Rob Scheps and Core-tet will play at Chapel
If you were scanning calendar listings around these parts in 2010, you’d have frequently seen the name Rob Scheps, or, in fuller form, The Rob Scheps Core-tet, a jazz group under his leadership.
Scheps, a saxophonist (and sometime flutist) and his band were mainstays in the Hudson Valley. Then, suddenly, the group wasn’t on the schedule; it turns out Scheps had relocated to Portland, Oregon, with occasional visits to New York.
Now he’s back on the East Coast for a longer stay and happily reuniting with the Core-tet, which consists of Cameron Brown (bass), Jim O’Connor (trumpet and flugelhorn), Anthony Pinciotto (drums) and Jamie Reynolds (piano). The band will perform at an old haunt, the Chapel Restoration in Cold Spring, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday (Oct. 6).
“I’m thrilled to be back in Cold Spring, especially at the chapel,” Scheps says. “When I was living there I performed there and also saw lots of other concerts, jazz and classical, mainly, which is primarily attributable to [Sunday Music Series producer] Barbara De Silva, who is a great champion of music, with great taste.
“It was incredible for me to walk down the hill on Main Street and perform music at a venue where someone like [jazz pianist] Toshiko Akiyoshi played a solo concert. I did a few concerts with my own band there, and also one with the late, great [jazz guitarist] John Abercrombie.
“When I was in Cold Spring, Barbara let me wedge my way in to play on their Steinway grand, and it is one of the best pianos I’ll ever play. The chapel is the perfect place to play at in October, when the weather is fine. I love the building, the setting and the excitement of presenting live music in a village that loves it.”
Scheps has been composing — on a piano, seldom on a sax — since his teens, when he attended the Manhattan School of Music’s prep division while in high school. He studied at the New England Conservatory before returning to New York City. Over the years, he has played with Ray Charles, Gil Evans, Linda Ronstadt, Buddy Rich, Lou Rawls and lots of others, traversing genres.
Today he is a bandleader, working with people “with whom we’ve built up an intimacy through the years,” in New York, Denver, Kansas City, Portland, Seattle and Honolulu, among other places. “There are great musicians all over but more of them in New York City and L.A. than anywhere else,” he says.
In the New York City area, Scheps has had the same personnel for 12 years, and the quintet plays regularly at Smalls in a longstanding, sporadic residency. They’ll be playing “exciting, straight-ahead” jazz there Oct. 12, as well as some of his new compositions.
The pandemic shutdown wreaked havoc, he says. For nearly two years, there was almost nowhere to perform, “although I did have one or two steady gigs each month. Ninety percent of my living is performing. I write for money, I compose and arrange for a living. With Zoom and Skype, I didn’t have to change my teaching routines, at least, but so much else was canceled.”
When the lockdown hit, Scheps was in Kansas City and wound up staying there with friends for two months. “I did a couple of livestreams from the backyard, but in a large part performing went almost completely defunct. I got angry, I got depressed, and then I got to work.”
Over the Labor Day weekend in 2020, after he had returned to Oregon, he “got a flash of compositional inspiration” and wrote 23 songs, eight of which are included on Rob Scheps & The TBA Band Live at the Churchill School, released in February 2021 and available at robscheps.bandcamp.com. There are enough songs yet to be recorded, he notes, for a Vol. 2.
The Chapel Restoration is located at 45 Market St. in Cold Spring, adjacent to the Metro-North station. Tickets are $25 at chapelrestoration.org. Scheps is also playing at venues in New York City, Stone Ridge and Woodstock between Oct. 9 and 18; see robschepsmusic.com.