Jazz Drummer Shoup Brings New Band to Summer Solstice

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019, 8:00 am
Christopher A. Wardell

Jazz drummer Jeff Shoup (pictured above) has jammed with the very best of the best.

The mastermind behind the ever popular Jazz Tuesdays at Moriarty’s Pub in Lansing, Shoup has performed with a veritable who’s who in the jazz and rock hemispheres: Smokin’ Joe Kubek, Rodney Whitaker, organissimo, Randy Napoleon, and jazz-fusion guitarist Fareed Haque – to name a few.

Shoup formed his own quartet recently and the group is slated to play from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday on the Education Stage at the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival in downtown East Lansing.

The Education Stage will be set up adjacent to the intersection of Albert and Division streets.

The two-day festival lineup (Friday and Saturday) includes the Randy Gelispie Organ Ensemble (featuring Haque), Straight Ahead, Rodney Whitaker, The Becoming Quartet, and Root Doctor, among others.

This is Shoup’s fourth time performing at Summer Solstice and, according to the musician, every year is fun and unique.

“The first thing that pops to mind is a couple years back when bassist Ben Williams brought in his band,” Shoup said. “I wasn't able to catch his set I think because I was playing on the other stage at the same time, but I got a chance to sit in with him at the jam session and afterglow later that night. He went to school here, but I never once got a chance to play with him, and he's played with just about everyone now. So that was fun. The Chicago Jazz Orchestra a couple years back was pretty cool, too. They were doing stuff from the Count Basie/Quincy Jones/Frank Sinatra book and killin' it. That's some great music.”

New band focuses on Old Soul jazz

Shoup began playing the piano at age 6 but by 11 the budding musician had moved on to the drums. Two years later, Shoup had his first drum kit and started exploring the world of jazz and the complexity surrounding it.

Shoup holds a graduate degree in Jazz Studies from Michigan State University and has been a member of the Hope College Department of Music faculty since 2017. He is also an endorser for Vic Firth drum sticks and brushes, and Zildjian cymbals.

“I was first drawn to jazz drummers simply because of the mystique that surrounded them,” Shoup said. “I would read drum magazines and books, and there was always this sense of reverence for this certain set of people and legendary drummers. Then one day I was introduced to recordings of Tony Williams and Elvin Jones. I knew their names, but I had never heard them play, and when I did, I realized there was a whole lot more to playing the drum set than what I had learned from listening to my rock and jam band records.”

Shoup’s love of jazz led him to becoming the driving force behind Jazz Tuesdays, which he helps to book, and affords him an opportunity to jam with the various performers he helps to bring in. He also saw it as a chance to improve his skills.

“There's no question that I have improved as a player during the almost five years we've been doing it,” Shoup said. “One can spend ten hours a day in the woodshed, earn a doctorate in music, and still not really ‘get’ it. There are some things that can only be learned on the bandstand, and part of the reason I started doing the Tuesday’s thing was because I wanted to surround myself with players that are better than I am, as often as possible. I am very fortunate to have a full calendar - currently booked solid about six months out - including some pretty high-profile musicians from around the country.”

Jeff’s new band focuses on Old Soul jazz, and for Summer Solstice, he’ll be joined onstage by Trent Harris on tenor saxophone, Cory Allen on guitar, and Jim Alfredson on Hammond organ.

“Trent lives in Jackson and we met through the jam session at Moriarty's,” Shoup said. “Cory and I met while in school at MSU and have played many, many gigs together. I've been performing with Jim Alfredson for almost twenty years. He's the founder of the highly successful trio, organissimo. He's now in high demand as a player and travels all over the world. We're very fortunate to have him on hand for the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival.”

Leathers' death a huge loss for jazz community

A somber note for Shoup - as well as the festival itself - is the recent death of Lansing resident and jazz drummer Lawrence Leathers, who was murdered June 2 in New York City. The drummer was beloved by the jazz community, and was a rising star on an international scale.

Leathers performed at Summer Solstice a few times, sitting in with other acts whenever he was in town and the opportunity arose.

Shoup admits that while he will miss his friend immensely, he’s hoping the grieving jazz community uses Summer Solstice as a way to celebrate the loss of Leathers through music.

Services for Leathers will take place June 29 at New Mount Calvary Baptist Church at 3800 W. Miller Rd. in Lansing.

“Lawrence was a friend,” Shoup said. “He used to come out and sit in at my gig when I think he was still in high school. He was already playing great then, and it was a pleasure to see him keep taking ever bigger steps upward. I only saw him a few times after he left Lansing, but when I did see him it was like not a day had gone by. His success didn't change him a bit. He's an example to me that if you really want to do something, make it happen.”

Aside from his own performance, Shoup is looking forward to catching other acts like The Becoming Quartet, and Gelispe’s set with Haque.

Jeff is quick to admit performing never gets old.

“The experience of playing can be almost like a drug,” Shoup said. “If everyone is listening and really working together and playing together, the music almost plays itself. It just happens. It kind of feels like meditation and I'm always trying to get back to that place, where it's all just beautiful and effortless. It doesn't happen that easily. But when it happens, when the players open up to the music and think, ‘let's see where we can take this,’ that's an amazing feeling.”

For more information about Summer Solstice, visit eljazzfest.com.





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