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Jazz musician Sean Carney to provide ‘intimate’ performance for Columbus concertgoers

Sean Carney knew growing up that if he was going to be a musician, he had to give it his all.

With the support of his family, the musician decided to pursue jazz as a career during his junior year of high school. He said his family’s musical background paved the way for his career. 

His father is a bassist and music teacher, and his uncle was a jazz studies professor at Ohio State in the late ’80s to early ’90s.

“Their standards were a little intimidating,” Carney said. “But there was always an indication that if you’re gonna do it, you better be good.”

Carney and guest performer Shaun Booker are scheduled to perform at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lincoln Theatre as part of a concert series called “Backstage at the Lincoln.”

Carney and Booker met 20 years ago while working together at the corporate office of Value City department stores in northeast Columbus, off Westerville Road. Eventually, they decided the corporate world was not for them.

“Both of us quit our jobs at Value City to pursue music,” Carney said. “We worked together in the corporate world and now we’re working together in music world.”

In 2012, the duo collaborated for the first time at Blues for a Cure, a Columbus-based charity benefit concert headed by Carney and other musicians. It was founded on the idea that blues music can make the world a better place, according to the charity’s website. 

Carney said the concertgoers should expect a lot of audience interaction and intimacy at the show.

“It’ll be neat, the audience will be sitting on stage with us,” he said. “We’re essentially going to open up the entire back stage as a reception area. It will be an intimate performance.”

Rolanda Copley, publicist at the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA), said this vibe is in tune with the “Backstage at the Lincoln” series, which is designed to offer an intimate setting for concerts.

“It offers patrons the extraordinary opportunity to be seated on stage with the featured local artist, providing concertgoers an up close and personal performance,” Copley said in an email.

He calls his style of music “jump blues,” a ’40s and ’50s music style that combined up-tempo jazz and blues. He also said his sound is inherently local. 

“I like to think of my music as a local product. Most of the people that inspired me were from Columbus,” Carney said. “(Pianist) Hank Marr was always available for me and set a great example. Gene Walker, who retired from the Ohio State University years ago in the jazz department, is a dear friend and will always be inspiration to me.”

Carney’s career was propelled in 2007 when he took first place at the International Blues Challenge (IBC,) held in Memphis, Tenn. He said it was an unexpected achievement.

“That was my third time playing there,” he said. “Going back to Memphis on my own with a trio, we really just wanted to play our own music, have a great time and hope we could do something. I don’t think any of us expected to take first place.”

After that, Carney and his band received funding from the IBC for a year of gigs. This allowed him to travel across the country and play on big stages in states such as New York, New Jersey and Florida.

He said it is important to have an authentic sound, rather than use digital technology to perfect his songs. 

“I’ve rejected a lot of technology that is incorporated into music, digital processing and effects on guitars,” Carney said. “I like to restrict myself with the same limitations in the era I enjoy listening to. I like being relevant, modern and creative at the same time.”

Some students that did not know about the concert are open-minded about attending. 

Rachel Edelman, a fourth-year in English and Jewish studies said she would attend the event if someone asked her to. 

“I don’t typically listen to (blues),” Edelman said. “But I’m always up for something new.”

Regardless, Carney said jazz can stay relevant today as long as pop artists continue to incorporate it into their music.

“You still have guys like John Mayer, pop artists who are pretty serious about it,” Carney said. “It’s up to the artists to keep it relevant. I wish there were more people like John Mayer who would perpetuate it.”

Tickets cost $10, with limited seating and are available through Ticketmaster and at CAPA’s Ticket Center located at 39 E. State St. The Lincoln Theatre is located at 769 E. Long St.

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