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Sam Lester Trio - beyond verbal communication

Sam Lester Trio - beyond verbal communication

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This interview brought some very in-depth conversation about Jazz as a genre and the creative process behind it, giving you what I hope to be a new appreciation for the genre and the trio. (Unabridged audio from this interview below)  

The Sam Lester Trio - consists of Sam Lester (band leader) on guitar, Luke Markham on drums and Andrew Grau on bass. The trio is a relatively new group, but by no means are they new musicians. Each prolific players in their own right, the the members banded together when Sam was looking for a fill-in bassist and a friend recommended Andrew. Luke, a regular with Andrew, was there for that performance making it the first unofficial collaboration for the then soon-to-be group. 

With a common appreciation for Bill Evans, their influences vary from the Jim Hall Trio and Chick Corea to Daft Punk; the trio likes to implement a jazz approach over many mainstream genres, keeping them versatile and giving the tunes their own unique twist.  

Although the creative process is unique to each group, for these guys the commonality for composing is more individual and personal, leaving it open for each of them to create a track on their own, form the basic structure for the song, then present it to the band leaving it open to interpretation (which in jazz happens regardless, each and every song, each and every time), forming a more elaborate identity. Jazz is a spontaneous interpretive expression formed on many fundamentals, where the players improvise based on each performance and on a number of different components; it could be widely influenced by the location, mood, band interaction, the way their day goes, the crowd, the lighting and as Luke put it from a drummers perspective, “ A big thing for me and probably for a lot of other drummers is, often we’re playing on a house drum kit and we rarely get to play on our own instrument, so you may show up and love the sound of the snare drum or hate the sound of the snare drum, and that effects the way you’re going to play that gig.”

We all know that music is a form of language that surpasses any human barriers, but Andrew made a good point when saying Jazz can take that to another level completely. “I had this piano sub fill-in for me on a gig, we have never meet before and we had barely mentioned a few words to one another before playing, but by the end of the night we were buddies and I felt like we had known each other for a long time; when playing Jazz it becomes a much more initial intimate conversation, there is the preliminary apprehension, then the musical communication between us for knowing where to go, then there’s a lot of give and take like any good conversation. When sitting together at the bar after gig, we had a great verbal conversation then rode the subway home together like we had been friends for a long time.”

To the average listener, Jazz could be just another form of musical expression, but they might not know the major compositional differences between, say, a pop tune and a jazz tune. For starters, Jazz has a very emotional relationship when relating a tune to a new performer, whereas a pop song is related by very specific notes played at a specific time. When forming a Jazz tune, Andrew likes to use the title as the form of relating a specific feeling, one that generally another musical can comprehend and relate to in their own way allowing them to make the song their own and give it their own emotional interpretation.

Sam summarizes this very well - “A lot of Jazz is making sense out of chaos, where you bring a sophisticated piece of music to other musicians with a sense of how it’s going to sound, but you won’t really know until the band actually plays it together, unitedly forming its real identity with the other members and including their descriptions” Where to once again, in a pop tune, generally the producer wants only their feelings played and portrayed to a very specific preconceived arrangement.

Concluding our interview, I asked the band to share some advice for those looking to stay creatively motivated and what others in their situations can apply to themselves. “Go out and listen to as much and as many varying types of new music as you can, never say no to play a gig and be the best version of YOU as a musician. 

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