By John Ostapowicz
In the Mahoning Valley, jazz is making a resurgence with the help of bassist Dante Basista and multi-instrumentalist Danny Svenson. Professionally known as Unc D and Thin Thicket respectively, the pair has worked with numerous musicians to create new sounds.
The formation of Unc D led to the creation of “mumble jazz,” a mixture of Auto-Tune hip-hop and jazz influences. Basista achieved the original sound by using an Auto-Tune pedal on his vocals.
The idea originated from a jam band known as Goose, whose lead singer Rick Mitarotonda uses an Auto-Tune pedal on his vocals.
“Mumble jazz came about in a weird way,” Basista said. “Before the Auto-Tune pedal even arrived, mumble jazz popped in my head.”
Unc D’s groovy bass solos and Thin Thickets use a variety of different musicians from across the globe and have grabbed the attention of listeners. As of March 2023, Unc D has accumulated over 78,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
Unc D utilizes the jam session formula with the ability to have musicians join together inside Svenson’s house, which serves as an in-house recording studio. Basista also features the musicians’ names in the tagline in all music he releases. This allows smaller musicians to start a profile on Spotify and earn revenue from the track.
“Whatever we get is what it is and that has helped us a lot,” Basista said. “There are no expectations and whoever we can get in the room, we’re going to make something good.”
The list of people the duo has worked with is extensive, including trumpet player E-SWERVE, saxophonist Nathan Paul, Switzerland producer Lo-fi Riderz and, most recently, Atlanta rapper 645AR.
Cleveland-based trumpet player Ethan Farris known as E-SWERVE, has partnered with the duo several times and was featured on two hits, “2 Funky” and “I Love Black Women.” Both songs have been streamed over 100,000 times and landed on the “Best Jazz Songs of 2022,” a playlist hand-picked by Spotify.
“I enjoy those projects because all three of us [Unc D and Nathan Paul] have our own ideal on progressive jazz,” Farris said. “I feel like the tracks we make together are fun.”
Unc D’s discography contains over 700 minutes of music and over one million streams collectively. Basista and Svenson’s music was also featured on National Public Radio’s, “New Music Friday” and “Jazz Night In America,” playlists.
On March 24, Unc D and Thin Thicket will perform at the Beachland Ballroom and Tavern in Cleveland and tickets can be purchased in advance at beachlandballroom.com
The pair releases new music every Friday and have two new albums in the works, and will release “MMBLJZZ:SPKNG N TXNCS” May 5 and “F’Uncstown” June 2.
Born in Lowellville, Basista grew up playing with bands and fell in love with music at a young age. He graduated from Youngstown State University with a Master of Arts in history.
“I was in a bunch of rock bands when I was younger,” Basista said. “I eventually came to jazz and funk, and that’s where Unc D emerged.”
Leading up to the duo’s creative efforts, Basista and Svenson met at a jam session at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts. Since then, the pair has worked on numerous projects together.
“We ended up on a ton of gigs together for various things,” Svenson said. “We played a lot together back then, but didn’t necessarily work together creatively.”
Svenson was born in Youngstown and over the years has worked with local bands, such as The Labra Brothers and Spirit of the Bear, writing songs and playing with the groups.
“I’ve been blessed to have so many amazing people around me to do stuff with,” Svenson said. “Finding myself in a lot of positions to say yes.”
With the creation of Unc D in 2019, the pair started working together on new music with Svenson serving as co-producer alongside Basista. The partnership catapulted a new wave of music that has changed the genre of jazz.
The duo will be back in the Mahoning Valley on May 13 at Modern Methods Brewing Co. in Warren.
Every Wednesday at Noble Creature Cask House, the duo hosts a jam night for local musicians to come out and jam with the group.
Unc D’s new single, “Youngstown 1” featuring Pittsburgh-based saxophonist Winston Bell is now streaming on Spotify.
All artists can be listened to on Spotify.com or Apple Music.