For fans of vocal jazz in the Rockford area Jodi Beach's name should definitely be a familiar one. Local listeners got their first taste of her talent when she performed for 13 years in lead and supporting roles in musicals at Rock Valley College's Starlight Summer Theatre. She later was a full time member of the Moonlight Jazz Orchestra before starting her trio in 1997. Since that time, she has made a name for herself and this outfit that is sure to catch even the most jaded music fan's attention.
The drummer (and a cofounder) for the band is Thom Fishe. Fishe, like Beach, was a onetime member of the Moonlight Jazz Orchestra - he put in fifteen years in that group. As much as that says about his talent his music resume does not end there. Fishe has played with such notable local outfits as John Davis Quintet, Rick Burns, Harlan Jefferson, Dan Voll and the Beat Merchants. He is also a founding member of the jazz/funk group Seratonin.
Rounding out the Jodi Beach Trio is Jim McDowell, and he is arguably the most versatile member of the group. He is classically trained bassist who can list a number of symphonic and ensemble orchestras on his resume. Living up to his nickname of "utility man", though, McDowell has been known to show up in as widely varying roles as heavy metal guitarist, fusion bassist, Latin percussionist, avant-garde artist, and blues singer. As he says, "I have a room full of instruments and a closet full of clothes, just tell me where to be and what to bring." He joined the group in 1999.
The whole is often greater than the sum of the parts, and while each of these musicians has some serious pedigrees to bring to the table, the axiom still holds true here. This is a versatile and very strong acoustic jazz grouping. There doesn't seem to be any egos at play here, all of the members contributing equally to a series of true songs rather than backdrops for endless showings of virtuosic soloing. While that other approach does have its fans - and at times I have been known to fall into that category - ultimately this groups increased reliance on creating cohesive musical pieces seems to have a more universal and lasting appeal. The truth of the matter is, this group is one of the best of its kind.
They have released three CD's, including a Christmas disc. Listening to this band lay down the melodies it's no wonder that they have been frequent performers and Rockford's On The Waterfront and other regional events. It also shouldn't come as a shock to anyone that they have reaped numerous local music awards including the RAMI for Best Traditional Jazz Group for the last three years, and Best of Rockford for the last four. If you haven't already caught the buzz of the Jodi Beach Trio, what are you waiting for? In terms of acoustic jazz trio performance, it just doesn't get much better than this.