Modern millennium jazz brew

Dirk Quinn Band grooves Trolley Stop

By Gary Spencer

There seems to be a culturally
accepted notion (especially among younger people) that jazz music is obsolete in the modern millennium—that jazz is an antiquated form of music relegated to the tastes of stuffy old people and music scholars. However, there is a wave of young musicians who don’t believe such sentiments. Perhaps adopting Frank Zappa’s adage that jazz isn’t dead, “it just smells funny.” But there’s nothing funny about the musicians in Philadelphia’s Dirk Quinn Band consisting of Dirk Quinn (guitar), Steve Zegray (drums), Scott Coulter (keys) and Rory Flynn (bass). These guys have serious chops and creativity, drawing in influences including John Scofield, Medeski Martin & Wood, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jaco Pastorious and Primus into their modern millennium jazz brew, and in turn have concocted a sound that listeners both young and old can groove to.

“No, I don’t think jazz is dead—at least not the heart and soul of it, what it’s really about,” DQB founder Dirk Quinn says. “Putting labels on what is or isn’t jazz or what jazz ‘should’ sound like certainly isn’t helping, though. Jazz is a concept. It was born out of improvisation. Of course the improvisation that was happening in the ’20s isn’t going to sound like the improvisation of today! The spirit of the thing is what matters. If you’re honestly putting your heart out there, without ego, balancing on that edge, wholly surrendering yourself to something eternally unfathomable that you can feel but cannot explain in order to not only glimpse but to also commune with God? Yea, that’s jazz to me.”

Quinn has been putting his heart out there by surrendering himself to music since an early age. It is a feeling in his soul he can’t quite put a finger on, but he loves it just the same.

“Writing [music] has always been the key part of it for me,” Quinn elaborates. “Nothing compares to the moment of honest creation. It’s something that just can’t be understood or quantified. It’s a glimpse into a larger truth.”

With such feelings in tow, Quinn has dedicated his life and career to his music, even though it hasn’t always been an easy choice to pursue.

“The decision to become a musician wasn’t difficult, but the repercussions of that decision certainly have been!” Quinn jests. “It was easy in that fact that I couldn’t imagine any other career choice where I’d have the freedom to grow as I’m able to as an artist. The thought that there is no such thing as complete mastery of an art form really appealed to me. The immediacy of improvisation attracts me to the live aspect of music, as well. It’s the
truest art in that respect.”

In order to fully develop his artistic ideas, Quinn formed The Dirk Quinn Band in the mid-2000s. He recorded his first CD in 2006 and has since put together a steady outfit to explore his musical ideas. Despite the DQB carrying his name, Quinn is adamant about his supporting cast having room to throw in their own ideas and style into the framework of his group.

“My personal mantra for the band has always been ‘freedom,’” Quinn says. “I never wanted to direct the band members too much. I want them to add what they’re hearing in their own heads, not what they think I want to hear. The music is much better off that way, but it takes time to build a band and find the personalities that get along musically like that.”

With the musical personalities he’s assembled, the DQB has toured all over the US and Canada and shared the stage with Soulive, Umphrey’s McGee, Bernie Worrell, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Booker T, Dumpstaphunk and many others. While Quinn is proud of his numerous studio recordings, to him, the live show is how he and his group have built their reputation.

“The live show is most certainly better than the studio recordings, if for no other reason than the crowd’s energy is added,” Quinn explains. “The band is having a musical conversation onstage which is only enriched by the addition of the collective voice of the audience. Nothing compares.”

These things, combined with Quinn’s artistic sights on the long haul, probably means the group will be kicking for many years to come.

“We’re where we are today due to the band’s combination of relentless hard work mixed with an unwavering artistic integrity and idealism,” Quinn says. “As long as I keep playing, I’ll continuously get better, and the day I die will be the day that I’m most proficient at articulating emotion through music. That’s a very big, beautiful idea, and it resonates with me strongly. I think that sums it up perfectly.”

The Dirk Quinn Band will perform at 9:30 p.m. Friday, March 25 at The Trolley Stop, 530 E. Fifth St. in downtown Dayton. Show is open to patrons 21 and up, and admission is $5 at the door. For more information please visit dirkquinnband.com.

Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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