Kevin Hackler Quintet

w/ Morimoto

Tues. Nov. 27

9 p.m.


Pour House

1977 Maybank Hwy.

(843) 571-4343

“Wishful Thinking” from the album Absalon
Audio File

“When you get a lot of guys who are well-versed in jazz, you can play a lot of old stuff,” says local trumpeter Kevin Hackler, “but when you mix standard jazz education with modern influences — rock music we all grew up with like Nirvana, The Beatles, and Smashing Pumpkins — you can do something else. It can be a weird cross between the two.”

Hackler and his quintet — electric guitarist Dave Linaburg, drummer Stuart White, vibraphonist Michael Hanf, and bassist Ben Wells — are ready to present an “Absalon Live” set at the Pour House this Tuesday in celebration of the official release of their debut album, Absalon.

Hanf came up with the title (which also serves as the band’s nickname) last year, mistakenly referring to Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!. The name “Absalon” is an actual proper noun, most often associated with a 13th century bishop from Holland.

“It was a cool-sounding name, but really had no significance at first,” says Hackler. “This quintet is the same group of guys who recorded the album. We’ve had a lot of opportunities to perform the stuff at different venues around town. We played at the Circular Congregational Church two weeks ago, which was a great chance to perform some of the quieter material. At the clubs and bars, we usually play the louder, more rockin’ material. The band can morph into whatever for each venue. For this Pour House gig, I think we’ll do a more high-energy set. We’ll still play the quieter tunes, but with more energy for that crowd. In settings like that, this band really shines.”

Hackler, 26, first started playing music at the age of seven on guitar and drums. He picked up a trumpet when he was 10 and has stayed mainly with the horn, despite his continued interest in drumming. His first music reading lessons came in the school band, for which he played horn. His family moved to Myrtle Beach from Galax, Va., during his middle school years. He enrolled at the College of Charleston in 1999, where he studied and performed with professors and students, including the Andrew Thielen Big Band, trumpeter Lyle van Wie, and others.

After earning his degree in music in 2003, he branched out into the local music scene in various rock, jazz, and acoustic bands and with combos, officially joining rock/prog band Live Oak for a lengthy stint. He gradually built a repertoire of jazz standards and original pieces to perform with his own acoustic combos and regularly gigs with small combos every week at downtown venues High Cotton and Mercato.

“The experience with Live Oak was what really got me into the local clubs for the first time,” he remembers. “Eventually, I started playing at Meritäge and other spots. You can’t really sell yourself as just a solo trumpet player, so I put a three-piece together, which is easy to handle — and easy to pay.”

Hackler’s current quintet is just one of many conglomerations featuring local players Linaburg, White, Hanf, and Wells (both Linaburg and Wells are in opening band Morimoto). They’re practically a tag-team gang of jazz cats, capable of all sorts of musical mischief in any gig situation.

“Most of the musicians on the jazz scene here know each other,” says Hackler. “It really is a small community of people and everyone takes an interest in everyone else. I think there are very many sounds happening here … but I wouldn’t say that we have a collective ‘sound’ that Charleston can call its own. We all know a lot of the same tunes, though!”

Whether through an improv-based or composition-based approach, Hackler and his fellow musicians work with high technique, big ideas, and refined attitudes. Their complex, expressive, and often innovative music is several wide steps away from the usual rock and funk on the local circuit.

“We really started this thing off as a jam session at Johnson’s Pub every Tuesday night,” he says. “It was a good combination of guys. I thought it was cool to have the electric guitar mixed in with the other instruments. After that first Tuesday night, it clicked and everyone was into it. Shortly after, we decided to actually record an album.”

Elegant, spacious, and confident, their new eight-song collection resembles a seasoned veteran act with a world of experience. Recorded and mastered with local engineer Tim Holbrooke at the helm, Absalon is truly a collaborative effort. The band congregated earlier this year in an office on Sullivan’s Island to lay down the tracks. Fortunately, things fell into place beautifully.

“We moved some furniture around, set up just like a regular jazz session, and recorded live with no overdubs,” says Hackler. “We did everything on the first or second take. We did all the tracks in about seven hours. Tim had a lot of old analog equipment — tube amps and compressors and things like that — so, it was the best of both analog and digital quality.”

While music of Absalon resembles hot studio sessions from New York jazz studios circa 1960 or so, he had a more international, atmospheric, specific sound in mind, based on a recording by Tunisian virtuoso Anouar Brahem. “Brahem’s [1997 album] Thimar is one of many on the German label ECM,” says the bandleader. “I don’t know how or where they did it, but the sound of the album — not the sound of the music, but the sound of the room they recorded in — that’s what I had in mind going into this.”

Listening to the bright-minded and exotic grooves on Absalon, it’s likely some young up-and-comer will be saying the same thing of Hackler one day soon.