review by:
Shannon West


"What do I want fans to leave with from a show? That they came and saw something that was musically unique and fresh, that took them on a journey through different moods, and something that moved them. That they saw a group of musicians who came together and gave the best of ourselves."  Lao Tizer in his promotional video

"Lao is a very important force in music right now. I think he's on the edge of
becoming a lot bigger. The thing about Lao that's nice is that it is a very
concerted effort to be more of an instrumental rock band than a jazz or smooth
jazz band."  Chieli Minucci – Smoothviews interview

The Jacksonville Beach Summer Jazz Series has delivered some excellent lineups over the years but the July 13th concert went beyond stellar and opened the curtain on the future  of contemporary instrumental music for a wildly enthusiastic crowd. Opener Will Donato, a sax player who has been standing on the edge of stardom for over a decade, has added a huge dose of power and edginess to his always mesmerizing performances and had the crowd on their feet for most of his set. Nick Colionne closed the evening with a thrilling blend of musicianship and showmanship as he delivered a set that moved from funk, through smooth, into jazz and straight into the party zone. Between them was Tizer, led by their namesake, Lao Tizer, a group of musicians who could singlehandedly shoot this music straight into the post-smooth era. 

Words cannot describe but goosebumps can. Goosebumps that came from being able to sit right in front of the stage and become immersed in this music and grins that came from seeing a young woman, probably in her early teens, sitting near me in the same state of captivated attentiveness. All the members of this band talk about the connections between them when they play - Tizer called it the magic you feel when everyone onstage is in one consciousness. This feeling goes through the musicians and straight into the crowd, we are with them and we are sharing it with each other. This is something totally different from getting up and shakin' it, which is always fun, but going beyond that is even more fun. I've felt it at Pat Metheny Group and Al Jarreau concerts, but it's a rare thing that makes you realize how much power music can really have.  Lao Tizer is a virtuoso keyboardist who makes it look effortless, guitarist Jeff Kollman brings a huge set of rock chops and shredding solos to the party, and violinist Karen Briggs is not just a brilliant musician, she is an innovator, a presence and one of the most individualistic artists out there. She has picked up the thread that was started by Mahavishnu violinist Jerry Goodman and Jean-Luc Ponty and added some fierce, powerful undercurrents. She becomes a part of the music and lets her instrument translate feeling into sound. Percussionist/Sax player Steve Nieves, drummer Raul Pineda, and bassist  Rufus Philpot kept the momentum high and provided some seriously meaty solos.

They call their music World Fusion and this set took us through multiple worlds, melding multinational influences into any given song and occasionally veering straight into Return To Forever/Mahavishnu style fusion. The set opened with "Uptown," probably the closest thing they have done to a commercial smooth jazz song but of course it got away from that rather quickly as the band members started to stretch it out. "Fire And Ice" is a showcase and my all time favorite from them - a spirited celebration that veers from flamenco to Celtic to soothing them bursts into a salsa keyboard line. All their songs fly through stylistic changes like that. Guitarist/Special EFX front man Chieli Minucci often plays with them and they delivered a trancey, hypnotic, reinvention of his composition "Body Beat" filled with sonic effects, some distortion guitar, and chilled out percussion grooves, then it bursts into some serious fusion toward the end. Briggs was showcased on a track from her CD "Scheherazade's Groove." "A Hui Hou" was inspired by Hawaiian sunsets which this band is able to paint with their instruments, all in pinks, golds, purples and yellows. This music builds, soars, breaks, shifts into fragments, and changes textures in a series of constant surprises. It is joyous, it is transcendent, it affects you the way music should affect you. It shifts your consciousness in subtle and beautiful ways.

I have seen this band three times in the last four years. Each time has been different and each time the growth and connection these musicians display and their willingness to "go there" becomes even more thrilling. Where they are headed is downright scary in a beautiful way. It could change things.

Tizer has released a live CD called (appropriately) Tizer Live. It is available on his website and through most online retailers –

You can also experience what this band is all about in a fabulous two part video that has both clips from performances and conversations with the musicians:

Part 1 -
Part 2 -