JazzBug aims to surprise crowd

According to improvisational jazz artist Tony LeHoven, for listeners to appreciate the genre he loves there must be a willing suspension of disbelief.

“Jazz is an art form,” he said. “People expect to be told what art is and it’s the same with music — if it’s not popular and easy to define they don’t know how to feel about it. With jazz you just listen and enjoy it.”

No matter what JazzBug plays, originals or a piece by another artist, what’s become the band’s signature is irreverence.

“If (the song) is not an original we taint it somehow,” said the band’s founder and guitarist. “We’re not background music. You have to pay attention or it’s just annoying.”

On Sunday JazzBug opens for Devin Phillips and New Orleans Straight Ahead at Kaua‘i Community College Performing Arts Center as part of Kaua‘i Concert Association’s concert series.

JazzBug performs original music written by LeHoven. Like most creative endeavors, his source for inspiration is deeply personal — and orchestration of the experience is always filled with wit. The impetus for one of LeHoven’s songs was a malcontent who insulted the band at a gig. LeHoven used the experience as fuel for a new song — thus was born “Big Phat Bastard.”

Six months ago when LeHoven broke two fingers on his left hand in a stand-up surfing incident he was worried if he would be able to play again after the surgery. While strumming one day with his two useless fingers resting across the fret board, he discovered he could write a piece of music even with limited dexterity. That’s when he wrote “Hand Job” as a dedication to his doctors and therapists.

“It’s based on the song ‘Hand Jive,’ but a jazzed-out version,” he said. “That’s how things come out — my songs are experiential.”

The fun part of composition for LeHoven is how unlimited creativity can be.

“It’s like surfing,” he said. “Everything is out there and you choose to ride it any way you want. The beauty is, once you start playing music, everyone in the band is communicating. It’s about opening up to become a vehicle for the music to pass through you.”

As a world traveler, this aspect of the process is what speaks for LeHoven.

“You can write a piece of music and take it anywhere in the world,” he said. “It’s a universal language. Musicians are showing each other licks and communicating through the instruments. When it really works everyone’s talking at once. Multiple conversations come into one thought and that becomes the music.”

On one hand LeHoven declares there’s no rule, rhyme or reason to jazz.

“People have made the rules, but the music has no rules,” he said. “Jazz is a genre trying to get away from the rules.”

LeHoven and fellow band members try to create new situations for music to happen.

“Jazz is about making an experience,” he said. “At the show on Sunday we are going to open with something that will show the audience that. With jazz you have to stop what you’re doing and listen to it. It doesn’t come at you. You have to go to it.”

To hear JazzBug locally, there will be upcoming performances from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Trees Lounge in Kapa‘a Sept. 30, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4.

• Pam Woolway, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or pwoolway@kauaipubco.com


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