Funkin' an' Folkin'
Homegrown talent expands.
Eugene Weekly, February 6, 2003

On Friday, Feb. 7th, Diablo's Downtown Lounge welcomes local "acoustic jazz fusion" trio Carmizin. Now well into their fourth year as a group, Carmizin members recently experienced a minor personnel change. Former lead guitarist Michael Shaller switched to upright bass and veteran Eugene jazzman Geoffrey Mays came aboard as the new guitarist.

"We're taking our older songs and moving them into new formats," drummer Carrie Jahde says. "We're also doing some of Geoffrey's songs."

Jahde describes Carmizin's typical set as "two-thirds original material and one-third jazz standards. We do standards like 'Summertime' and 'Take Five' and try to interpret them in more funky ways or more Latin ways."

As evidenced by Carmizin's latest CD (a live recording from the WOW Hall), the trio imbues their music with inventive vocal harmonies and a hearty dose of improvisation. Each member of the group takes a turn in the spotlight, executing dexterous solos that use elements of bluegrass, folk and Latin funk as well as traditional jazz.

Jahde says that some of Carmizin's new songs were created during jam sessions, but, for the most part, Shaller and Mays write the lyrics and music. Once a song has been fleshed out, the trio concentrates on each person's individual solos.

"We really focus on communicating when we improvise, both by eye contact and by listening," Jahde says. "And we try to keep things changing every time we play."

All the members of Carmizin keep busy playing with other bands or performing frequent solo gigs. Jahde plays with the Latin jazz outfit Ritmo De La Noche, Shaller is a member of Los Mex Pistols Del Norte and Mays has fronted his own group for many years. Jahde believes that Eugene boasts a vibrant music community, especially for jazz.

"When Michael and I came to Eugene five years ago, we were thrilled to find this great jazz scene," she says. "It was a nice change from the Midwest, where there weren't nearly as many jazz venues."