Akron’s Acid Cats roam within jazz framework

By John Benson


Zachary Wolfe Nagi-Schehl plays in many bands around Akron, but it’s his group Acid Cats that truly piques his musical interest.

“It’s music I’ve always kind of enjoyed, and it’s frankly more fulfilling as a musician,” said bassist Nagi-Schehl. “It is more complex to play something different that I don’t think people are used to hearing very much of.”

Original acidic jazz is how Nagi-Schehl describes the music of the Acid Cats, which formed earlier this year. The group’s sound is very funk-oriented and groove heavy within a jazzy aesthetic but eschews any jam-band format. It’s not free-form and can be noisy at times.

Comparison-wise, Nagi-Schehl said the closest group that comes to mind is ’70s jazz-fusion act The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

“Everything we do is very intricate and very precisely worked out,” Nagi-Schehl said. “We know exactly what part comes next in a song. There’s concrete forms, concrete phrases to everything we do. It’s just some of the lines and mostly the solos that we play are improvised.”

The Acid Cats, which has a few dozen shows under its belt, will be making its Youngstown debut Saturday at Cedars. Also on the bill is local band Dr. Freshbutter, which helped bring the Rubber City act to town.

“Youngstown is close and somewhere we can hit a new fan base an hour out of here,” Nagi-Schehl said. “And the main reason we booked it was when the Youngstown band Dr. Freshbutter came to Akron, we played a show with them. We dug those cats and their sound and decided we’d do some more stuff in the future.”

The quintet — Nagi-Schehl, Michael Vincent (guitar), Tommy Lehman (trumpet), Cameron Bickley (drums) and Justin Tibbs (tenor sax) — is now supporting its debut effort, the EP “Crosby Street,” which was released this past August.

“The title track is a prime example of the funk end of things,” Nagi-Schehl said. “It’s very groove-oriented, and then there are songs like ‘Dream Door’ or ‘TranscendDance,’ which are more like hodgepodge of bits of pieces that tie together in the end. Those could sound jam-bandy.”

When asked if the Acid Cats’ music goes over people’s heads, Nagi-Schehl said most unsuspecting audience members enjoy the sound because it’s something different. More so, with a name like Acid Cats, it’s no surprise the band has a certain goal.

“Definitely — we’re hoping to blow some minds,” Nagi-Schehl said.

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