Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Trio New York - European Tour 2012

Ellery Eskelin - tenor saxophone
Gary Versace - Hammond B3 organ
Gerald Cleaver - drums

Twenty six sets of music. A dozen standards. None played the same.

Songs we played: Memories of You, Off Minor, Witchcraft, Lover Come Back, How Deep is the Ocean, Just One of Those Things, After You've Gone, I Cover the Waterfront, My Ideal, We See, Flamingo, I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance.

In preparation I spent a great deal of time familiarizing myself with these songs, listening to as many recorded versions as I could find and learning them on the piano. I'm always astonished at the fact that the melodies are so inextricably united to the harmony in ways that make it impossible to simply run the changes. In some cases I felt I had to find the original sheet music when possible just to see what the composer meant at given points in a song. Often, jazz versions of these songs tend to reduce some of the original chords into progressions that are easier to improvise on. And of course the opposite is also true as certain jazz versions may also complicate the harmonic scheme.

After a weekend at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Greenwich Village we flew to Europe for the band's first European tour.

January 18th Alter Schl8hof - Wels, Austria
January 19th Porgy & Bess Jazz Club - Vienna, Austria
January 20th Jazzit Musik Club - Salzburg, Austria
January 21st Jazz in Bess - Lugano, Switzerland
January 22nd AMR - Genève, Switzerland
January 24th Stadtgarten - Köln, Germany
January 25th Jazz Lake - Wädenswil, Switzerland
January 26th Jazz Club Uster - Uster, Switzerland
January 27th Jazz Club Ferrara - Ferrara, Italy
January 28th Bimhuis - Amsterdam, The Netherlands
January 30th Café Wilhelmina, Eindhoven, The Netherlands

It’s been a year now since we first recorded in the studio. We’ve been doing gigs in NYC but this was the first run of concerts in which we worked the same material night after night. In addition to the standards we originally recorded I added about a half dozen more to the repertoire. I’ve deliberately kept the book small so as to try and solidify the group sound even more deeply. No set lists were used. The songs were spontaneously chosen musically in real time. No counting off tempos, no renditions of melodies from beginning to end. Nothing taken for granted. Over the course of the two week tour the song forms became increasingly impressionistic and improvisatory. And yet all the necessary elements were there, just mixed up, reordered and re-layered. Given the amount of abstraction I felt that our audiences appreciated being taken on a journey. Plus, we sold all the CDs that I brought on tour. I have to say that’s very encouraging.

For those of you who could not be there I’m including the following live track from our concert at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam, a live rendition of “Off Minor”, a Thelonious Monk composition which we also recorded on our CD. You can order a copy of “Trio New York” from the web site using Pay Pal.

One other thing on my mind...I want to thank all of you who attended our concerts but I want to say that I particularly appreciate those concert goers who enjoyed the experience without the aid of electronic devices (especially video cameras). We love it when our listeners stay in the moment, with us.

(Thanks to Axes/Jazzpower for the photograph)


  1. Hey Ellery-

    When you started playing standards with Trio New York, how much did you initially talk to the fellow musicians about the concept?

    When you're playing freely, how tied are you to the harmonic information of the tune?

    I'm sure I could think of a lot of more questions but I'll leave it at that for now. I love the record!

    -Drew Williams

    1. Hi Drew,
      I worked closely with Gary in the beginning. The "concept" happened naturally between us the first time we played so I've tried to further draw that out and develop it. But basically we consider it a free improv gig in which certain tunes may or may not occur. The harmonic information is essential, so much of the preparation now involves coming up with what the agreed upon basic changes of the tunes should be. For that we listen to lots of previously recorded versions of the songs, often early ones by vocalists.