Though his professional rise came during his many days in Santa Barbara, the trumpet-playing troubadour Nate Birkey came into his own once moving to New York City in 2004. He returns to SOhO on January 2 for the first time in almost two years, backed up by his West Coast-based team of saxophonist Tom Buckner, pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Jim Connolly, and drummer Peter Buck. They’ll be playing songs primarily from Birkey’s 2017 release Rome, his 10th album, recorded in March 2018 during an extended stay in the Italian capital.
“I had major back surgery this past summer, which put me out of commission for a while,” Birkey explained over email while visiting family in Colorado during the holidays. “I’m still recovering, but I am able to play again, thankfully!”
He happily reports that the jazz scene in New York City is “thriving” these days, noting, “I played to a packed house on Christmas Eve.”
Looking back on the year of 2019 in jazz, Birkey said that one of his favorite new albums was Smells Like Music, which happens to be the third release by his backing drummer, Peter Buck. “It’s a really good record,” said Birkey. “He’ll be playing with me on Thursday.”
Birkey said that he is developing a new album, but hopes to be recording in Italy again this spring, when he returns for some concerts.
And for those still seeking a tune to ring in 2020? Birkey confirms, “The best New Year’s Eve song is definitely ‘What Are You Doing New Years Eve.’” Well, at least Santa Barbara jazz lovers now know what they’ll be doing two nights later.
Nate Birkey plays SOhO (1221 State St.) on Thursday, January 2, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. Click here for tickets.