As a longtime Ann Arbor jazz musician, Rob Crozier blends a vibrant sonic tapestry filled with funk, soul and world influences.
Each musical thread adds a new colorful stitch to an ever-evolving jazz-based repertoire for Crozier’s Jazz Ensemble, which features a tightknit group of musicians, friends and family.
Together, theJazz Ensemble, comprised of Crozier (bass, didgeridoo), Rafael Statin (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet, oboe), Keaton Royer (piano, keys), Aron Kaufman (percussion) and Rob Avsharian (drums), is adding new musical threads to their third album. Their next funky project will meander in and out of jazz tradition like its hypnotic predecessors, “Ocean Blue” (2018) and Tall Trees (2017).
“I have about half of the new record written already. I like going with what feels good in a composition and having some jazz-sounding tunes, some real funk tunes and something more adventurous with a little bit more of an electronic feeling at times,” Crozier said. “I’ve done a lot of percussion and playing in world music. I just love including that, and I love the feeling of soul and funk music in everything that I do.”
Diving into ‘Ocean Blue’
Their previous release, “Ocean Blue,” includes striking hints of multi-genre influences mixed with nature themes, beginning with the poetic, blues-fused opener, “Water,” sashaying into the laid-back, worldly vibes of “Autumn Moon” and ending with the groovy basslines of “Into the Gloaming” featuring Emma McDermott, Crozier’s stepdaughter, on lead vocals. Crozier’s wife, Kelly McDermott, plays flute on the album while Terry Jackson, Crozier’s godson, recites poetry.
“Ocean Blue” also features two tributes to bandmate Royer with “Keaton’s Blues” and “R is for Richko” to guitarist Rodney Richko, who performed a memorable guitar solo on “Into the Gloaming” at the Elkhart Jazz Festival last year.
“The reason it’s called ‘Keaton’s Blues’ is because he’s the first person to ever play it,” said Crozier, who studied bass at the University of Michigan. “Some people think ‘R is for Richko’ is a tribute to the late piano player Steve Richko, but it’s a living tribute to Rodney, who played on the first record.”
Bringing Jazz to Ann Arbor, Detroit
Crozier and his ensemble perform at jazz hotspots in Washtenaw County ranging from the Blue LLama Jazz Club to Weber’s Boutique Hotel to the Eagle Crest Resort. They also venture to the Motor City for live shows at Cliff Bell’s, Dirty Dog Jazz Café and Aretha’s Jazz Café as well as debuting at this year’s Detroit Jazz Festival.
“It was great to present this music to a lot of people who haven’t heard it. I was hoping people would catch on to the synergy on the ‘Ocean Blue’ record,” Crozier said. “One of the things that sets us apart at a jazz festival is the variety that we offer.”
Crozier also shares his jazz expertise through his music company, Eventjazz, which provides live jazz entertainment for weddings, parties and corporate events. He launched the company in 2012 after performing in different bands at special events throughout the community.
“I’m a self-starter so I made up my own materials, promotion and demos, and I built it from there. I work with everyone from solo piano players to cocktail groups and would like to have a jazz trio with a singer out front,” Crozier said. “I have the flexibility to guarantee a date and find the right talent for that date.”