Local jazz band “The Other Brothers” takes on the Acoustic Cafe

The band’s smooth sound filled the downtown scene

Taylor Reisdorf

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March 25, 2020

Photo by Kendall Ruchti

“The Other Brothers” plays a mix of jazz, blues and swing music. Their set is comprised of both covers and original pieces.

Blue and red stage lights shone down as a mix of jazz, blues and swing music filled the Acoustic Cafe.

There was a woman in a back corner booth, sipping coffee, reading a newspaper and tapping her feet. A young couple sat at a front table, holding hands and bobbing their heads. A family of four was cuddled together, the young children were devouring ice cream and grinning up at the band with chocolate smiles.

“The Other Brothers,” a local jazz band, comprises of four men and five instruments.

John Utphall plays violin and keys, Ken Rogers strums the guitar, Barry Wells covers the bass and David Schrader is on the drums. The four also take turns as lead vocalist.

The group, which is just over a year old, was formed after Rogers posted an ad on Craigslist titled “Who wants to play jazz?” The men had known each other in various ways, mostly through musical connections, before coming together.

Utphall, a UW-Eau Claire alumnus who graduated in 1982, said the group’s name has a story behind it.

Each man in the band considers himself an “other brother.” Most of the members have a brother who is “more successful” in some way, ranging from musicians or business owners, Utphall said.

“We all have famous other brothers, except for David, who has become like a brother to us,” Utphall said.

The band members are all a part of other local music groups in addition to “The Other Brothers.” They use this group as a means to play songs they don’t normally play and to learn more jazz. However, Utphall said their main goal is to have fun.

There’s a lot to love about playing and performing with “The Other Brothers,” Utphall said, but his “competent” bandmates and the opportunity to play jazz music are what truly make the experience so great for him.  

The band’s set consists of jazzy covers and a few original pieces. The original songs are written by Rogers, who studied composition and completed his Masters degree at Eau Claire. Rogers said that his songs, which don’t have lyrics, are created spontaneously as he practices.

“When I’m practicing, I just kind of goof around. Sometimes a melody comes and I just work it,” Rogers said.

The group has been inspired by many musicians, and their favorite artists to listen to or play change regularly, Utphall and Rogers said.

B.B. King, Stephane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt, West Montgomery and Dave Brubeck are a few of the many artists who inspire Utphall and Rogers.

Audience and community members Carol and Jerry Parsons are regulars at the Acoustic Cafe. During the fall, they said they stop by the Acoustic Cafe about once a week to listen to music and unwind.

Living by Phoenix Park, the cafe is the perfect spot for the pair to head to on a weekend night Carol and Jerry said.

“It’s easy to just walk over, stay for an hour or so, have some coffee or a beer,” Carol said.

While the couple said they had never seen “The Other Brothers” in particular, they had seen Rogers perform before with one of his other bands.

Overall, the two said they enjoyed the performance. Jerry said they enjoy listening to this style of music, which he described as “gypsy jazz.”

Utphall said he hopes for “The Other Brothers” to continue making music. He wants to keep having fun with it, keep playing and learning jazz, Utphall said. It’s another outlet through which he’s able to keep doing what he loves.