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Genre defying ‘Half-Pint Jones’ comes to Legends

Observer Scene | Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What do you get when you cross a New Orleans-bred saxophonist with a group of versatile Michiana musicians that includes a drummer named “Krojo”? Shaken Cajun-style, not stirred, these ingredients get you Half-Pint Jones, a genre-defying, South Bend-based, jazz-reggae-funk-with-a-twist ensemble that arrives today at Legends.Half-Pint Jones comes to the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s communities with a somewhat mythic story behind it. The band’s founding member, Chris Olivier, grew up in New Orleans, La., a proud member of the city’s well-known musical culture. Like much of the N’awlins musician community, however, Olivier, a saxophonist, found himself and his family displaced by the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Surprisingly, he wound up in – you probably guessed it – South Bend, Indiana. In time, Olivier found other like-minded musicians in the area to jam with, eventually resulting in the eclectic group that they are today. Several of the musicians have played with each other previously in different contexts, but Half-Pint Jones is the final result.The band consists of Olivier, Steve Krojniewski (a.k.a. “Krojo”) on drums, Jayson Sites on bass, guitarist and vocalist Justin Ross and trumpet player Mark Gamble. The mix of musicians has helped Half-Pint Jones develop its unique music – undefined by any particular genre, the band has created a combination of jazz, funk and other types to create a sound that, to the band, is also reminiscent of their musical heritage. “We’re like a traditional bebop band from the ’50s and ’60s,” Olivier said in a recent interview with Lakeview Magazine. “There are so many New Orleans elements but also a rock element and East Coast jazz. It’s a fusion of all these different styles, and I really feel it’s a fresh, new sound.”The band released their first album, “Trilogy of Patches and Olaf,” this past summer, which exhibits their penchant for mixing up musical conventions as well as their varied individual talents. “From the beginning, my concept was [that] I wanted everybody to play what they’re feeling,” Olivier told Lakeview Magazine. “If you’re playing true to yourself, then people will know that.”As effortless as it may seem on “Trilogy of Patches and Olaf” for the band members to play off of each other’s strengths, it can’t be done without effort and care for the music itself.”It’s a musical language, and just like any language, you have to become fluent in it. It takes hours and hours of practice, for days and days and years on end,” Olivier said in an interview with IN-Michiana magazine. “It’s not only ability, it’s a natural drive. That [music] is what you do, and you’re not happy without it.”Legends will offer a small, more intimate venue for the band. The concert begins at 7 tonight, a tough time slot for a football weekend. But given the skills and strengths of this jazz-rock-funk-with-a-twist group of musicians, Half-Pint Jones should definitely tear down the house anyway. Make sure to check your expectations at the door.