After 12 years of leading his singer-less-songwriting-post-rock-improv band AlasNoAxis, Jim Black goes in the absolute opposite musical direction by forming a new piano trio featuring one of the most in demand NY musicians, Thomas Morgan on bass, and the young Austrian pianist to watch out for, Elias Stemeseder.
Why? "I had been wanting another outlet for my writing and playing for some time. I had been writing all my music for the last 10 years on guitar. Looking for a change, I came back from an Uri Caine tour and bought a piano, thinking ok, now you have to get work. I had wanted to do something with piano but I didn't have a particular direction or band in mind." Enter 20 year-old pianist Elias Stemeseder.
"I first heard Elias Stemeseder at a jazz workshop in Salzburg. What impressed me and the other teachers the most was even though he was only sixteen at the time, his playing had a very special kind of depth, which is something you rarely see in a musician that young." Through the next years Elias Stemeseder and Jim Black played together between Jim's tours in Europe, when finally after their first duo concert in Iceland, Jim decided to form the trio with Thomas Morgan.
"I really liked the way Elias played my original music and it was time to form a viable recording and touring band. A year before I had played a totally improvised gig with Thomas Morgan, which amazed me, and I walked away determined to find a way to play together more often."
So here they are. The trio records their first album for the German label Winter & Winter. Festival gigs in the summer and a tour in April 2012 will follow.
The music? "I am trying to go in the opposite direction of AlasNoAxis. Where as with Alas we are coming out of rock energy, rhythms, and textures, I wrote music for this trio to uncover different ways to approach swing rhythms and obviously acoustic improvisational and song structures. More influenced by jazz and Malian desert rhythms than Sonic Youth..."
"I also wanted to have a band that could do anything, go anywhere. Something very tactile, interactive, and could play music ranging from melodic songs to complicated forms to jazz standards, in our own way."
Somatic means "of the body" but initially I thought of dreams, Aldous Huxley, or hallucinations when I wrote the word down as the title on a new tune. Dream theorists talk about a "somatic dream" where essentially 'what the body needs informs the dream'. Interesting. I have been trying to translate rhythms and feels that seem to hatch from the body after all these years of playing. Somewhat unrelated rhythms that are layered, individually clear in shape yet opaque in tandem, they seem to be in or between two places at once, yet feel somehow easy and natural – at least to myself, and
also now with this trio, which I am very lucky to have. The possibility to wail inversely is now on the horizon.
So where inside does the music come from? From the body, the mind, the heart? Not always easy to tell, they each seem to take turns screaming for attention. Not that it really matters that much either. Each recording is yet another chance to put sound to feelings, memories, and most importantly,
Tahre could be a example of a somatic song. In the same way I felt the rhythms, I tried to write in a harmonic and spatial way that reflected the mood.
Terrotow was the first complete song I wrote for the recording. I was on the subway in NY listening to the one-of-a-kind John Gilmore playing with Paul Bley, got back home, and with my collection of misfit Japanese stuffed animals staring at me wrote my version of their vibe.... maybe more the vibe
from the animals than Bley's band.
Hestbak is Icelandic for horseback, or so I was told by a native. I spent an amazing 4 days driving around the interior last summer, hence the inspiration, and the subtle stumble.
Willbee is for everyone who hasn't got there yet.
Sure Are You – A somewhat sideways stab at writing the sound of swing.
Beariere – Searching for sound, density, and meaning on the left side of the piano.
Somatic – Inspired by days of jet lagged bizarre semi-lucid dreaming. I woke up one of those afternoons and said to myself 'go write what you just experienced'.
Protection was written ten years ago but never played. This little piece dashed back from the memory hole after about 5 seconds playing with this trio for the first time.
Chibi Jones was finished by the mere muffled suggestion from a guest inside my apartment's bathroom, 'that sounds nice...'. I'll take what I can get some days.
Uglysnug is my very first blues, sort of. Instigated by a great Nat Adderley song "Fun", it was quickly thwarted by Thelonious Monk, Burt Bacharach, and Josh Homme running through my brain at the same time. Blame the iP_d.
Drummer Jim Black's musical creativity and unstoppable curiosity have made him one of the most in-demand drummers in the jazz/new music scene today. Jim moved to Brooklyn in 1991 where he currently resides, and maintains a busy schedule touring, recording, teaching and enjoying music across the world. In 2000, Jim released his acclaimed debut recording, »AlasNoAxis« on Winter & Winter Recordings (called "A masterpiece of future jazz" by The Wire) and has since built a discography of five acclaimed recordings, including the latest »Houseplant« (2009).
Thomas Morgan was born on August 14, 1981 in Hayward, California. He began to study the cello at the age of seven and continued until the age of fourteen, when his attention turned to the double bass. In May of 2003 he completed his Bachelor of Music degree at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Harvie S and Garry Dial. Thomas has played concerts in New York and abroad with such artists as Paul Motian, John Abercrombie, David Binney, Joey Baron, and Steve Coleman.
Elias Stemeseder chose the piano as his principal instrument at the age of nine. After studying classical music for four years, he became interested in jazz and formed his first band. At the age of 15, he was accepted the Anton Bruckner University in Linz to study jazz piano. In 2008, his trio was awarded the prestigious Joe Zawinul Prize. Presently he is attending the Jazz Institute Berlin and performs in Europe in many different projects.