Kalamazoo's "Lushh" redesigns R&B and hip hop in Kerrytown

Monday, September 25, 2017 - 8:01am

There is something about the sound of jazz, the smooth and rough edges blending into musical phrases, that speaks like words rather than melody. It’s not soulful –– it's a soul –– the meaning being passed from the musician to the listener.  This Tuesday, Kerrytown Concert Hall is presenting Lushh, a group of jazz studies majors with fresh ideas and electric beats. With original songs inspired by Kneebody, Thundercat, Hiatus Kaiyote, Snarky Puppy, Donny McCaslin and Kendrick Lamar, this performance will give a taste of modern day jazz.

This quintet is comprised of Western Michigan University students and alumni. Eddie Codrington, a senior, is on Tenor Saxophone. Andrew Saliba, an alumnus, strums the guitar. Grayson Nye, a senior, lites up the keyboard. Matthew Epperson, a junior, jams on the bass.  Madison George, a senior, drums out the beat.

We want to “take the tradition of a jazz ensemble and electrify it,” Codrington, co-founder of the band, said. The group draws influence from across all genres, including hip hop, R&B and jazz to mix it all into something non-genre specific and new.

To create an electric jazz sound, the group uses a wide array of eclectic instruments. Instead of an acoustic bass, a synthesized or electric bass is used. Pedal effects on the guitar also heighten the charged harmonics. In addition to the saxophone, Codrington also plays the EWI, an Electronic Wind Instrument that operates like a keyboard but is shaped like a saxophone. With inspiration from James Blake, Codrington “saved up some bread” to buy a device that adds a unique texture to their sound.  

At Western, no group of this sort has existed before. Yet that was the kind of music Codrington desired to make. The missing music style on campus drove Codrington to ask his friends about creating their own band. Moral of the story: always say yes when someone asks you to join a band.

“[We] started small, just kinda jamming and stuff. And then it grew and here we are,” Codrington said.  

Now the band travels all over Michigan. Based in Kalamazoo, they have played in Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and the Detroit area. The band is making plans for a summer tour that will reach over to Chicago as well. Codrington is originally from Ann Arbor and is excited to come back home for the chance to play at Kerrytown Concert House.

“It’s a really amazing venue for me, because I’m from Ann Arbor," he said. "A lot of really high class musicians have played there. It's a great opportunity for us."

Lushh’s music is largely original, though they may play a cover or two at the performance. Their single “Speckles of Bronze and Blonde,” will send chilling vibrations through your core in the first twenty seconds. The saxophone is particularly emotional and strong. Released last December, this song and others are available online on Bandcamp. 

“All of us have contributed music to group," Codrington said. "We each have different writing styles. I’m kinda meticulous in details, I write everything myself and then bring it to the group. Madison likes to write with the group, write tunes on the spot while we are all there.”

The next big thing for Lushh is happening November 18th, downtown Kalamazoo at Overneath Creative Collective. Dubbed “Sweet Sleep Suite,” this live performance will feature painters complimenting the music with a visual aspect. The production will be recorded for DVD and CD sale, a huge stride in Lushh’s career.

Many of the members have dreams of heading out to LA with the whole band after college, diving into the heart of a cut-throat music industry. These guys are passionate about the music they create, and they see no obstacle in their way they can’t overcome. It’s a “we started by jamming in a garage” type of band, one with real feels and authentic rhythm.