Story City began their musical journey in 2008 when Steve Jennings brought saxophonist Andrew Schwandt, keyboardist Fred Goetz and guitarist Karl Koopman together to learn some very challenging fusion jazz composed by Michael Brecker, Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays, and Don Grolnick among others. Just for the fun of it; just for the love of it.
The commitment and accomplished skill of these musicians led to greatly satisfying sessions. However it was their sharing of influences, mutual respect of this music and BBQ cuisine that convinced Jennings to establish Story City (named after the Iowa town where his great-great grandparents settled in 1870).
It was this group that bassist composer Terry Burns joined in 2010, resulting in a new exploration of the group sound and a more active dedication to original music. After a few keyboardist changes, in 2011 the group was thrilled when the talented pianist Sean Turner agreed to collaborate with their album project. Currently, Tommy Barbarella is adding his incredibly creative keyboard skills to Story City's live shows.
This music is informed by the evolution of instrumental music through its many developments into fusion which draws from a number of musical styles including jazz, rock, classical, pop and funk. The musicians most influential to the music and musicians of Story City are Billy Cobham, Jaco Pastorious, Michael Brecker, Herbie Hancock, Larry Carleton, Peter Erskine, Bartok, Joe Zawinal, Lyle Mays, and Paul Wertico to name a few.
For the musicians, Story City is an opportunity to be a part of a collaboration that strives to continually stretch its capabilities and finds joy in creating melodic and emotion-filled music. It is an opportunity to work with distinctive, dedicated individuals toward a goal that, refreshingly, remains forever a bit elusive.
For the listener, Story City endeavors to craft a musical journey: from quiet, reflective moments to exuberant, dramatic explosions. Like a movie soundtrack, the melody and brilliant construction of their music serves to pull the listener into each story, to truly feel the moment, the emotion and inspiration of each composition.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Andrew has been playing professionally since the age of 17, and got his start by playing in the show bands of a number of different cruise ships. After returning to land, he had the good fortune of joining a jazz fusion band called Starting Point. Through the connections made in this band, Andrew has had the opportunity to perform with some of the Twin Cities' top jazz musicians including Sanford Moore, Chris Lomheim, Gary Raynor, Gordy Johnson, Terry Burns, and Batume, among many others.
Andrew is highly influenced by the music of Dexter Gordon, John Coltrane, Chris Potter, Bob Mintzer, and Michael Brecker, whose musicianship and dedication are a source of constant inspiration and practice material. Currently, he can be seen regularly with a number of different groups including Story City, Steeling Dan , Kolaberate , and Xtended Play .
Karl Koopmann is an accomplished guitarist wielding a broad palette of musical styles, who has been playing professionally in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area since 1999, and previously in the Fargo/Moorhead area, where he studied at Moorhead State University. He considers his influences on the guitar to include everyone from Christopher Parkening to Keith Rowe, but with particular attention to contemporary jazz heroes such as Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell, renowned session players like Larry Carlton and Mike Landau, and innovators who have extended the boundaries and sonic possibilities of the instrument, such as David Torn and Michael Hedges.
In addition to Story City, Karl is currently active in several musical organizations, including jazz combos Frankhouse and Triage, jazz-inflected pop/rock band Terramara, the eclectic roots/R&B group Dizzy, singer/songwriter J. Nels Carey, cover bands paying tribute to the music of Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac, an electronic duo project known as Tardiss, and several "working" bands in the region; most recently SOUL and the Sam Kuusisto Band.
He has been featured on recordings by several of these bands/artists, and has also shared the stage with such notables as Roscoe Mitchell, Nick Didkovsky and Larry Polansky. Karl's thirst for musical diversity has taken him on excursions into widely divergent branches, from jazz to rock, electronic to afro-beat, folk to funk, classical to klezmer, in pursuit of truth in all music.
Steve Jennings is a drummer who has explored many musical styles including rock, classical, jazz, funk, gospel, country, and blues. He has worked professionally in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN area since his first studio recording in 1991, and after six years on the road with top forty dance bands. His educational experience at Luther College is what opened the door to jazz music and the creative possibilities inherent in that expression, and where Jennings wrote his senior thesis about Miles Davis' contributions to music. Jennings was initially inspired by the jazz feel of drummer Jimmy Cobb, the propulsive energy of Tony Williams, the expressive funk of Billy Cobham while at the same time learning the music of Led Zeppelin, Boston, and the Doors.
He came to jazz music with a rock background and these collaborations continue today where Jennings leads Story City, a modern instrumental jazz-rock group. In addition, Steve works with violin virtuoso Randy Sabien, vocal jazz veterans Moore By Four, and the electric funky bluegrass Over and Back Band. He has performed and recorded with Regina Williams, Sanford Moore, Dennis Spears, Jevetta Steele, Paul Mayasich, Best Kept Secret, the Platters, Ron Thompson and his Resistors, and Connie Evingson.
Jennings produced his first jazz record in 1995 with his Jazztet, featuring clarinetist Dave O'Mara and the late great Bobby Peterson on piano. While primarily self-taught, Steve has welcomed periodic lessons with jazz drummers Ed Soph, Phil Hey, local legend Gordy Knutson, and New Orleans street beat jazz guru John Vidacovich. His inspiration continues on in search of new musical experiences and creative collaborations.
Terry has been a professional bassist for 35 years. As a recipient of an Individual Study grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Terry studied with bassist and pedagogue Rufus Reid in New York.
Terry has extensive live performance experience with some of the greatest names in jazz, including David Benoit, Kei Akagi , Teddy Edwards, Ritchie Cole, Von Freeman, Freddie Hubbard, Gene Harris, Terrell Stafford, Ray Bryant, Karryn Allison, Kitty Margolis, Marlena Shaw, Jane Monheit, Art Farmer, Frank Morgan, Stanley Turrentine, Bill Holmen, Ken Peplowski, Marc Copland, Manolo Badrena, Larry Goldings, Ben Sidran, Mose Allison, Jack McDuff, David "Fathead" Newman, Lee Konitz, Bobby Watson, Bob Mintzer, Dewey Redman, Joanne Brakeen, Ben Sidran, David Berkman, Billy Hart, Lenny White, Victor Lewis, Nachito Hererra, and Eric Gravatt. Terry is also a respected educator, and is Dean of Academic Affairs at McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, MN.
Over the past two decades Tommy Barbarella has made his mark behind the scenses composing, touring, recording and performing with Prince, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Art Garfunkel, Ziggy Marley, and Love and Rockets – to name but a few. In the world of film, he has contributed his talents to Hollywood features by iconic directors like Spike Lee, Robert Altman and Marc Foster.
As a child growing up in Minneapolis he took to the piano at the early age of nine. Inhaling music, he soon learned to play the trumpet and set out to memorize the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Music. His first forays into the Minneapolis music scene came at a time when the 'Minneapolis sound' was exploding across the international airwaves in the 1980s.
In a music club in downtown Minneapolis he was introduced to mega-producer Jimmy Jam Harris and other members of The Time. This eventually led to a 10-year stint as the keyboardist for Prince and the New Power Generation – band considered by many to be Prince's finest line-up. With Prince and the NPG, Tommy toured the world several times over and made numerous TV apperances in the US and Europe.
As a world class pianist, composer, producer and arranger, today fis talents are in demand from Los Angeles to Sydney to Rome. Recent credits include string arrangements and keyboard work for Switchfoot, Backstreet Boys, Ashlee Simpson, Mandy Moore, Clay Aiken, Delta Goodrem, Nick Lachey, and European Platinum phenom Giorgia. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.
Steve is one the most versatile performers in the Twin Cities and beyond. Spending years on the road traveling the world as a vocalist, percussionist, bassist, drummer and guitarists as well as a producer, arranger and jingle writer. He has performed on hundreds of jingles, albums and industrial soundtracks for radio and television and industrial shows including Dairy Queen, Channel 9 and 11 television, Minnesota Twins and he has been a staff writer and player for several recording studio's in the Twin Cities and Atlantic City. As a vocalist, Steve is one of the most prolific singers of all styles including jazz scatting, R&B, pop, rock, and blues. Steve is a highly qualified ensemble instructor as well as a college and high school clinician. Steve has played with The Coasters, the Drifters, Marvellettes, Platters, Ricky Peterson, St. Paul Peterson, Walter Trout and Aretha Franklin.
Shai Hayo is a percussionist and educator who specializes in traditional and contemporary drumming styles of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean and West Africa. He has performed and taught nationally and internationally, sharing the stage with artists and ensembles such as Tony Orlando, Ann Margaret, Sheila E., Andy Montañez, Nachito Herrera, Sowah Mensah, Paracumbé, Shi-Daa Cultural Troupe, Salsa del Soul, The Macalester College African Music Ensemble, The Minnesota Orchestra, and most currently, Paul Anka. Hayo is also a faculty member of The Mcnally Smith College of Music, located in St. Paul, Mn.
Hayo holds degrees in Anthropology (B.A., Macalester College, 1996) and Education (MaEd., Hamline University, 2006) and has carried out anthropological and ethnomusicological research in Puerto Rico (1994–1995) and Ghana, West Africa (1998).