What: Nightfall concert series featuring Lao Tizer.
When: 8 p.m. today; Milele Roots opens at 7 p.m.
Where: Miller Plaza, corner of M.L. King Boulevard, Market and Cherry streets.
Venue website: www.nightfallchattanooga.com
If music is the global language, then world-fusion jazz pianist Lao Tizer is something of a jazz polyglot.
In the last several years, Tizer, a Boulder, Colo., native and Los Angeles transplant, has taken his ensemble of experienced, stylistically diverse players around the world, from the Java Jazz Festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, to the Dubai Jazz Festival and the Festival International Providencia Jazz in Santiago, Chile.
Everywhere the band plays, the blend of elements of world musical styles with improvisation-centric jazz transcends cultural barriers, Tizer said during a recent phone interview while staying in New York City.
"I do think that one great thing about jazz and instrumental or improvised music is that anybody can connect to it if they're open to it," he said. "
"Although jazz is the original American art form, in many other countries, some of the jazz events are even bigger than they are here. I do think that it definitely helps us travel well, for sure."
The self-titled ensemble, a flexible lineup of three to seven members, is the 33-year-old pianist's latest project, but he has been composing and playing since he was 9. Raised on a diet of world music, Tizer released his first self-recorded album at age 14. By the time he graduated high school in 1997 and moved to L.A., he had added two more releases to his catalog.
Tonight, Tizer will perform as a five-piece as the headliner for the second-to-last Nightfall.
By bringing together veterans such as Afro-Cuban percussionist Raul Pineda, virtuosic world/jazz violinist Karen Briggs and rock session guitarist Jeff Kollman, Tizer said, the band is skilled enough to let the music find its own path every night.
"There's a lot of room for spontaneity," he said. "In this realm of music, especially, audiences respond to that.
"Some nights, they stay in the same general realm, and other nights there's something unusual or magical that happens to take it to a new place.
If you're willing to live for the moment, then people will respond to that energy no matter what."
Tizer just finished work on its first studio album, "Downbeat," and will have copies available for sale ahead of its official Sept. 18 release.