Jammin' with jazz in DickinsonThe BrickHouse Grille Combo has found the perfect setting for its improvisational jazz arrangements.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
The BrickHouse Grille Combo has found the perfect setting for its improvisational jazz arrangements.
The combo, consisting of Brian Nozny, Cy Hartman, Mike Compton and Keith Traquair, plays Thursdays at the BrickHouse Grille — a rustic restaurant in downtown Dickinson.
Traquair, who teaches band at Dickinson High School, plays keyboard with the combo, which organized three years ago after a gig for a benefit.
“We play off each other,” Traquair said. “Mike may take a couple solos, then I take a couple solos and we switch. A song is not exactly the same — ever.”
He said the fan-base has taken off, especially this last year.
“The clientele has changed,” he said. “When we first started, it was just people in the community who liked jazz and right now we’re seeing a lot of people in the oil industry.”
“The neat thing about it, is there’s nothing really like this, not even in Bismarck,” Traquair added. “Now days, the place is hopping all the time.”
Traquair appreciates the creativity of jazz, with the musicians reading the chord changes and the players taking turns with the lead melodies.
Traquair has been playing piano for more than 50 years.
“The older you get, the more relaxed and less tense you become and you’re willing to accept changes — we’re having a wonderful time,” he said.
Compton, who is the Dickinson State University director of bands, plays alto saxophone with the combo, because it’s his personal preference.
“It’s my creative outlet,” he said. “My job is as a director, but I wanted to play, so we created an opportunity for one.”
Compton described jazz as the only true American musical art form. It sprung up in different places throughout the United States, each with a little different style.
“Most people relate to the New Orleans’ style,” he said.
Compton directs the jazz program at DSU — a program he describes as being in its infancy.
“It’s drawing a lot of talent into Dickinson State — most are coming from schools that don’t have a jazz program opportunity,” he said. “It’s a little scary to have them improvise — I hand them the chords and tell them to make something up. It scares the living dickens out of them.”
Hartman farms near Regent, but plays acoustic upright bass with the combo.
“We don’t rehearse, we play on Thursdays,” he said. “I love to play, that’s the bottom line for me.”
Hartman credits his interest in music to his father, who also was a musician. He studied performance music at New Mexico State University and played with the El Paso Symphony. He also toured with Roy Clark and Ella Fitzgerald, mostly with trombone. When his dad retired from farming, Hartman made the decision to return home.
“The BrickHouse is a great little place,” Hartman said. “A lot of people come specifically for our kind of music.”
He likes jazz because it’s free-form for the musicians.
“We’re always figuring out what to do and what everybody else is doing,” he said. “We take the same song and can play it four times, totally different every time.”
Nozny, who is director of DSU percussion studies, plays percussion with the combo.
He recalls the first time the combo played together.
“We had a grand old time, and thought, man, we need to do this more often,” Nozny said.
Nozny referenced the BrickHouse Grille as the perfect atmosphere.
“The audience is always receptive and Mike is great to work with,” he said.
Nozny also plays with the Bismarck Symphony, and considers the combo as another outlet to have fun.
“It’s a great fit for our business,” co-owner Mike Riesinger said. “We like to create a jazzy atmosphere — you feel you can step away for a while.”
Riesinger described the jazz combo as uncommon in western North Dakota.
“We have regular customers and we’re seeing an influx with the out-of-state traffic,” he said. “I think it brings a different feel to the restaurant and the area.”
Joelle and Robert Fruh are among the regular customers.
“We come because we love their music,” Joelle Fruh said. “We like the atmosphere. we like the music, it’s easy-going.”
The Fruhs enjoy all types of music, not just jazz.
“The neat thing on top of it, is they’re all local people — we have good talent around here. I think it’s wonderful BrickHouse features them. It makes the evening quite enjoyable.”
The combo will take a break in the summer.