Even 3,000 miles from her native Vermont—and 2,000 miles from where she now lays her head in Nashville—Jennifer Hartswick and her talented band managed to open her 2024 tour with what felt like a hometown show at The Venice West in Venice, California on Wednesday.

The Northeast Kingdom-born musician, known best as the trumpeter in the Trey Anastasio Band, was joined onstage by three longtime creative cohorts. On guitar was Nicholas Cassarino, who’s been playing with Jennifer in various formations since he was 15. Bassist Nate Edgar is Cassarino’s bandmate in The Nth Power, which frequently teams up with Jennifer on a variety of performance concepts, in addition to being Hartswick’s go-to low-end master for various live projects. Drummer Conor Elmes, meanwhile, a veteran of Hartswick’s world since the age of 7, held down the rhythm as he has with Jennifer for decades.

With some of her family and friends dancing and cheering in the crowd, Hartswick and company embarked on a brilliant, 90-minute set that put her all-around talents in jazz, R&B, funk, soul, and rock on full display.

Related: Jennifer Hartswick Plays The Music World’s Biggest Stages, But Her Intimate Work Is What We All Needed [Interview]

She didn’t waste any time stepping out from behind her trumpet to show off her vocal range during an opening of “Two Way Mirror” from her latest album, 2022’s Something in the Water. From there, the Jennifer Hartswick Band dove into the first (but hardly the last) cover of the night with Bill Withers’ “Soul Shadows”. After a brief return to her own catalog with “You Can’t Take it Back”, Jennifer and her band broke out a rendition of Jerry Ragovoy’s “You Don’t Know”.

The mingling of originals and covers continued with Jennifer’s own “Only Time Will Tell”—including a saxophone cameo from Tony Fordham—followed by a rendition of “Water In The Desert” by another notable friend, Oteil Burbridge (Dead & Company, Allman Brothers Band), a number she frequently leads when doing time on the road with Oteil & Friends.

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After wowing the crowd with “By The River” and a first-time-played cover of “Alone”, the Billy Steinberg/Tom Kelly-penned track later popularized by Heart. Hartswick ceded the spotlight to Cassarino next for a riveting version of blues classic “Downhearted/How Blue Can You Get.” Jennifer waited for the end of the set to string together two of her own songs, “Fairytale” and “Numb”, but wasted no time returning to homages upon returning to the stage for an encore rendition of Led Zeppelin‘s “Dazed and Confused”.

That mix of a setlist afforded Jennifer and her band amply opportunity to show off the full range of their talents. For Jennifer, in particular, it was a perfect way to open the world’s eyes to her talent and ability as a bandleader, beyond her better-known role as Trey’s trumpeter. She will have more than a few opportunities to burnish her leading credentials in the coming weeks and months. Her band’s tour continues in March with five dates in Northern California en route to shows in Oregon and Washington. For a full list of the group’s upcoming dates, head here.

Below, view a fan-shot video of the “Alone” cover and check out a gallery of images from the Jennifer Hartswick Band show at The Venice West via photographer Brandon Weil.

Jennifer Hartswick Band – “Alone” (Billy Steinberg/Tom Kelly) – 3/13/24

[Video: Rob B]


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