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Flexure happy to keep playing it left of jazz center

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
Flexure is: Ben Opie: alto saxophone, electronics; Ian Gordon: trumpet+; Chris Parker: guitar; Paul Thompson: bass; David Throckmorton: drums; George Jones: percussion etc. Credit: Flexure

Saxophonist Ben Opie always is looking for new ways to present his music, not only in the notes he writes but in the bands that play it.

Drummer Dave Throckmorton says it is the heart of the “left-of-center jazz” Opie creates any number of ways.

Opie will be working in that direction as he leads a residency at the New Hazlett Theater in the North Side with his new band Flexure. It will cap with a concert Saturday evening.

Opie describes the band as “a little like the Miles Davis bands of the '70s,” built around a funky rhythm, and electric guitar and bass.

“The melodies are simple specifically so that the musicians can do something with them,” he says. The pieces are far removed from the chordal complexity of bebop, focusing more on the groove, he says.

The residency will begin Thursday afternoon and run into Saturday, giving the band time to work on performing and recording in sessions closed to the public.

The concert, too, will be built around improvisation, Opie and Throckmorton say. It will include pieces developed on the spot, use of hand signals to indicate parts for the band and experimental composed works that can be added over a variety of grooves.

Computer visual artist Matt Wellins also will be creating improvised laptop images to the music.

The band is made up of Opie and Throckmorton, bassist Paul Thompson, percussionist George Jones, trumpeter Ian Gordon and guitarist Chris Parker.

“We feel really good about having Dave and Paul up here, improvising grooves, something they did 100 percent of the time with Beam,” Opie says, talking about a funk duo of the drummer and bassist.

While this residency is the first major appearance of Flexure, Opie says, it has made several appearances at a Tuesday night jazz series at the Thunderbird Cafe in Lawrenceville and at Club Cafe.

Throckmorton says Flexure is in some ways offshoots of two well known Opie bands. Thoth is a trio, the name of which is made up of the letters in Throckmorton's, Opie's and Thompson's names. Flexure also has its roots in Opek, a 12-piece band that features all of the players but Parker, who has filled in at times but is not a regular.

Throckmorton can understand Opie's comments about the band being Miles-like in its funk, but he insists the “band is more Ben's.”

He adds the band gets its strength because the players know each other so well from playing in other Opie ensembles.

Opie admits new bands can create nervousness on the part of some listeners. But, he says, the residency and the concert all are focused on creating music with a good groove.

“This is not just an intellectual exercise,” he says.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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