In the world of New York City’s jazz, it’s not so much about who you know as it is who you play well with.
After living in the city for nine years, that’s what trumpeter John Raymond has found. The 2009 UW-Eau Claire music graduate has played with many musicians since he moved to New York, and he thinks the best ones came together for the jazz quadruplet Kind Folk.
“From the first couple of tunes we played together we felt a unique little chemistry happening, and we were like, ‘Let’s do this again,’” Raymond said of the group’s original formation in 2014. “That progressed to, ‘We should write some music.’ and ‘We should get a gig.’”
It wasn’t all sweet melodies, though. The group’s first public appearance had so few audience members — though Raymond argues more than the venue owner said there were — that the venue owner decided it wasn’t worth staying open for.
“In the middle of the second tune, the owner stopped the entire performance because there weren’t enough people, and that was the end of our first gig,” Raymond recalled with a laugh.
Four years later — even though Raymond has since moved to Bloomington, Ind., to teach at Indiana University — they still haven’t given up on each other. Kind Folk is set to release its first album, “Why Not” — named after the Why Not Jazz Room in New York City, the very place that shut them down.
Raymond and his fellow Kind Folk members — Colin Stranahan on drums, Alex LoRe on alto saxophone and bassist Noam Wiesenberg — will debut that album during a show beginning at 8 p.m. Friday at The Oxbow Hotel, 516 Galloway St. “Why Not” will be released the same day.
Though a lot has changed since the group began, Raymond said they wanted their music to reflect the original feelings they had when playing together, and he thinks it did.
“An unspoken goal I think we all had was trying to write and play music in such a way that retained some of that initial magic we felt from that very first time we played together that has kept us going all these years,” he said. “And at the same time, hone some sort of group identity for how we sound.”
While they aren’t the first jazz group of their specific instrumentation, nor are they by any means the first to play in their style, Raymond thinks the songs on “Why Not” work rhythmically and lyrically specifically for Kind Folk.
“The songs we have written for the band and how we interact together as mucisians make this group really unique and kind of special,” he said.
LoRe thinks that specialness stems from the spontaneity of the band members, which started back in 2014 and worked its way into the studio while they were recording the album.
“We had a lot of really spontaneous moments of us just improvising — ‘let’s just do something and see how it sounds’ was the underlying premise of the group,” LoRe said. “Keeping with that spirit that came most naturally to us, I think the album came together and we created something really nice.”
During the day on Friday, Kind Folk musicians will hold a master class at UW-Eau Claire. Robert Baca, UW-Eau Claire’s director of jazz studies, said he’s been a fan of Raymond’s musicianship since he was a junior in high school, and the program tries to have him speak whenever he is in the area.
“John has always had an immense grounded personality and belief system, which exudes organically out of each album,” Baca said in an email. “Any time he is within hear shot, we have him in to inspire the students. His speech is as inspirational as his music.”
The clinic featuring Raymond and the rest of the Kind Folk members will take place at 1 p.m. Friday in Room 139 of Haas Fine Arts, 121 Water St. It is open to the public.
At night, Raymond is looking forward to bringing that energy to The Oxbow Hotel, where over the last couple of years he has played several times — though this will be his first time in the gallery space. He likened the space to a listening room, and thinks it will be the perfect place for an evening of jazz.
“When you’re listening to jazz, all the magic happens when you can see and hear it right in front of your eyes,” Raymond said. “An intimate space like that is exciting. I’m hoping we can pack it in and have there be a really special energy in there.”
Kind Folk will perform in Madison Saturday and Chicago Sunday before returning to the East Coast for a few performances in November. Raymond also is hoping to head to Europe with the group in 2019.
“Our plan is just to bring this music to as many people as we can,” he said. “Hopefully all around the world.”
If they have the means, why not?
Contact reporter: 715-833-9214, email@example.com, @KatherineMacek on Twitter