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The Au Brother’s jazz it up at Crescent Club Speakeasy

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The Au Brothers band brought hot New Orleans jazz and jazz improvisation to the Crescent Club Speakeasy Saturday to an enthusiastic crowd of 30-plus for a night of celebration of an all-too-infrequent pairing—young musicians and “trad” (traditional) jazz.

Although Gordon Au was unable to play Saturday, the band made up of Brandon Au, Justin Au, Shelley Denny and Nahum Zdybel serenaded the audience with standard jazz jams such as “Pretty Baby” (1916), “Fly Me to the Moon” (1954) and Louis Armstrong’s personal favorite, according to Brandon Au, “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” (1927), all written before the Au Brothers’ time.

The songs had a swing and an exciting rhythmic pulse, even without a drummer, thanks to the percussiveness and precision of the rhythm section, Zdybel on guitar and Denny on bass.

Justin and Brandon Au showed a slyness to their playing usually reserved for much older musicians. Staying within the trad jazz idiom, Justin on trumpet used a variety of mutes and techniques that were by turns brash, playful and insinuating. He also broke out an unlikely horn—a marching trombone, which allowed him to play tenor duets with his brother.

Brandon, likewise, stayed primarily with his trombone, but also picked up what looked like a small baritone horn for variety. Brandon showed a full-out virtuosity on his instrument, and, like Justin, showed a variety of techniques that made his solos unpredictable and nuanced.

Brandon, 28, and Justin, 23, have been playing this style of music for over 10 years now and showed veterans’ savvy in their playing.

“Since we’re a family and we’ve played together for so long, sometimes he can complete my sentences almost, but in a musical sense,” Brandon said.

Both the Aus quoted freely from recognizable melodies in their solos, and listeners were chuckling and nodding at the wit that both brothers’ playing showed. When playing together, the brothers exhibited a seeming effortlessness in the Dixieland tradition of both improvising on the melody at the same time.

Zdybel also showed virtuoso skills in his guitar solos, as well as driving the beat for all three quick-tempo sets. Denny was a solid backbone, always driving the rhythm forward with his excellent time, even during Zdybel’s solos when he was the sole rhythm instrument.

Brandon also showcased a delightful singing voice, scattering solo verses, both with lyrics and scat-singing, throughout the evening, without a microphone. His singing showed a musicality and an easy humor that was totally in keeping with the rest of the night’s music.

“It’s a really nice experience playing this improvisational music,” Brandon said. “A lot of it’s just responding to what’s going on around you, and that’s what jazz is.”

The Au Brothers — rejoined by Gordon Au later this month — are performing at a number of “Home for the Holidays” concerts in the area.

Their next show will be at the Crescent Club Speakeasy on Dec. 31. Tickets can be purchased here for $35 or at the door for $60.

Crescent Club Speakeasy is located at 1150 Firehouse Alley in Old Sacramento.

For more information on the Au Brother’s and upcoming events, click here.

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