Introducing Omaha Diner:
Skerik’s Latest Supergroup to Make NYC Debut

Words by Dan Petito

Across all genres of music today side-projects and collaborations are becoming more relevant than ever before; whether it’s an attempt to stay sharp, tap into different styles of music or to just simply have some fun with your friends. Omaha Diner, a new project involving some well-known musicians in the experimental jazz scene today seem to be focused on all three, with an expected emphasis on the ‘having fun with your friends’ part.

The members of Omaha Diner aren’t strangers to the concept of side-projects. If you were to attempt to count the various collaborations the Diner’s four members have been a part of (Skerik, Charlie Hunter, Bobby Previte, Steven Bernstein) you’d need a pen and plenty of paper. We got a chance to chat with saxophone Jedi Skerik about what – in the sea of bands and projects he’s been a part of over the years – makes Omaha Diner not your average side project. You may want to fasten your seatbelt.

“It wasn’t necessarily something we had put a lot of planning into,” explained Skerik. “Charlie brought it up a while ago and we were all into the idea, but as most things go when you’re as busy as we were during that time, it got put on the back-burner for a while. And recently Bobby and I got it back into action.”

These four aren’t strangers to jazz music, or to one another. They’ve all had hands in The Coalition of the Willing, an instrumental jazz ensemble led by Previte, so it’s safe to say that outside of just knowing each other they have a certain chemistry that transcends that of your typical side-project. And, from the sounds of it, Omaha Diner will be far from your typical collaboration.

When asked to describe exactly what Omaha Diner is (outside of purely amazing), Skerik answered quite simply and much to our excitement: “Top 40 like you’ve never heard it before. It isn’t about the songs themselves, but more about bringing what each of us do to those songs and putting our unique spin on it,” he added.

There’s no question that their debut show at the Cutting Room this Friday will be a treat. Skerik went on to explain that the set-list for the show is written, and there will absolutely be some really cool surprises. It’s likely that knowing Omaha Diner will be playing top hits from each decade, you may be able to make some accurate guesses as to what pops up. But we’ve been told to warn you that a Beyoncé or Outkast cover isn’t completely out of the running.

“We’ve chosen 16 songs for the show, top 40 hits from each decade and really anything’s fair game”, Skerik teases. “We want to run with this project as far as we can, but our debut show at the Cutting Room will navigate where this ship is sailing.”

The long-time sax player is openly optimistic of the Diner’s success, and it’s well justified – solely on the fact that something will appeal to you either in a nostalgic way or simply because you like it. Throw into the mix each member’s background of jamming and improvisation (those familiar with Skerik know he’s one to take a saxophone line for a walk or two) we’ll start to see some really interesting things start to happen.

While this Friday’s show is paramount to keeping the Omaha Diner boys busy it seems as though there’s already some cool stuff to expect down the road.

And what plans are those exactly?

“We’re going to try to be doing this all year if we can”, Skerik explains. “We’ll be doing some stuff at Jazz Fest this year around the area as well with Stanton Moore and Marco Benevento. I love the scene at Jazz Fest it’s going to be a real blast. But for now we’re focused on taking New York City by storm next week and we’re ready to have some fun with this”, he concludes.

Omaha Diner makes its NYC debut at the Cutting Room this Friday, March 1st. Get tickets here!