“Every night is different,” says pianist and bandleader Michael Bellar of his current musical adventures with the versatile jazz/experiemental trio As-Is Ensemble. “We’re here for creating music in the moment. I can promise something fresh.”
It wasn’t all that long ago that the New York/Asheville-based As-Is Ensemble popped onto the Charleston scene. During Jump, Little Children’s heyday they entranced audiences with charismatic compositions peppered with funky jazz overtones, attracting an impressive number of local fans.
With a friendship forged from their days together at the N.C. School for the Arts, Michael Bellar, founder, composer, and pianist of As-Is, frequently collaborated with Jump — often as a side project called Rosebud — keeping fans satisfied between tour visits.
As they head back to the Holy City as a part of their summer tour, Bellar, drummer Brad Wentworth, and bassist Rob Jost continue to reap the benefits of a job well done on their latest release, Like It Is. The three have toured and recorded together for nearly three years.
Always keeping a tight schedule, Bellar currently plays with the Brooklyn Qawwali Party and blues sensation Amos Lee, which has suited the musician well. “You can’t sit me down and say ‘play like that.'” says Bellar. “The wonderful thing about working with Amos is he lets me do my thing. He’s very open and trusts me.”
From the early days of jazz during the Harlem Renaissance to the fusion with funk of the 1960s and ’70s, improvisation has been a vital part of American music. It is something Bellar considers something of a commandment. “All my songs, they always have open sections where they can go anywhere,” he explains. “That’s what makes it so special.” —Laura Zapp
The As-Is Ensemble perform with opener Bill Carson on Wed. Jun. 27 at 9:30 p.m. at the Pour House (1977 Maybank Hwy., 571-4343). Cover is $8. See www.michaelbellar.com and
www.charlestonpourhouse.com for more.