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Always At Home With Music, Lucas Kadish Returns To NEO With A New Band and Recording

Lucas Kadish

“To me, music is home,” said guitarist Lucas Kadish in response to a question I posed by email last week.

It’s a pretty sentiment metaphorically, but Saturday, it becomes a statement of fact when the Hudson native brings his trio to BOP STOP to celebrate the release of his new recording Tundra.

Though only 28, Kadish has had years of experience on jazz’s biggest stages. Barely out of high school the guitarist performed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington one of the 24 musicians worldwide selected to participate in Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead-an international jazz residency program.

By that time he had established himself in northeast Ohio with his rock band, Case Sensitive, but a life-changing week at Boston’s Berklee School of Music reset Kadish’s north star to jazz.

“I was too young to do the program because you were supposed to stay in the dorms. But they let me do it and I stayed at a hotel with my parents. The program was cool and there would be these different jam sessions you could go to every night,” he wrote. “On the third night I decided to give the jazz jam a try. I ended up going back every night.”

Lessons with Bob Frasier followed and so did a crucial encounter with Dan Wilson. “He really changed the way I understood style, taste, technique, harmony, rhythm… all of it,” Kadish wrote of the Akron guitarist. “I was starting to listen to more records and was becoming increasingly familiar with the music. I frequented every jam session in the area I could get to.”

He’s led quite a few of them, too including some as a teenager at Akron’s BLU Jazz+. There and elsewhere on the scene he played with some of the region’s leading young players and forged tight musical bonds that continue to this day.

Kadish also absorbed northeast Ohio’s musical language, one he called “Very special. It’s the reason I play the way I play. To me, NEO musicians have this keen awareness of the weight of what it is that they’re playing. There’s that feeling of intention that comes with recognizing the power of what you’re doing. You can feel it from musicians like Dan Wilson, Nathan-Paul Davis, Theron Brown, Chris Coles, Bobby Selvaggio, Zaire Darden, Tommy Lehman and many others. It’s really soulful and free.”

Some pretty good players have passed through Kadish’s bands, too, including the innovative bassist Nick Dunston and pianist Theo Walentiny. His current trio of bassist Kanoa Mendenhall and drummer Tim Angulo are two musicians whose experience and savvy belie their ages.

“Kanoa is such a musical person and bassist,” Kadish wrote. “My music is rooted in the bass, and Kanoa can hold it down while shining through it in such a beautiful way. There’s this soaring quality to her playing that keeps the music buoyant and always grooving.”

Lucas Kadish Tundra coverKadish’s first gig with Angulo was at the Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival. “I had been on tour in Europe. I flew back, slept on my couch and we drove to Ohio that morning,” Kadish wrote. “That was the first time (literally!) playing some of these songs that you’ll hear on the record [and] at the Bop Stop. Besides being a great drummer, Tim is a real artist. He knows how to bring life to anything and does so with my music in a way that’s fresh every single time.”

As a player and composer, Kadish is squarely in the post-Pat Metheny tradition of jazz guitar of such players as Ben Monder and Kurt Rosenwinkel, yet he often recalls players of a preceding generation such as the nearly forgotten Sam Brown and longtime Berklee eminence Mick Goodrick. Playing clean or with pedals, the melody is never far away in Kadish’s approach. Harmonically, his compositions often recall the late John Abercrombie, an influential player from the preceding generation. Forward momentum is a hallmark, too.

That momentum continues to carry Kadish deeper into the music and the competitive New York scene. Yet no matter where he lives and plays, Kadish maintains that “To live with music is to always be at home.”

Lucas Kadish Saturday, August 5 8 p.m. at BOP STOP,2920 Detroit Ave. $20 available here.