Abstract Citizen Weaves Magic at Dunedin Brewery

[Featured image created at the show by outstanding local artist Yhali Ilan. He put it in the tip jar!]

I have been a fan of Aaron Lebos for more than half a decade. The superb guitarist has several music vehicles, including Aaron Lebos Reality, a superb jazz fusion trio. For the most part, that same band transformed itself into Anemoia, an outstanding experimental music trio. And a year ago or so he put together Abstract Citizen, an ethereal, jazzy quartet. I had missed their tour out from Miami this summer when they played Dunedin Brewery and in Cocoa.

I was excited to see they were heading to Dunedin again Friday, December 2, with a show the next night at the amazing Blue Jay Listening Room in Jacksonville Beach. What should I wear (always a consideration)? I don’t have an Abstract Citizen shirt, but I do have an Anemoia shirt.

That decision turned out to be far more prescient that I could have imagined.

Prescient because the ethereal jazz aspect intersected heavily with the essence of the Anemoia experience, making for a brilliant night of wide-ranging music.

The music of Abstract Citizen centers around the riveting, captivating vocals of Justine Garcia. There are some songs with lyrics, but more often she is singing — vocalizing — wordlessly. Think Flora Purim, Bobby McFerrin, and others. Sometimes it borders on scat singing, other times on vocalese. Regardless of what you call it, she was stunning. And the trio playing with her are amazing.

They opened set one with a brand new tune, currently untitled. It was so lovely, ethereal, jazzy; it set the tone for the evening. “Soul of a Nation” is a tune available on YouTube. The live lovely jazz was more energetic than the video, a harbinger of things to come. Marty Quinn on upright bass had an excellent feature. The quartet followed with “Ukes Not Nukes.” Garcia’s wordless incantations filled the room, and Lebos offered a tremendous guitar solo, the first of many on the evening.

Justine Garcia & Marty Quinn – Abstract Citizen – Dunedin Brewery – 12.02.22

Lebos pointed out that most of their music was original but that the next song was a cover — of a Peruvian folk song, “Maria Lando.” Drummer Brahm Masla used his hands to play his kit as Garcia sang in Spanish. Eventually Masla would play with sticks, including a fine feature section, before returning to hand drums. Lebos’ solo was gorgeous.

Things went decidedly in the Anemoia experimental direction on “Kid Dreams,” introduced by Quinn on bass. Garcia’s vocalizing again captivated, and then there was a dramatic tempo change. Lebos crouched down to play with his bank of pedals, typical for an Anemoia show. He got a really cool wah-wah effect. There was a drum feature, then bass by Quinn. 

As if that weren’t different territory enough, they closed set one with another cover, a fabulous reading of “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana. Garcia was incredible, as were the trio, and Lebos was amazing on guitar as Masla again played hand drums.

I’ve used up all the superlatives already, and there are two sets to go (well, one and then a quickie).

Lebos acknowledged that the crowd seemed ready for more than what he and I had originally anticipated on the evening as he and Masla huddled on what to open with (me in earshot), opting for the more avant tune “Avocado.” By now the crowd had thinned a bit from the early-evening talkers, and most were paying rapt attention (except for the two broads who talked loudly throughout the set). “Avocado” began with percussion — on Quinn’s bass fiddle! He also had a fine solo during the ethereal and spacey wordless tune.

Abstract Citizen – Dunedin Brewery – 12.02.22

“Origins” also began with bass percussion and hand drums as well, Garcia’s vocalizing reminding so much of Flora Purim, pure magic. There was a new sound; it was Masla playing the rim of a pint beer glass! Lebos again toyed with his pedals, and Garcia simply soared. Lebos next asked if it would be ok to play a ballad, and “Springs” was offered, with a lovely guitar solo.

Abstract Citizen delved further into Anemoia territory on “Chasing Yourself” with a trippy intro, vocalese, the tempo way up, Masla playing cymbals that were mounted flat on the wall behind him, and arco (bowed) bass. WOW!

Garcia uses a processor on occasion for vocal effects called a TC-Helicon VoiceLive Play. She used it very effectively on “Abstract Citizen” as she and Lebos opened the tune. Quinn had another fine feature as Masla used brushes to create a great mood with Lebos comping before he switched back to sticks as the tune blew up, Garcia with mind-blowing sounds emanating. End set two.

Abstract Citizen – Dunedin Brewery – 12.02.22

However, it was 11:20, and music ends at midnight (more or less). As they returned at 11:45, Lebos said, “We’re a jazz band, supposedly [I think that was it]; we ought to swing one jazz tune.” And swing they did, great vocals, wah-wah guitar, superb bass, and a quick drum feature. Then Lebos said, “The last one’s crazy stuff.” Truer words… The trio were killing this song you would not have recognized, except that Garcia was singing… “Sweet Home Alabama”! FABULOUS!

– Abstract Citizen – Dunedin Brewery – 12.02.22

Jacksonville: your turn tonight! 

[ONE: untitled, Soul of a Nation, Ukes Not Nukes, Maria Lando?, Kid Dreams, Heart-Shaped Box; TWO: Avocado, Origins, Springs, Chasing Yourself, Abstract Citizen; THREE: Staying Positive, Sweet Home Alabama]



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