribute show.
The thought sort of makes you wonder what youth culture would have
been like were all the nay-sayers correct in the 1950s, when they
said that rock and roll was just a passing musical fad, like apache
dancing and calypso, and would soon be forgotten.
But not all teenagers are consumed with rocking out and being on
the cover of Rolling Stone. This weekend will see the first public
performance of the NEO (for Northeast Ohio) Jazz Odyssey.
The quartet is made up of four North Coast high schoolers, all honors
students, who play jazz, swing, tangos, covers and original.
"We finally got together in the group and basically intend to play
with each other for the rest of our high-school careers," said Coleman
Drake, of North Olmsted High School, where he performs also with
a student jazz group, the Special Edition.
Morris, Colin Davin, Coleman Drake and Jon Deavers form NEO
plays saxophone, and in NEO he's joined by guitarist Colin Davin
and drummer Dan Morrison, both of Bay Village High School, and bassist
Jon Deavers, of Vermilion High School in Lorain County.
Coleman is also in the Tri-C Jazz High-School All Stars, an ensemble
made of young jazz musicians from throughout the area. But he admits
that being a 17-year-old jazz player in the Rock Hall city is a
minority profession (enough to give one...the blues?).
"There's definitely not enough jazz venues in Cleveland," he said.
"... There's just not enough publicity." The struggles of the Cleveland
Bop Stop Jazz Club in Ohio City to stay open is indicative of the
situation, which Drake said is also aggravated by "a lack of radio
time, a lack of awareness." He said the only club in Cuyahoga County
thriving with a lineup of ever-changing jazz bookings is the Nighttown
restaurant and bar in Cleveland Heights.
Sunday, June 5
6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The Beachcliffe Tavern
19245 Detroit Road
Phone the Beachcliffe
some jazz comes to the west side this month, thanks to NEO. During
June the NEO Jazz Odyssey has gigs lined up at the Beachcliffe Tavern
in Rocky River on successive Sundays, June 5, and June 12.
Coleman Drake said he was in elementary school when he first developed
an aptitude for jazz. "For me, mine started when I was in the sixth
grade." He had taken up clarinet in the school band the previous
year, but switched to saxophone for a jazz-band class. "The director
kind of singled me out and took me aside and told
me I had something going there."
Drake estimated that about 20 other students at North Olmsted High
have a serious interest in jazz, but he's known Colin Davin since
the eight grade. "For the past almost-a-year we've been gigging
together." They did weddings, private parties and restaurant playdates,
and when they needed a drumer they hooked up with Dan Morrison.
Jon Deavers happens to be the son of Jon Deavers Sr., who works
at Driscol Music in Lorain, where Drake takes his instruments for
repairs. And thus the NEO Jazz Odyssey formed.
Separately they're all high-achievers, musically as well as academically.
Colin Davin did a guitar solo with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra
last week when the group performed rock-based instrumentals with
Pat Bentatar and Neil Giraldo at Cleveland State University (his
Web site is www.geocities.com/cdjazz87).
Dan Morrison performs in his own student big band, as well as part
of the Cleveland Youth Wind Symphony (in which Jon Deavers is also
a member), which regularly plays Severance Hall. Coleman Drake and
the Special Edition played Lincoln Center in NYC.
"We're doing everything from contemporary, Pat Methany-kind of stuff.
We're playing be-bop standards...And I think we're trying to work
in some of my original stuff in the future," Drake said.
Pat Methany is a strong influence for Drake. Other jazz-sax players
he idolizes include Jan Barak -- who, unfortunately, does not tour
outside of Europe, and the Tomasz Stanko Quartet -- who, fortunately,
did come as close to town as Michigan, and Drake was able to make
the trip and catch them live.
The group has to already look beyond high school (indeed, Colin
Davin has landed a generous music scholarship to the University
of Southern California). When he attends college -- not rock school
-- Drake plans to be a double major in psychology and music. "And
do jazz as much as I can."
The NEO Jazz Odyssey is available for bookings for weddings, private
and public affairs. Phone Coleman Drake at 281-0000.