Spontaneity and soul in Buffalo

Bassist and singer Casey Abrams brings jazz to Babeville

abrams

Casey Abrams knew just what do when an audience member screamed out a request near the end of his set Saturday night.

Instead of just singing his cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” he made things personal; changing lyrics and throwing in the song-requester’s name.

Abrams’ entire set at Babeville’s The 9th Ward on Saturday night was laced with spontaneity.

A crowd of roughly 50, consisting of mainly older fans, came to the Theatre District to catch the American Idol and Postmodern Jukebox alum. Abrams’s show promoted his new album, “Put a Spell On You,” which is glazed with Abrams’ originals and popular covers from his Idol days. Abrams was joined by guitarist Taylor Tesler on stage and the two swapped bass and guitar throughout the night.

The duo threw comedy in the mix throughout the performance, making side jokes and putting on short, silly skits.

During “Stuck in London,” an Abrams original, the two made their first transition of the night. Tesler utilized an electric bass while Abrams took to a guitar, the opposite of their original setup.

The song showcased one of Abrams’ most notable uses of improvisation. Instead of singing of a “mango tree,” as the original lyrics entail, Abrams sang of “mango pie,” “mango stew,” and capped off his quick rhyming with “mango pee.” But this improvisation wasn’t limited to originals.

Jazzy and authentic covers were the super glue to a night of crowd hugs, vocal scatting and bass serenading.

Some of Abram’s covers felt prepared, but others like The Beatles’ “Saw Her Standing There,” felt randomly placed yet skillfully attacked.

The track took on a life of its own, centering around a luring bassline and new jazzy-fee. The Beatles’ classic went a soulful route as Abrams threw in some signature scatting, as well.

Midway through his set, Abrams electrified the crowd with title track to his new record, “I Put a Spell On You.” The cover caused possibly the loudest applause of the night, starting with a dark, spooky and soft intro which eventually turning into an eruption of soul.

The performance highlighted Abrams’ and Tesler’s togetherness, as the duo went back and forth during a crisp guitar/bass instrumental solo.

Immediately following “Spell,” Abrams stripped his upright bass of any electronic wiring due to technical difficulties. He let acoustics work magic during “Nature Boy,” another Idol favorite.

With no microphone or plugs present, the audience was silent. Abrams transitioned from traveling up his bass to traveling up his clarinet. He took turns singing and playing, proving to be a talented multi-instrumentalist who, even with little room in his lungs, could still put on a show.

During “Simple Life,” Abrams asked if any members of the audience could grab him a cup of wine. He offered “a hug” as compensation.

When an audience member approached the stage with two cups of red wine for Abrams and Tesler, Abrams hugged the woman while picking her up off her feet.

The singer made sure to give the audience a show of personality as well as music.

Once Tesler left the stage at the end of the show, Abrams picked up his upright bass and walked off stage into the crowd.

He surprised fans with his popular cover of Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind,” a classic from Abrams’ Hollywood week in American Idol.

But this song had no comedy, spontaneity or help involved; it contained strictly Abrams’ talent.

The bassist and singer played the tune with grace, working his way up and down his strings while interacting with the majority of the crowd. He made eye contact, serenaded and crooned his way around the room and worked through just about every member of the crowd.

His raspy voice sounded effortless with every note, proving that he could fill the room even without a microphone.

Opener Vin DeRosa properly prepared the crowd for Abrams’ arrival.

With an acoustic guitar and red jacket, the singer made use of a talkbox effect and looper throughout his set. He performed soulful originals and covers, filling the venue with vocal runs and skillful guitar playing.

Brenton Blanchet is the senior arts editor and can be reached at Brenton.Blanchet@ubspectrum.com.