“Jazz is not dead,” Frank Zappa once intoned. “It just smells funny.”

Zappa’s quote fit Ann Arbor’s jazz scene five years ago, after the closing of downtown strongholds the Bird of Paradise, the Firefly Club, and the Del Rio. But Macpodz bassist and vocalist Brennan Andes believes that “jazz is a sleeping giant in Ann Arbor–and it’s about to be awoken.”

It looked wide awake at the Macpodz’ Thanksgiving Eve show at the Blind Pig: the line stretched out the door, all the way to Washington, and around the corner. “They sold this place out seven years straight,” the ticket-taker told me.

Andes spent the better part of the summer and fall touring Europe as a duo with blues and jazz guitarist Luke Winslow-King. After Dan Henig’s opening set, Andes and King worked the crowd into a dance frenzy that lasted well past midnight. Then the house lights came on, and the rest of the Macpodz took the stage. A hush settled on the crowd, the lights dimmed, and Andes stepped up to the mike. A few blue beams cut through the darkness as he called out, “Who wants to hear Ross [Huff] blow his trumpet?” The crowd went wild.

Andes is thirty-two, tall and lanky, with a neatly trimmed beard and wild blond hair covered by a tan newsboy hat. At the Big City Small World Bakery on Miller, he explains that cartoons, of all things, awakened his own jazz giant. As a kid growing up in the nearby neighborhood, now called Water Hill, he was a big fan of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. While he was mildly amused by the slapstick antics of the characters, it was the musical scores that enthralled him.

He recalls in particular an episode of Tom and Jerry in which Tom, the bumbling cat, passionately plucks an upright bass, the instrument Andes himself would one day master. He was seven, maybe eight, and the song was “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?” “It just blew my mind,” he says. “Because of the music, two-dimensional beings became three-dimensional beings.”

In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody similarly breathed life into the film’s cartoon personalities. To this day, when Andes performs with the Pherotones on Thursday nights at the Last Word, he and the boys make sure to include Liszt on their playlist.

Andes fondly recalls his father taking him to a Grateful Dead concert as well as to downtown clubs to hear local jazz icons like Dave Holland, Ray Brown, Ron Brooks, Josef Diaz, and Paul Keller.

“I grew up going to the Bird of Paradise,” he says, as well as the Firefly, the Del Rio, and Mr. Flood’s Party.

When he was ten, his parents enrolled him in guitar lessons. At Community High, mentors Mike Grace and Vincent York fanned the flames. He took full advantage, playing jazz every school day for four years.

Andes graduated at seventeen, rented an apartment, and began booking gigs. He earned a modest income playing for private events or on the small stage at the Earle, supplemented by teaching bass lessons for beginners. Then in 2005, he and a few friends formed a band originally dubbed Duncan and the Macpodz.

Duncan is Andes’ middle name, and fellow musicians had given him the nickname B-Mac. Inspiration also came from the group’s logo, an orca. As Andes explains by email, “Killer whales form groups called pods. When they join together, they are inseparable.” Put Mac with Pod, add a z, and you have the Macpodz.

By the time they performed their first gig a year later, at Black Elk Co-Op, they’d dropped “Duncan,” but Andes has always been central to the group. The number of players has changed over the years, but in addition to trumpeter Huff, the other current members are Griffin Bastain on drums and Jesse Clayton on keyboards and vocals.

While their music rests on a firm jazz foundation, Andes says you’ll also hear strains of world rhythms, big band sounds, funky dance beats, and something they call “disco bebop.” As for musical influences, the cast includes Zappa, Miles Davis, and a long list of upright bass thrashers. Huff describes the band’s musical appetites on their website: “We like lunch, but we loves a buffet.” Praising their original tunes rooted in “real American music,” WEMU music director Linda Yohn calls them “the next best thing.”

After the Thanksgiving show in Ann Arbor, Andes and Winslow King continued their musical trek through America’s rust belt. From there, they’ll head to the other side of the planet to perform at venues in New Zealand and Australia.

Andes says he’d love to perform more in Ann Arbor, but at the moment “there’s just not enough places.” He believes there’s an audience waiting for “the right listening space” and thinks a new venue “might just reinvigorate the jazz scene in this town.” He lauds homegrown talent like trumpeter Ingrid Racine and vocalist Heather Schwartz, who perform with the Heather Black Project at the Ravens Club. Though there’s no dedicated jazz venue, the music is also starting to take root again with regular performances at the Old Town, the Last Word, and Cafe Felix as well as the Kerrytown Concert House.

Jazz and music in general is definitely alive and well at the Andes household on the west side of Ann Arbor. The tribe includes his six-year-old daughter, Sarie; his girlfriend; and local punk rock legend Hiawatha Bailey. Sarie is a chip off the old block, enthusiastically playing the piano and harmonica and singing with all her heart when she joins her dad and Hi during home rehearsals.

Between performing and mentoring aspiring bass players, Andes is doing all he can to resurrect the local jazz scene. By all accounts, it’s working. Jazz is smelling sweet again, and the giant is stirring.