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Equilateral: Jazz Quartet of Iowa Natives With Rich History

Equilateral is a jazz group from Eastern Iowa that consists of  Chris Merz on the sax, Brent Sandy on the trumpet, Greg Mazunik on electric bass and Eric Thompson on drums, whom are all native Iowans. Some members of the group have played with some of the greats of music, such as Aretha Franklin and The Four Tops. Although they do not get the ideal amount of performance time, they are a common name to headline The Mill’s jazz night that occurs every Friday and are never let down to the crowd turnout during their performances. Chris Merz and Brent Sandy discuss what they have to do to survive as a group in Iowa, some of their strange encounters and how their music oscillates differently with audiences. 

LAUREN: Equilateral is an Eastern Iowa jazz quartet that is filled with all Iowa natives, including Chris Merz on the sax and Brent Sandy on the trumpet. Being from Iowa, they have had to incorporate a variety of styles and work to survive as a group.

CHRIS: For me, a successful gig is when I have played something I have never played before.

BRENT: Living in Iowa, we have to plan different projects.

CHRIS: And yeah, different kinds of things just to stay afloat.

BRENT: Yeah.

LAUREN: During their time together, they have played with some of music’s greats but have also had their fair share of odd run ins while playing.

CHRIS: We played with Aretha Franklin together.

BRENT: Yes we did.

CHRIS: One of the great highlights of my life.

BRENT: We played with The Temps (The Temptations) …

CHRIS: And The Four Tops but I think the the weirdest gig that I have ever played, and it was cool but weird, was when I was living in South Africa doing a Tom Waits cover show. Tom Waits was like the ultimate white guy …

BRENT: But he sings like a very black man. I mean, a weird one that I do is totally business, playing a telethon. Rehearse all afternoon and then basically play for two days.

LAUREN: The members of Equilateral play about once a month, which they all agree is not enough. The thing that makes their performances most interesting is seeing different dynamics from the audience.

CHRIS: We only ever play local. We play our music, you know, and it’s a communal thing and as long as these four guys show up there is going to be that thing. And what tunes that are going to resonate in a certain environment. It’s weird and sometimes things, a tune will play, and sometimes it has to do with the performance and I can feel it, we all can. Sometimes it is sort of like, really? You were into that? Okay, cool.

BRENT: Well, different strokes.

CHRIS: Yeah, yeah.

I would like to extend my appreciation to the members of Equilateral for giving me their time.