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Sharon Hazel, of Sharon Hazel Township, an indie folk-funk-rock group explains the origins of Crumb Records, the name she gave her record label: “My mother’s nickname growing up in Texas was Sugar Crumb.” And over time, she says, that got shortened to Crumb.

Hazel may have the blood of a Southerner but she was born and raised near San Francisco. “I grew up in the Bay area, in and out of Modesto. Then I went to school in Chicago,” where she stayed for 10 years. She moved to North Park, to a neighborhood she says is on the cusp of University Heights in September ’06.

“It’s in my veins. I’m a California girl,” she says. “Also, the long winters.”

A two time San Diego Acoustic Music Award nominee and past member of Chicago's Second City Songwriters, Hazel has been a singer/songwriter for much of her musical career. But her musician’s path took a solid left turn recently.

“The last two years, I’ve been a student of the jazz guitar. I like the improve free-form stuff,” she says. “Not big band, just a drummer, a bassist, and a guitarist.” She says she wants to become a solid jazzer. “I want to be able to walk into a club in any city and sit down and play.”

On Feb 9, Hazel will test that theory when she performs her jazz debut at the Ella Lounge with Dustin Starks in the East Village in New York. “This jazz thing has bit me," she says, "and I love it.”

In the meanwhile, Hazel is attending jazz classes at Mesa College. She stopped in to check out the jam at the Spaghetteria in Little Italy a while back but she left her guitar (she plays one of those acoustic-electric Yamaha APX series guitars and sometimes a Washburn acoustic) in its case. “I don’t think I’m up to that yet.” Jazz, she says, is freedom, “But you’ve got to know music really well.”

When I ask her how she reconciles two forms of music that don’t normally travel in the same circles, meaning jazz and folk, she says this: “It’s different, but my [folk] guitar playing is a little more jazz influenced.” Otherwise, “it’s me writing songs about my life,” she says. “In jazz, you’ve gotta be fulfilled with playing notes. But if you know jazz, you can play anything.” She describes what she likes about jazz guitar. “There’s no shiny-ness, no glamour to it. You got to step up to the plate and deliver. It’s not for wussies.”

Hazel, 37, released a collection of originals called Socrates and Urgency last year. She supports her music by waiting tables at Snooz in Hillcrest and she bartends in the VIP lounge at Qualcomm at Charger games. She calls her band Township.

“I wanted a name that conveyed a community-type feel. In most bands, you don’t always have the same members.” She explains that she often picks up different side men in different cities on a tour. “But Townships were originally intended to exclude people. In South Africa, they shipped the black folks out to suburbs they called Townships.” Township, in this iteration represents the opposite of community. It is in this intentional misuse of the word that Hazel finds her meaning.

For now, all Hazel can think about is getting over in the Big Apple in February. “New York is the beast,” she says. “It’s the mecca. Ya gotta go there. It’s the big time.”

Sharon Hazel Township performs 1/24 at House of Blues Hazel performs solo 1/29 at the Wine Lover in Hillcrest. Image

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