Every show that The Black Market Trust band plays is like walking a tightrope. The Los Angeles quintet combines propulsive, intricate jazz virtuosity on acoustic guitars, violin, upright bass and drums with robust, effervescent Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies, and it whips standards like “Fly Me To The Moon,” “Cheek To Cheek” and “You Make Me Feel So Young” into sweeping, multi-layered passion plays.
Onstage, the group is a surge of syncopated rhythms, dizzying harmonies and non-stop classic tunes. The technical term for what the group plays is “gypsy jazz.” Imagine the late, legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt fronting the Gipsy Kings, and you’ll get the idea.
And because the band has to balance complex vocal harmonies with dazzling instrumental interplay, it can be a tough gig sometimes.
“It’s definitely a high-wire act,” says The Black Market Trust singer, lead guitarist and co-founder Jeffrey Radaich. “Especially when there’s the extra added kink of performing live. When you’re just playing guitar, you can have that energy and still be technically precise. But then you add singing in there and now you have to project emotion.”
The only solution, Radaich says, is to keep playing and singing, and let the chips fall where they may.
“There’s a danger of maybe missing some notes here or there,” he says, “which isn’t the end of the world because sometimes people like to see that a little bit. I think people like to see the human aspect of things. And hopefully, we’re smooth enough that if we do hit a few wrong notes, nobody notices.”
What’s interesting is that when the band released its first album back in 2012, The Black Market Trust — performing at The Spinning Jenny in Greer on Sunday, Jan. 19 — didn’t have to worry about singing. It was an all-instrumental, no-vocals group that was actually a side project for all of the members.
“There were just three of us the time,” Radaich says, “and I think we just did (an album) because we were bored and we wanted to make a record. We didn’t have any grand plans of it being a band or anything. We didn’t tour on it because we were all working in other bands.”
But after that album came out, both Radaich and bassist Brian Netzley fell in love with the gypsy-jazz sound, and they both ended up playing in acclaimed guitarist Gonzalo Bergara’s band.
“We worked in Gonzalo’s band for six years,” Radaich says. “And that was a heavy gypsy-jazz instrumental act; it was really musician-y type music.”
As much as Radaich and Netzley loved Bergara’s music, though, the two musicians, who’d played together since high school, felt that they could form their own group and give gypsy jazz a little more oomph.
“For lack of a better word, I missed doing a show,” Radaich says, “like an old-school rock show kind of sensibility. So, I figured we’ve got this Black Market Trust thing that we did, how about I just kind of build on that a little bit, and bring in a drummer (Brandon Laws) and a violin player (Nick Coventry) and stay true to the gypsy-jazz kind of sound that has been such a big part of my life, then change it up even more with those Beach Boys-kind of vocal harmonies?”
Add in rhythm guitarist Kale Stiles, and you’ve got the current lineup of The Black Market Trust. The only question then was what kind of material the members would record for the first album with the new lineup, which came out in 2016.
“A lot of it was trial and error,” Radaich says. “But the first song we tracked for the album was ‘Fly Me to the Moon.’ And I remember listening to the Frank Sinatra-Count Basie version of the song, and I thought, ‘Well, wait a second; what if we did this song and we arranged it with these acoustic instruments? That might sound really cool.’ It was kind of like an MTV Unplugged performance. I wanted to take this huge song and strip it all down where you can’t hide behind anything. And it worked.”
- What: The Black Market Trust
- When: 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 19
- Where: The Spinning Jenny, 107 Cannon St., Greer
- Tickets: $12 in advance, $16 at the door
- Info: 864-469-6416, https://www.thespinningjennygreer.com/