Most jazz and “jazz-like” piano players dream of having a trio- especially like Bill Evans with Scott LaFaro & Paul Motion. It can be a bit daunting to have this standard to compare oneself with. It can also be intimidating listening to Ahmed Jamal, Abdullah Ibrahim, Herbie Hancock, Fred Hersch, and a few hundred other pianists who have found drummers and bassists whom with they click.
I have usually worked with other combinations of instruments: the trios I have tried in the past were more bound by gravity than I wished: on retrospection I sense that an incompleteness in my musical skill and vision was largely the reason.
When I stopped trying to be the “great jazz pianist’ and focused on playing my musical visions, events started opening up. There are a lot of younger pianists that can play faster bebop lines than I do. And, that is ok- I would rather write a waltz. ( in fact, I have written over 2 dozen songs in triple meter, and am releasing them in book form soonly!) I am learning to trust my musical vision as it is unfolding.
On May 11th, I had a discouraging day at work. I came home, and went to my weekly gig at the Black Dog café. I followed an impulse, and asked drummer Peter Leggett, and bassist Andrew Foreman to join me. I had played with both of these guys in different contexts: but the three of us had never shared a stage together.
By the second tune, it was obvious to me that this was a trio to keep together. I could feel the generated joy deep into my bones. Six months later, we are still playing together, once a month. I took the name from my friend Julianne, calling us “ The Pirates of Possibilities”.
What makes this trio click? First of all, they are both younger than I am( How did I get to be the old man?) and are not locked into being “jazz” players. Second, they like my tunes enough to commit to them. Thirdly, they have solid instrumental skills, that allows them to think on a dime, and they are not afraid to stretch the form with me.
I had played a few times the last year with Andrew Foreman. He is in high demand in the scene, because of his amazing tone, and his ability to understand a musical situation on the spot. He can make sense out of the most convoluted charts, and brings out the best in the other players. Besides playing jazz, adventurous jazz, rockish, Andrew plays with Brazilian groups. I simply love his deep sound, and how solid he is in all registers.
Peter is the drummer for the live Hip Hop band, the Heiruspecs. He brings to the music a freshness I don’t often see- the ability to change things up, and to evolve a groove rather than be trapped by it. When he swings, Leggett is not tired or obvious about it. On a calpyso, Leggett can shift the beat, making it swagger, stumble, fall over, and stand up again. Peter plays waltzes and quiet tunes with such freshness; an ever shifting textural approach, a cymbal with huge chunks missing, found objects of all ilks, and the ability to go from microscopic to volcanic in an instant.
Because Andrew is frequently playing with the many other groups that love him, We have a few other friends to call on. Aaron Kerr ( electric cello) has played with a us a couple of times. You can hear him with The Swallows, Dissonant creatures, and other projects. It is always fun to work with Aaron: he has a rounded sound, and great flexibility.
What do we play? Although many “ jobbers” live off playing standards in the “ Real” book, we still have not played one. We are playing from two different books, “Compositions and Concepts” by Carei Thomas, and my collection of tunes I call “ the Surreal book”. Oh yes, we play the hell out of a ballad by my friend Kevin Schmidt, called “ an ear thermometer for peace”.
I am honored that this trio gets my tunes. Although I get bored and want to disrupt the forms, Peter keeps telling me that he likes to play them straight up as well. They play my old boleros and my newest waltzes with the same enthusiasm, and I am rediscovering joy in some of my music that I had grown weary of. In revisiting some of these songs, I made slight changes, and they sparkle again.
Playing with these guys has opened up my conception of the music. I have been able to let go of bass line, while at the same time playing all over the register- exploring all kinds of texture in register and space- density to clarity.
I love all my musical friends: this configuration has amazing potential, and I am excited to see how long we can keep this going.
I am inviting you to come on down to the Black Dog Café, my musical home, on Friday, November 2 and Friday November 9th, from just after 5 to just before 7:30, and hear this trio! The Black Dog is epicenter of many local arts communities, and about the warmest venue I have played. I am honored to be there, and I want to do what I can to keep them open, and our mutual dream alive.