Part of what makes Flagstaff a haven for the arts is the variety of music you’d find on any given night. From classic rock and blues at the State Bar to folk and indie at Firecreek Coffee Company to just about any genre you could imagine at Flagstaff Brewing Company, the town has no shortage of music for its community to enjoy.
Tonight, in fact, the Orpheum Theater brings back home the funk-jazz band STIG, whose saxophonist, Ryan Stigmond, and keyboardist, Tommy Knoles, grew up in the local scene. As young musicians, Stigmond and Knoles jammed with members from other Flagstaff bands such as Tiny Bird and Four Cornered Room. Coincidentally, members of those two bands play in Proud Mother, the opening act for STIG tonight.
“We grew up playing with these guys. It’s like a reunion, really,” Stigmond said. “It feels damn good to come back. The Orpheum is the room to play in Flag.”
Now, on their first coast-to-coast tour, members of STIG are bringing back their talents, showing the tree they’ve grown with the musical seed this city gave them.
Stigmond and Knoles, after a playing in a slew of jazz bands in high school including the short-lived Short Fuze, took to Boston to attend the Berkeley College of Music, where they formed STIG with other Berkeley students. After releasing the “Downtown Tom” EP, producing their studio album “Flex” and changing around a few members, STIG settled into their lineup and took to where they feel most at home: the stage. With jazz and funk, the music leaves plenty of room for improvisation, and STIG make use of that room, exploring deep sensuality in songs like “Fireside” or creating massively catchy grooves as in “Boardwalk Monster.”
According to Stigmond, the live sound is essential not only to the music they play but to making it in the music industry.
“[The music industry] is really at a place now where you have to play live in order to be successful, but we love playing live, and, really, this music is best live," Stigmond said.
There is something magical about watching jazz live and seeing musicians improvise on stage. It’s as if some cosmic force commands the music and creates a reflection of life and, more importantly, of the mood.
“It’s all about vibing off the room and reading the people,” Stigmond said. “It’s about that unspoken conversation and creating grooves for that moment.”
From jazz jams at Flagstaff Brewing Company and Southside Tavern (and previously at Mia’s) to bands like STIG, Proud Mother and Four Cornered Room, jazz nips at the heels of the music scene in Flagstaff, silently sneaking its way into its nightlife, forever rooted in American culture.