Trio music: the best format ever?

I have spent many hours in my car over the last couple of months driving to exotic locales like Evansville (pop. 412), International Falls and Grand Marais in northern Minnesota. What a fantastic way to see spring come in! From barren and grey to explosive greens in just a few weeks, it’s been such a joy to see it happen almost in real time. During those long hours in the car I’ve been listening to a lot of tunes and aside from the heavy doses of Mastodon, I think I’ve decided that the trio is the most perfect format for jazz. OK, maybe the quartet too? I don’t know ask me tomorrow and I’ll say the septet. Whatever – I went on a serious trio listening binge and it just reinforced all the things I love about improv. Three people make for easy and quick communication – no mixed signals. Three roles (melody, harmony, rhythm ) get filled by three clearly defined sounds without any excess need for explanation or excessive arranging. If you have three simpatico personalities, then architecture, orchestration and timbre all become equal avenues of musical expression because the clutter is stripped away and the bones of the music get exposed. But I wouldn’t call it ‘no where to hide’, I’d call it ‘clarity of purpose’, because the essence is revealed. Less is always more but also more can be more in a trio! Even the most dense technical excursion remains in balance in a great trio. Fun fact: every band, no matter the size, eventually breaks down to a trio or quartet for soloing so listen for these moments to reveal themselves to you in your own listening.

Here are some of my favorite trios in all of music:

Jimi Hendrix Experience & Band of Gypsys, Rush, The Police, Cream, Led Zeppelin (functions musically as a trio but become almighty with Plant), Oscar Peterson trio, Sonny Clarke trio, Keith Jarret Standards trio, Brad Mehldau trio, Fly, John McLaughlin trio, Sonny Rollins trio, Chick Corea ‘Now He Sings, Now He Sobs’, ahhh man, there are so many more! What are yours?

Here is what I listened to over the last few drives: Kurt Knuffke “Cherryco” w/ Adam Nussbaum & Jay Anderson, Paul Motian “Etudes” w/ Geri Allen & Charlie Haden, Joe Lovano “Sounds of Joy” w/ Ed Blackwell & Anthony Cox, Jakob Bro “Bay of Rainbows” w/ Joey Baron & Thomas Morgan, Craig Taborn Trio w/ Jaribu Shahid & Tani Tabbal, Dave Holland “Triplicate” w/ Steve Coleman & Jack DeJohnette, Trevor Dunn Trio Convulsant “Sister, Phantom, Owl Fish” w/ Mary Halvorsen and Ches Smith, Benny Green Trio “Testifyin” w/ Christian McBride and Carl Allen

Talk about fun! I get to play in a lot of trios as well. I’ve been super lucky to collaborate w/ Chris Olson & Jay Epstein in Framework (20 years), Red Planet w/ Dean Magraw & Jay (15 years), Good Vibes w/ Dave Hagedorn & Phil Hey (7 years) plus Bates/Nichols/Bates, Zacc Harris trio, Laura Caviani trio, Tony Hymas trio, and many many others. It’s such a fertile format for creativity and I love it! All of this leads me to – TONIGHT!

Tuesday May 28th – I’ll be playing in TRIO with Joe Strachan and Miguel Hurtado at Vieux Carre. 7 pm $8 All Ages. This band was briefly called Inventions and Dimensions and we recorded an album with drummer Matt Buckner. We’re a totally different band with Miguel on drums so it would be wonderful if you came out to hear us! We’ll play some standards, some originals and generaly explore the intimacy of trio playing. Please join us!

I’m touring with Davina and the Vagabonds this weekend in Phoenix (5/30 -Musical Instrument Museum), Seattle (5/31 -Bellvue Jazz Festival), Milwaukee (6/1 -Shank Hall) and Madison (6/2 -High Noon Saloon) which is always fun fun fun.

Monday June 3rd – 58 Belvedere and Cory Healey’s Beautiful Sunshine Band @ Icehouse. 8 pm $10 Playing in TRIO with the mighty sorceror Dean Granros on guitar and Dave Power on drums. Cory’s band never dissapoints so stop on by!

Tuesday June 4th – Bill Simenson Orchestra @ Jazz Central 8:30 pm $10 Modern, original big band music of the highest caliber.

Hope you all are doing great! Next update will be about the Twin Cities Jazz Festival and beyond!