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The Jazz Connection: Spreading The Good Grooves

By Johnny Griffith

For a genre of music that is often called “America’s Classical,” jazz is often seen as a genre not easily accessible. Typically, the further you get away from large cities, the fewer options for exposure you have. Here in East Texas, the musical landscape is largely taken up by variations of rock and country. In the midst of it all, a few intrepid missionaries spread gospel of the Jazz. One of the few bands that carry these musical disciples are The Jazz Connection (TJC) based out of Tyler. The quintet has come together and bonded over their love of all things Jazz and can be seen around East Texas bringing the joy of their music to the people.

Johnny: What is the current lineup of the band?

TJC: The full complement of musicians is a quintet comprised of:

George Faber on keyboard who is the retired Director of Fine Arts for the Tyler Independent School District. He is from East Texas and is a staple in the East Texas music scene. He has his own group called Faber and Friends that plays everywhere.

Phil Rumbley on bass is a long time East Texas resident and is in great demand as one of the area’s premier bass players. He is also the bass teacher at Dogan Middle School in Tyler.

J.T. Pundt on trumpet/flugelhorn was born and raised in San Antonio and has lived in East Texas for 38 years. He is a mechanical engineer by day for Eastman Chemical Company in Longview, but trumpet playing is his passion. He currently leads The Jazz Connection and also plays with other Big Bands in the area.

Dr. Sarah Roberts on sax hails from Iowa and is the Assistant Professor of Saxophone and Jazz Studies at UT Tyler. She is in great demand as both a performer and clinician. She has been instrumental in establishing The Jazz Academy in Tyler, teaching high school age students about playing jazz. She is a Vandoren Regional Artist.

Joey Monk on drums is a long time East Texas resident and is a professional drummer. He has toured the country with several different groups and is in great demand throughout East Texas. In addition to The Jazz Connection, Joey plays locally with Otis and the Metros and other groups.

Johnny: How did you guys meet and when did the idea of a band get kicked around for the first time?

TJC: We owe our beginnings to the vision of Dr. John Webb, who was the Professor of Jazz Studies at UT Tyler. Although we have all known each other for many years and played together in different groups, John was able to pull us all together in 2010 with a common vision of playing America’s Original Art Form – Jazz. John was a professional musician long before he was a professor at UT Tyler, and his knowledge of the musical repertoire is astounding. He constantly challenged us to play at a very high level with music from great jazz artists like Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, etc. But more than just the technical aspects of jazz, John saw playing jazz music as “a lively conversation between friends.” Those friends include not only members of the band but also the audience. That conversation creates a connection between people that transcends the spoken word and touches your soul. John relocated to California in 2017, and we honor his legacy with every performance.

Johnny: How is the Jazz Scene in East Texas?

TJC: There are a surprising number of really good jazz musicians in East Texas! And the Jazz scene seems to be expanding, thanks to many local venues that support live music. I think once people get a chance to hear good live jazz, they get hooked, and they want more. We have a pretty loyal following of fans that attend our performances and ask us where we are playing next. Those fans tend to spend money at the establishments that host us, so jazz music creates a win-win for the community.

Johnny: About how many gigs on average do you play a month?

TJC: We are currently playing three to five times per month.

Johnny: What’s the farthest you guys have traveled for a gig so far?

TJC: We’ve gone as far as Mount Vernon, Texas, though we play regularly at Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards in Pittsburg, Texas.

Johnny: In a musical landscape dominated by rock and country, how has the reception been to a Jazz band?

TJC: The people that hear us generally respond very positively. For those new to jazz, I think they are surprised that the music is so accessible. There are many tunes with beautiful chord progressions that add depth and texture to the music; there are a variety of tempos and styles that add musical interest to a performance. Even people who are primarily rock and country fans are surprised that the standard blues chord progression, which they may be more familiar with, is a foundation for many jazz tunes. Musical roots transcend different musical styles.

Johnny: What’s been your best memory as a band to this point?

TJC: There are so many rewarding times when we see that we made that connection with our audience. It’s hard to pick just one! We did have a really fun gig at ETX Brewing Company on Halloween. The band dressed up in costumes and everybody had a good time.

Johnny: Is there one particular style of Jazz you focus more on or is it a pretty good cross-section of the genre?

TJC: We play a pretty good cross-section of styles. In any given show, you might hear Jazz Standards, Bebop, Hard Bop, Dixieland, Afro-Cuban Jazz, Latin Jazz, and Modal Jazz. We like to mix it up.

Johnny: What would you say your most requested song is from your crowds?

TJC: That’s a hard question since our music is so diverse. It really depends on the mood of the crowd. Sometimes they are in the mood for something up-tempo like “A Night in Tunisia,” or “There Will Never Be Another You,” or if they are feeling romantic, something like “My Romance” or “My Funny Valentine.”

Johnny: What do you hope first-time listeners will take from a Jazz Connection show?

TJC: We always hope they sense the joy we feel when playing this music and that they feel the connection that the music creates between people. We also hope they gain an appreciation for the artistry of so many that came before us and contributed to this uniquely American art form.

Johnny: Any can’t miss shows coming up in the next couple of months?

TJC: One show I would definitely recommend is FRESH by Brookshire’s on April 7th. It is an outdoor venue (they have a great patio), very laid back, great food and drinks, and we get a chance to stretch out a little bit. Come, relax, bring the kids, and have a great time! We keep our calendar current on our Facebook page at so you can check out our schedule.

Johnny: Thanks again for your time.

TJC: Thank you for helping us spread the gospel of Jazz in East Texas!



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April 21st: Mouse and the Traps and Bowling for Soup

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Upcoming Concerts

April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.

April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advance online for $15 at


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Blind Pursuit: Chasing Dreams

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By Johnny Griffith

In science, there is a phenomenon known as the Butterfly Effect which states, that in a complex system, small changes in one place can have a larger effect elsewhere. This is best illustrated in the hypothetical example of a butterfly flapping its wings in Mexico and causing a hurricane in China.

A more practical example of this would be the formation of the band Blind Pursuit, based out of Palestine, Texas. An amalgamation of sound and styles brought to the table by each individual member, Blind Pursuit is the end result of five people from different backgrounds and geographical origins ending up in a small town in East Texas and magic happening.

Hailing from Southeast Louisiana, Maine, Cayuga, and Harmony, the odds of these five people interacting were astronomical, but small changes had large effects and Blind Pursuit has been a staple in the east Texas music scene for three years now. We recently tracked them down to get to know them just a little better.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has been playing gigs around East Texas since 2015. What was the genesis of the band and what is the current line up?

Blind Pursuit: Our first show was February 28th, 2015 opening for our good friends Blacktop Mojo at Click’s Live in Tyler.

Our current lineup includes Marc Mitchell on drums, Craig Jones on bass guitar, John Reed on lead guitar, Katie Reed with lead vocals, and Michael Jones on lead vocals and acoustic guitar.

Craig and Katie hail from Cayuga, Texas. John was raised right down the road in the Harmony Community just outside of Palestine. Marc migrated from the great state of Maine; and Mike spent most of his time about 45 minutes southwest of New Orleans, Louisiana. He has been in Texas since 1998 and spends his time filling in behind the bar at Pint & Barrel Drafthouse in Palestine, and working construction. He met John and Katie again in 2013. John and Katie own Reed Construction where John builds custom homes and Katie does interior design. Craig owns Oak Floor Supply in Tyler, Texas and Marc is in marketing and communications and sometimes moonlights at the Appleton Coffee House.

Johnny: How about the name – there’s a lot to be said in that name. What does it mean to the band and where did the idea come from?

Blind Pursuit: The name Blind Pursuit stems from the belief that we are all pursuing something, whether it be chasing dreams, running after love, or following your passions; at some point, it takes a blind leap of faith to achieve something truly great. In all actuality, we started with the word ‘Pursuit’ and since we had no idea of how or where we were going or how to get there, ‘Blind’ seemed like the obvious choice.

Johnny: Blind Pursuit has a pretty eclectic mix of sounds in your catalog but how would you describe ‘your’ sound?

Blind Pursuit: Wow! That’s a great question, one that we’ve been asking for quite some time. We play what we love. We are a varied group of musicians with different musical backgrounds and tastes, and we play what we would like to hear if we were sitting in the audience. Our own sound stems from songwriting, which is mainly done by our lead singer Michael, and so it definitely has a soulful, emotional style to it, and has a layered Indie rock feel. You can hear a little bit of our southern influences layered in as well as the obvious differences of having two lead vocalists. So if you wanted to pigeonhole us into a specific genre, I would say we fall into the Indie Rock genre, just because it encompasses such a wide variety of sounds and musical stylings.

Johnny: How much of your show is covers versus originals these days?

Blind Pursuit: After the release of our debut album “Offramp,” we do about ¾ covers and the rest originals. New material is constantly being added and we hope to shift the number of originals to a larger segment of the show.

Johnny: About how many shows does the band try to play a month?

Blind Pursuit: We’re currently averaging five shows a month but we are always looking to add to that.

Johnny: Are most of the gigs in the east Texas area or do you travel out of the area?

Blind Pursuit: The majority of our shows are in East Texas. We do travel to north and central Texas on occasion and we are hoping to broaden our travel radius this year.

Johnny: What are you most proud of as a band?

Blind Pursuit: Our album, without a doubt. We feel like it is such an outpouring of who we are and our evolution over the past couple years. It’s like we have given birth to our own child. So much love, nurturing and hard work has gone into this project. Our resources and time have been singularly focused towards this and we could not be prouder of how it has turned out. We worked with so many great musicians and our Producer, Phillip Moseley was a great asset. They have been invaluable in helping us birth this album.

Johnny: What has been your favorite moment, on stage or off, as a group so far?

Blind Pursuit: I think it has been a thousand small moments of connection with our fans. We’ve heard stories where our songs touched someone going through a divorce, or something we sang really resonated with someone going through a tough time, and you just stop for a second after the mad rush and adrenaline goes away, and you think about how you’re affecting people and the connections you’re making. When we see people singing along with our songs, grabbing their person and dancing, when you see an emotional reaction – that’s the good stuff, the reason we do what we do.

Johnny: What is in the works for the year?

Blind Pursuit: We’ve got another handful of songs and hopefully, that will translate into a new project as well. Whether the next step is an EP or a full-length album is yet to be determined.

Johnny: What’s in the water down in Palestine, between Blind Pursuit, Blacktop Mojo, Kolby Cooper, and others… seems like Palestine has become a serious music town. What’s your take on it?

Blind Pursuit: Every once in awhile, “magic” happens in the most unlikely of places. If you’ve seen the documentary on Muscle Shoals and the music that came out of that small studio in Alabama, then you kind of have insight into the madness behind the magic.

All these acts from Palestine are backed by the most awesome community of people who rally behind us and get the word out, grassroots style. The people here truly love music and they believe in us, or we wouldn’t be able to do what we love. We have a connection, not only through the town we’re from but through our producer and the studio we’ve all recorded at, Audioworx.

Johnny: What experience do you hope first timers will have at a Blind Pursuit show?

Blind Pursuit: Someone recently left a review on our Facebook page that sums it up perfectly: “Bet you will leave their concert feeling like your soul is a little more free than when you walked in.” We hope that everyone will leave feeling a little lighter and a little more connected to their fellow man. In a world where we are bombarded with distractions, we hope people can come and reconnect and feel more human than when they came in. We hope the love and passion that we have for life and music can be felt and translates well to concert goers.

Blind Pursuit can be found at and

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