Thursday, October 1, 2015

“Trio New York” Live at the Willisau Jazz Festival

Some years ago I got a call from my friend, drummer Bobby Previte, asking me if I knew that there was a poster with my name on it hanging in the architecture and design gallery of the Museum of Modern Art here in NYC.  In fact I hadn’t known and thought it rather odd and unlikely.  Bobby said it was from Willisau (Switzerland), a poster for a concert I did with Dutch drummer Han Bennink.  So I gathered the family and we walked through midtown, found our way to the gallery and there it was. Turns out the poster was made by Niklaus Troxler.  Niklaus Troxler has produced countless concerts in Willisau over the past four or more decades.  And he’s made his own concert posters for each one of them as well.  I knew they were wonderful posters but I did not realize that Niklaus’ work was showing in galleries around the globe.  In fact he has won many awards for them over the years.  And so here were some of his posters on view at MOMA.  I was impressed and flattered that one of my own concerts was represented.  Taking a moment to assure that my young son (he was about nine or ten at the time) fully appreciated the import of this I looked over and said, “so what do you think of that?”  Without missing a beat he replied, “that’s nice, can we get something to eat now?”  Keeping priorities in order.

Photo of Trio New York by Adrian Baer, NZZ

I first played the Willisau festival in 1997 with a group formed to perform music associated with the great saxophonist Gene Ammons (with Marc Ribot on guitar and Kenny Wolleson on drums).  We recorded “The Sun Died” for Soul Note records (which is available on iTunes).  I’ve played in Willisau at least a dozen times, as I was reminded by Niklaus this past August.  The forward looking festival is now produced by his nephew Arno Troxler, who had invited me to bring “Trio New York” to perform on the festival this year.  As we were sitting down to dinner Niklaus proudly showed me a book titled “WILLISAU AND ALL THAT JAZZ - A Visual History 1966 – 2013” which was recently published chronicling the scene there since 1966 containing over 700 pages with many beautiful photographs as well as his concert poster reproductions.  It simply amazes me that a small town in Europe can host, nurture and develop such a deep and long running celebration of musical art and culture and document it in a way that so often eludes us here in the States.

We see many friends and familiar faces each time in Willisau and it’s always nice to reconnect with folks over the years.  This very warm and relaxed feeling combined with a heightened energy and awareness of the special nature of this annual event makes playing there very easy. One of the nice things about the festival is that it is not maxed out with so many bands that one is overwhelmed or unable to hear everything that is presented.  When it was our time to play we hit the stage and started in on the music without even thinking twice. I formed “Trio New York” in 2010 along with Gary Versace on Hammond B3 organ.  The drum chair has been occupied by a great many wonderful drummers; Tyshawn Sorey, Ted Poor, Tom Rainey, Nasheet Waits, Gerry Hemingway, Jochen Ruckert, Rudy Royston and Gerald Cleaver (who is on both of the band’s recordings). Each of these musicians brings a different chemistry to the band. For this occasion I invited Gerry Hemingway to reconnect with the group. I have about twenty years of experience playing with Gerry and so that’s a pretty deep bond to draw from. The concert was recorded for Swiss Radio and the combination of good vibes and good technical acumen on the part of the recording engineers resulted in a document that I think is worth sharing.  We’re already underway with getting that mixed and mastered for a spring release on hatOLOGY records. I’ll be making plenty of noise about it when the time comes so do stay tuned…



posters by Niklaus Troxler