Left to right: Wayne Horvitz, Keith Lowe, Eric Eagle and Tim Young are Sweeter Than the Day. - Photo by Daniel Sheehan

Sweeter Than the Day at the Avalon

Seattle-based composer Wayne Horvitz is a major force on the Northwest jazz scene who invariably has several projects in the works, one being his piano-based ensemble Sweeter Than the Day. Formed in 1999, Sweeter began as an acoustic incarnation of Horvitz' Zony Mash, an electronic jazz group.

"Zony Mash was more groove-based," Horvitz says. "This one is an acoustic version, the music is more open to improvisation and it's more jazz than funk."

Sweeter Than the Day will perform at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1, at the Avalon Bar and Grill, 105 W. Valley View Road, Talent.

"We're touring the West Coast behind a new full-length record called "A Walk in the Dark," Horvitz says. "Compared to our previous records, this one is more up tempo jazz, with a little more hard-hitting stuff. It's edgier with less ballads."

Horvitz and his group will bring more than a dozen new tunes to the show at Avalon, along with material from past recordings.

"The record also is the first we've done with our new drummer, Eric," Horvitz says. Eric Eagle replaced drummer Andy Roth about a year ago. "Andy was a great drummer, but Eric is really swingin,' too. He brushes beautifully and he's got a lot of power. I'm really glad he's on board."

Other members of Sweeter include guitarist Timothy Young and stand-up bass player Keith Lowe.

Horvitz and the group recorded two albums for the New York-based Songlines label, including "American Bandstand" (retitled "Forever") in 2000 and "Sweeter Than the Day" in 2002. A live double album called "Live at the Rendezvous" was released in 2004 by Kufala Recordings, also based in New York. "A Walk in the Dark" was self-released in early 2008.

Along with the new Sweeter Than the Day album, Horvitz' projects this past year include a CD titled "One Dance Alone" by Gravitas Quartet, featuring arrangements for piano, trumpet, cello and bassoon by Horvitz, Ron Miles, Peggy Lee and Sara Schonebeck, respectively, on the Songlines label.

"Joe Hill: 16 Actions for Orchestra, Voice and Soloist," a 90-minute oratorio based loosely on the life and times of labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill, was released by New World Records. It features a 30-piece chamber orchestra along with vocalists Danny Barnes, Robin Holcomb (Horvitz' wife), Rinde Eckert and jazz guitarist Bill Frisell.

"And on a total 'nother angle, a bunch of us got together and formed a group called Varmint and recorded an album of covers," Horvitz says. "Mr. Man and the Moon" features Horvitz, Holcomb, Young, Lowe, Roth and pedal steel player Jon Hyde and songs such as "True Love," "Solitary Man," "Wichita Lineman," "Bar Hoppin' " and others.

"We did it just for kicks, but it came out really good," Horvitz says.

The 20 tunes on the CD were recorded with a "catch it live while it's hot" attitude and released at a party at the Tractor Tavern in Seattle.

Cover for the show at the Avalon is $10. Call 512-8864.

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