Sultry jazz duo Acute Inflections closes out Winter JAS Café series
If you like your jazz classic with modern interpretations, you’ll love Acute Inflections.
The self-described R&B jazz duo — made up of singer Elasea Douglas and standup bassist Sadiki Pierre — will be making their Aspen debut Friday and Saturday as part of the Winter JAS Café series at the Here House.
Their sound and style is classic New York jazz with influences of R&B and other contemporary genres, while their catalogue consists of original music and unique interpretations of contemporary music, with a range of covers from Bob Marley and Camilla Cabello to Billie Eilish.
Douglas channels the great sirens of jazz — Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington — and manages to work in a lot of humor and fun into the show.
Douglas, who grew up in Queens, New York, singing in the glee club at her Catholic elementary school, remembered the thrill of those early days of performing.
“We performed for a church service, and there was something about it that really was exciting,” she said. “I knew I was going to share something that I really am excited about with these people. I didn’t know how I was going to do that or if they would like it, but I just wanted to jump in and do this.”
Pierre, from Manhattan, grew up in a musical family who kept instruments around the house and learned to play piano at a young age. He picked up the standup bass as a way to get out of class and avoid homework.
“The bass specifically was really me just being a smart aleck in the sixth grade and wanting to get out of class,” he said. “One of the orchestra teachers said, ‘Well, you have to pick an instrument.’ And I’m like, ‘All right, what instrument does no one else play?’ I’m thinking I don’t have any competition; I don’t have to take it that seriously. And she said, ‘Well, no one plays that because it’s too big.’ ‘OK, I’ll do that,’ and it’s kind of backfired. Here I am lugging this big thing around. I should have put more thought into that decision.”
The duo was on separate journeys when they met over a decade ago.
Douglas, who is also a songwriter, dancer, and actress, started her career in theater performing in both off-Broadway and Broadway shows. Despite her success, she admitted she felt unfulfilled until she began putting energy into writing and recording her own music, which she performed in legendary venues around New York including The Knitting Factory, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Cafe Wha?, Iridium Jazz Club, and Groove Cafe.
Pierre, whose musical talent was recognized when he was young, eschewed attending a music school and decided to study aviation instead, while also performing various genres with different collaborators on the side.
He found classical music too stifling, which led to studying and mastering jazz, allowing him more creative freedom. Shortly after graduating from college, his frustration with being musically pigeon-holed led him to retire the bass for 10 years.
“On the bass, you can start to feel oppressed because it’s not the instrument that you get to creatively express yourself as much as like a vocalist or a saxophone or violin,” he said. “I wanted to try different genres that I’d want to mix, and I think I just got tired of hearing, ‘No, just stick to the baseline and just play with on the sheet music.’ I figured I’ll go somewhere else with my ideas are appreciated.”
When he met Douglas, he was dabbling in producing his own music, and Douglas took it upon herself to give him feedback. She soon realized that he knew more about music than he was letting on, so he admitted to her that he had played the bass many years before.
“Fun little fact: Bass is actually my favorite instrument of all time,” she said. “He didn’t believe me, of course. I said, ‘Go get your bass. Wherever it is, go get it, and start playing again.'”
She invited him to join one of her showcases, but when the time came to perform, none of the other band members showed up. They realized then that they were meant to be a duo — in music and in life.
“We had to grow into making it work,” Douglas said. “Communication, being honest, leaving space for the other to create. Trusting each other and giving each other space to take a break from each other’s energy I think has kept us going. I think we earned some bragging rights.”
This year, they are celebrating 10 years of their partnership with shows across the United States, followed by a short tour in Sicily between Sept. 1 -11.
For more information: acuteinflections.com/
Where: Here House, Aspen
When: Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. shows
* Both 7 p.m. shows are currently sold out (Call 970-920-4996 to join waitlist)