Jake Koelzer: Virtue and the Vice

Multiple voices, strings, drum-loops, and more, which produce an opulent, layered sound.

New Albums
This fella has just about the finest vocal instrument around.

Bozeman singer/composer Jake Koelzer, owner of a golden baritone, has released his second album, which he crowdfunded through Kickstarter. It’s got 14 of his own songs, lushly recorded in Bozeman with stellar accompanists.

Besides Koelzer on piano, core musicians include long-time collaborator Jake Fleming on acoustic guitars, bass, and saxophone; Drew Fleming (no relation) on drums; Chris Cundy on organ and piano; Johnny Sanders, bass; and Craig Hall, electric guitar. Several other performers added vocal and instrumental talents on a couple cuts, too.

“Bside” opens with a modern piano riff à la Bruce Hornsby and a hip pop-rock sound; Koelzer scats a bit on the complicated arrangement.

On “Circus,” a snare drum creates a clickety-clack vibe, and train horns and bluesy harmonica set the scene as the caravan hits town. It’s jazzy and suave, but with a dark undercurrent in the lyrics: “Don’t want your cash, no silver, no gold,” Koelzer intones, “but we … will … take your soul.”

“Firefly” has a dreamy feel; Koelzer doubles his voice on the lead, and sings harmony with himself, too. He and Fleming programmed effects to create these sounds. In Koelzer’s words, it’s “everything the listener can hear that isn’t a cited instrument.” Meaning multiple voices, strings, drum loops, and more, which produce an opulent, layered sound.

“Vocalise/Ode to Fire” is riveting. It’s just over a minute long with just Koelzer on piano. He could be a lonely jazz wolf, keening soft long wo-ah-ohs, swooping up high into a pure falsetto, and down again. His technique is outstanding; you can’t hear him take a breath unless he wants you to.

This fella has just about the finest vocal instrument around, and it shines on this sleek album. Koelzer recently transplanted to Portland, Ore., so he could explore wider musical horizons. Believe me, they’ll open up for him!

He plans a winter and spring tour in 2017, so let’s hope he comes our way.

Visit the artist at jakekoelzer.com.

– Mariss McTucker