Salisbury Press

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Fusion Trio recording CD at ‘Jazz Upstairs’ concert

Thursday, January 10, 2019 by GEORGE VANDOREN Special to The Press in Focus

The Fusion Jazz Trio Miller Symphony Hall concert, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11, marks the second time the trio has recorded a CD in the Rodale Community Room “Jazz Upstairs” series.

The ensemble of Vernon Mobley, drums; Brian Bortz, bass, and George Grund, keyboards, are joined by Joe Mixon, guitar, and Chet Brown, vocals.

Fusion Jazz Trio recorded its first CD, “Fusionistic,” at Miller Symphony Hall.

Says Mobley, “I love recording in the studio, but there’s something special when there’s a crowd there. It ups everyone’s game. There’s a little bit of danger, but always the possibility of some magic happening.”

Mobley, who hails from Philadelphia, started the trio in 2002 with his brother Warren as primary bass player. Mobley was new to the Lehigh Valley jazz scene:

“I happened to meet Brian Bortz by chance at a church concert. We exchanged numbers and eventually I needed a bass player. He’s now been with the trio close to 13 years.”

Grund is also a long-time member of the trio.

Says Mobley, “I like the opportunity to play with the same guys. The more you play with a musician, the more you know about them and you can play with them in a very comfortable way. We have a lot of versatility. Brian and George always tend to say yes to my crazy musical ideas.”

Mixon has taught at the college level for more than 30 years. He has performed in music genres, from classical, to blues with the The Blue Professors, to reggae with The Big Wahu Caribbean Band. Mixon also heads the Artisan Jazz Trio. Bortz is bassist with the trio, as well.

Bortz plays with Philadelphia-based James Gerard Orchestra, the Last Thursday Band at Hotel Bethlehem, The Lehigh Valley Soul Project, Key Largo ... The Band, and the Brian Bortz Jazz Group. Most weekends he can be found with Praise Team at New Covenant Christian Community Church, Bethlehem.

Grund received a BA in Music Theory from West Chester University. He served with the 399th and 3rd Infantry Division Army Bands. Grund has played with the Coasters, Drifters, Ben E. King, Lisa Simone, Buzz Jones Big Band, Glenn Miller Orchestra, and Rob Stoneback Big Band.

Brown has long been a part of the Philadelphia music scene. He plays with the James Gerard Orchestra and is on the staff of Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Arts.

Of the “Jazz Upstairs” concert, Mobley says, “It will be a mix. Of course, we’ll do ‘Out of the Shadows,’ the title track. There will be some original compositions and songs that aren’t ours but that I think capture the personality of the musician who is featured.

“I want people to have an opportunity to experience these incredible musicians and their personalities, to understand a few things about these musicians. It’s my honor to share a stage with them.”

Concerning the trio’s “fusion” moniker, Mobley says, “For me, the fusion part comes from the idea that many jazz musicians have a jazz background and dabble in other thing. That’s not the case with any of the guys in this band. They are unique musicians with very different backgrounds, and we apply jazz principles to our songs.

“My background is gospel and R&B. George and Brian have different backgrounds. We wrap all this together.

“We’ll take a song that people are familiar with, that’s a good song, and apply our backgrounds in a jazz way.

“You’ll have a different experience with that song. There may be some magic that happens in the song. I want to make sure my audience is always intrigued.”

Tickets: Miller Symphony Hall box office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown;; 610-432-6715