In 2000, Columbus, Ohio based guitarist Mark Jackson and Keyboardist Jesse Thompson were asked to play at his nephew’s wedding—a gathering that gave rise to one of the city’s most popular and eclectic jazz fusion bands. When the person printing the wedding program needed a band name, Jackson came up with the clever moniker NexLevel—so that, as Jackson recalls, “When people say
it, it sounds good, tells everyone who we are and catapults us where we want to go”.
The group quickly established itself as a popular gigging ensemble and began playing many local festivals and performing with top R&B and urban jazz artist who came through town, in addition to touring with performers like soul singer Conya Doss. They also released their smooth jazz oriented debut album Level One in 2004. When the band’s saxophonist Randolph left shortly thereafter, the remaining ensemble (including bassist Anthony Mackey) chose a completely different route, exploring an eclectic soul jazz fusion route that kept their powerful grooves and melodies strong while increasing the sonic textures, improvisations, rock guitar and funky bass elements—very much influenced by the groundbreaking 70’s work of George Duke and bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra, but with a contemporary urban twist like the jazz/funk trio Soulive.
NexLevel’s new full-length album Midnight Blue—which features drummer Chris Wright-is the culmination of the vibe NexLevel has been developing these past few years.“We like to think of this group as an amalgamation of different styles that we love”, says Jackson, who like the others has a foundational background playing music in church. “For a while after Richard left, I tried to approximate his sax with my guitar so that the urban jazz audiences would continue to embrace us and we could get the same gigs, but eventually we embraced change and developed a unique sound outside the box that was distinctive from the way we started.
We’re having a lot of fun now, making music that’s soulful and high energy, but very mixed from track to track. Each tune puts the listener in a very different environment, but the power of emotion ties them all together.”
Phone: (614) 477-4366
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