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Jazz-inspired Chicken Hawk Bird Getters spreads its wings

Courtesy of CHBG Musik

This is part of our weekly series titled “Columbus’ Own,” where we profile a local band every Thursday.

As the saying goes, “birds of a feather flock together,” but all one local band wants is to stand out.

The Chicken Hawk Bird Getters, an alternative jazz group, continues to surprise some crowds with its impromptu acts as it brings its own twist to the jazz scene.

The four-member band, made up of all Columbus residents, formed in 2008 with a mission to give a new face and meaning to jazz music, said Joey Gurwin, percussionist for the band.

“The jazz scene is very uptight about what happens and doesn’t happen,” Gurwin said. “We kind of want to kick in the doors to that and give jazz music a ‘black eye’ in a way.”

The band has since labeled its music as “jazz offensive,” which refers to the edginess and rough sound it adds to get back to the “roots” of the genre.

“That’s what jazz offensive is, really – really pulling that emotional response out of people again that they had years ago with jazz music,” Gurwin said.

The band spends a lot of time recording at Oranjudio Recording Studio, located at 1051 N. 4th St.

“We like to catch people off guard – that’s part of whole ‘jazz-offensive’ thing,” Gurwin said.

Chicken Hawk Bird Getters’ is scheduled to perform next 9 p.m. April 27 with Evan Oberla Project and J Rawls at Skully’s Music-Diner, located at 1151 N. High St., but a spontaneous performance on a street corner wouldn’t be unexpected in the meantime.  

“We like to play in odd places sometimes, like abandoned dance studios or outside at random places in the city,” Gurwin said. “We’re just as likely to play at Skully’s on Friday as we are to barrel into a city pool in the middle of summer and play a set.”

Where the band plays is just as important to its artistic expression of what music it chooses to play, Gurwin said.

Jahrie Smith, drummer for the band, said the band just wants people to get the musical experience they might not normally get otherwise. The band members want their art and expression to be heard and hope to put a positive spin on someone’s day.

Just as the band might not always perform at the most conventional venues, the same kind of freedom is applied to the music it delivers. One minute the band could be performing an improvised rendition of “Gz and Hustlas” by Snoop Dogg, and the next minute a series of jazz ballads could be sounding from its instruments.

“We have sort of created our own genre of music because we didn’t find any of the current genres suiting for what we wanted to say,” Gurwin said.

The band also chooses its lineup of songs on impulse during its performances.

“We let the energy of the show kind of dictate where we go, so we don’t write out our songs before the show,” Gurwin said. “We just go out there and play and just let whatever happens, happen.”

The band refers to its style as a form of jazz but is just as likely to pull songs from other genres.

“Every band is an artistic expression to the people who are in it, so our chemistry is derived from our diversity, and that’s what we try to present,” Smith said.

The diversity and originality that the band brings has received recognition from the likes of “Columbus Alive” and was once nominated as “best jazz group” by the Columbus Music Awards.

“Whether someone loves what we do or is deeply offended by what we do, either way we know that they’re paying attention and really that’s the point of art,” Gurwin said.

The band, in the midst of producing a vinyl record, has released two live albums, “To the Moon” and “Sketches,” which can be purchased online or at local record stores for about $7. It has also released an instrumental studio single “Don’t Trip.”

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