The band’s members compose songs individually, saxophonist Matt Shugert said. Although the group formed when its members were students at the Jacobs School of Music, six members have since graduated and are now spread out from Philadelphia to Australia.
On Wednesday, the group played its first show since last summer when it performed at the 2016 Jazz Education Network Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, Shugert said. The band returned to Bloomington on Sunday for a CD release show for its debut album “Moonflower.”
“This has been kind of the thing we’ve all been looking toward and preparing for,” said Shugert, who is a graduate student and the only JKS member still studying in the music school.
“Moonflower” includes four tracks written by Shugert, as well as compositions by trumpeter Joe Anderson, bassist Bobby Scharmann and drummer Josh Roberts, and arrangements by vocalist Reggie Bowens.
Shugert said JKS’s writing process works in large part because of the members’ familiarity with each other.
“Everyone in the band arranges and writes music,” he said. “The writing takes place for the band, so it’s cool to know you have specific players when you’re writing.”
After forming in fall 2014, JKS played shows in Bloomington, including at the now-closed Rachael’s Cafe, where they had a residency last spring.
The members’ technical ability, including reading music, also allowed JKS to gel early, Bowens said.
“All the guys in the band can read really well,” he said. “You can put a piece they’ve never seen in front of them, and they can perform it.”
Bowens also said the Rachael’s Cafe residency prepared the band for recording “Moonflower.”
They tracked the album at Bloomington’s Primary Sound Studios in May. Shugert said the band wanted to reflect their live performances while also creating a refined product.
“We were still trying to have the energy we would in a live performance,” he said. “In a live performance, you don’t want to make mistakes, but mistakes are what make it unique. But in the studio, you have the pressure of — you want it all to be clean.”
Shugert said one of the most distinctive aspects of the record is Bowens’ vocal performance.
Though Bowen does sing lyrics on some songs, most tracks see Bowens acting as part of the horn line, Shugert said.
Bowens said he scats syllables to imitate sounds of instruments, often a baritone saxophone for JKS.
“Arranging for a jazz combo with voice — that’s definitely a big part of my arranging repertoire now,” Bowens said.
JKS has no more performances planned, but Shugert said the band will continue with intermittent performances and tours. Plus, the members’ experience writing individually means they can continue to work on new music, he said.
Bowens said he expects JKS members to keep writing and hopes the release of “Moonflower” gives them more opportunities to play together.
“I think maybe sometimes I feel like I could take it for granted that I have these wonderful musicians at my disposal,” Bowens said. “We’ve built a group sound and a family, really.”