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Take a 'Time Out' with the Jazz Protagonists

L to R: Barry Brake, Greg Norris, Richard Oppenheim, and Darren Kuper at Jazz, TX on May 26, 2022.
Alejandra Sol Casas
L to R: Barry Brake, Greg Norris, Richard Oppenheim, and Darren Kuper at Jazz, TX on May 26, 2022.

The Jazz Protagonists – Barry Brake, Greg Norris, and Darren Kuper – have been making music together for three decades. What keeps them together?

“It’s enjoying playing with each other,” says drummer Darren Kuper. “And there is like this undercurrent of humor pretty much at all times.”

The Protags are known for cutting up on the bandstand and dovetailing off one another’s comments with a witty pun or quip, which gives their shows a little extra pep. They’re also keen to take a left turn at Albuquerque when it comes to choosing cover material, taking on anything from Destiny’s Child to Barry Manilow. It all starts with melody, but as pianist Barry Brake says, “The merest wisp of an idea is often the best thing because pop music is that, because it gives you the most stuff to work with.”

This edition of “Live at Jazz, TX,” opens with two tunes from a 2018 gig, and then the second set, recorded in 2022, features five numbers from Dave Brubeck’s famous album “Time Out,” an album that has been a touchstone for countless jazz musicians since it was first released in 1959. I asked the group why the album continues to resonate today.

“We want to take that left turn,” Greg Norris explained. “It’s a collection of tunes that all have different time signature, and some of them are very common to dance music and folk music in other countries, but uncommon to us. And that’s exciting.”

Saxophonist Richard Oppenheim joins the Jazz Protagonists for the second set on this show. Enjoy!


Barry Brake: piano
Greg Norris: bass
Darren Kuper: drums
Richard Oppenheim: saxophone