Nice Guy Trio

The Nice Guy Trio is Darren Johnston on trumpet, Rob Reich on accordion, and Daniel Fabricant on bass. Their sound is a unique mix of roots and innovation, of soulfulness and humor. In concert they focus on their own original compositions, occasionally adding songs by jazz greats, by their favorite local composers, or pieces from various folk traditions.

Founded in 2007, the “Nice Guys” have performed in venues big and small, from local organic gems like Jazz at Chez Hanny and the Café Royale, to classic institutions such as The Monterey Jazz Festival, The Great American Music Hall, Yoshi’s, the Yerba-Buena Garden Festival, and for SF Jazz’s “Summerfest,”

During their first year, the Red Poppy Art House hosted the Nice Guy Trio for a five-month-long residency called the “Root Exchange.” Each month a different collaborative concert was programmed, featuring special guest artists from radically different musical backgrounds, and a constant stream of new compositions by members of the trio and by its’ guests. Guests included Sameer Gupta on tabla, Ben Goldberg on clarinet and contra-alto clarinet, John Schott on electric guitar, singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero, David Phillips on pedal steel, Smith Dobson V on both drums and vibraphone, Dina Macabee on violin and Alex Kelley on cello. The series was concluded with a very successful concert presented by Intersection for the Arts at the De Young Museum. Almost all of the guest artists from the series were able to attend, and together they played as one large ensemble as well as in various smaller combinations. The following week the Nice Guy Trio concluded their first season by being awarded the SF Weekly award for “best jazz/blues band,” before taking a hiatus to record their first CD and travel with various other projects.

Year two found the Nice Guys continuing the “Root Exchange” series, thanks to a generous grant from the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music.  Season Two included singer/songwriter Katy Stephans, piano visionary Myra Melford, saxophonists Kasey Knudsen and Evan Francis, Brass Menazeri founder Peter Jaques, and percussionists Dave Mihaley, on marimba and drum-set, Faisal Zedan on derbakki and riqq, and Michele Simons on tupan. The season was concluded at the De Young Museum, and featured a commissioned piece with all the instrumentalists involved, inspired by a work in the museum’s permanent exhibit. Two weeks later, the Nice Guy Trio celebrated the release of their new CD on Porto Franco records at Yoshi’s jazz club in San Francisco.

Most recently the Nice Guy Trio completed two commissions from the Yerba Buena Garden Festival, both of which are multi-movement song cycles for the trio with string quartet –  Rob Reich’s “Sidewalks and Alleys,” and Darren Johnston’s “Waking Music.”  The string quartet features Mads Tolling and Anthony Blea on violins, Dina Macabee on viola, and Mark Summers on cello.  Two days after the premier, the whole ensemble went into the studio for Porto Franco Records, and a new release is due early next year.

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