The East West Quintet’s name says a lot, geographically speaking. If you pick up the jazz-rock combo’s ambitious second album (this year’s Vast), you will see a shout-out to their East Coast base on closing track “Brooklyn.” As for the “West” of the quintet, three of the five members hail from San Diego.
EWQ keyboardist Michael Cassedy is the son of Steven Cassedy, a UCSD professor who is also an accomplished pianist. Cassedy, who grew up in Del Mar and graduated from the Bishop’s School in La Jolla in 1998, acknowledged his dad as “my first piano teacher, and I still take classical lessons from him when we’re both in the same city.” He and EWQ’s guitarist Simon Kafka, a 2001 graduate of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and former Mission Hills resident, augment their incomes in NYC by teaching music. Bassist Benjamin Campbell, another SDSCPA grad (’99), has music-making in his DNA: his father Glen plays cello and his mother Rebekah plays viola in the San Diego Symphony.
“Being in Brooklyn has influenced our music a great deal.… We all moved to New York to be a part of an East Coast creative music scene but still have strong roots in California,” said Cassedy. (They recorded Vast in San Clemente and released it on the SoCal label Native Language.) “Ben and I were both in ska bands in high school for the very brief period of time that ska was popular in the ’90s. We knew each other but did not become friends until USC [where the three of them went to college]. Ben and Simon were friends in high school and played in the school jazz band together…[so] we all knew each other before moving to New York.”
The East West Quintet returns to play Dizzy’s at its new downtown San Diego Wine & Culinary Center location on Wednesday, September 23.