Trumpeter Rod McGaha brought his quintet to the City Winery’s upstairs lounge for the second in the the venue’s new Sunday Night Jazz Supper series. The room was packed with expectant jazz fans by the time McGaha and his band took the stage for their 7pm set, and the musicians did not disappoint.

Rod was joined by saxophonist Don Aliquo, pianist Jody Nardone, bassist Jerry Navarro, and drummer Nioshi Jackson. The group charged out of the gate with a McGaha composition from his Black Flower Project, “The Challenge.” McGaha joked that they had to do if first “so we could get it out of the way” and that it was so named because the piece was so difficult. He went on in a more serious vein, however, to explain that the Black Flower Project was intended to represent the life of a young girl. The individual pieces reflect different aspects of her experience, one of them being the challenges she faces.

The group performed several pieces from the Black Flower Project, interspersed with standards from McGaha’s repertoire: Bobby Timmons’s “This Here,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” and “On The Sunny Side of the Street.” On the latter piece, which he normally performs as a duo of trumpet and bass, he was joined midstream by Aliquo, with the two of them trading phrases and weaving together lines New Orleans-style.

More than most other jazz artists in town, McGaha has the ability to present complex, challenging jazz in a way that is engaging and accessible, even for audiences who may not be jazz connoisseurs. His toolbox includes hard-driving swing and an abundance of good humor, evident in his stage patter as well as the variety of unusual sounds he is able to coax from his horn.

The series, which opened in January with the Jody Nardone Trio, is off to a promising start, hoping to fill a much-missed niche among Nashville’s jazz offering — a venue where patrons can hear outstanding jazz in a lounge or supper club atmosphere with food and drink. The City Winery doesn’t disappoint in the food and drink area, and the ambiance is warm and inviting.

The monthly Sunday Night Jazz Supper is the brainchild of vocalist/songwriter Rebecca Sayre and City Winery lounge manager Mike Simon, and is presented in cooperation with the Nashville Jazz Workshop. Next up in the series is vocalist Christina Watson Sunday, March 6. Cover is $10, and advance tickets (strongly recommended) can be purchased through the City Winery website.

More information about Rod McGaha can be found on his website,

For more information on the Black Flower Project: