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The Protags Take Over Jazz, TX

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Julia Novikova
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L to R: Darren Kuper, Greg Norris, Barry Brake

For over two decades, the Jazz Protagonists have been holding down the fort for classic straight-ahead trio jazz in San Antonio.

“This band is old enough to drink,” jokes Barry Brake, who plays piano in the group. “And boy, do we need it!”

Onstage, the Jazz Protagonists have the kind of zippy repartee that comes with the years together. They’re near telepathic when it comes to performance, and they’re almost Beatle-esque in between songs with their non-sequiturs and puns.

The Protags have been around long enough to remember a time in the 1990s when jazz musicians in San Antonio had to compromise.

“Venues were selling their pianos,” Brake says, lamenting he’d have to play on a portable electric keyboard.

“What’s happening in this building right now,” drummer Darren Kuper says, gesturing from the stage and alluding to the renaissance of live music at clubs like Jazz, TX and Luna, “we really believe we contributed in the long throw to what should have happened [in the 1990s].”

They’ve stuck it out long enough, and now you can hear the band in its natural habitat, playing standards like “Blue Monk,” and “Blue Room,” as well as original tunes and a soulful arrangement of “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” Listen in the audio link below, or tune in to Texas Public Radio on Saturday night at 7:00 for Live At Jazz, TX.

Nathan has been with TPR since 1995, when he began working on classical music station KPAC 88.3 FM, as host of “Tuesday Night at the Opera.” He soon learned the ropes on KSTX 89.1 FM, and volunteered to work practically any shift that came his way, on either station. He worked in nearly every capacity on the radio before moving into Community Engagement, Marketing, and Digital Media. His reporting and criticism has been honored by the Houston Press Club and Texas Associated Press.