May 26 at the Mercury Lounge was only the second outing for Marc Decho's Nu-Trio, but already the group was cooking as though they'd been together for far longer. The set list was a mixture of Monk and Miles, a few originals, some blues, and rearrangements of Neil Young and Ray Charles numbers. The sound ranged between jazz and soul with a bit of funk, and the audience gave it an enthusiastic reception.
But their tight sound was not totally surprising. Bassist Marc Decho said that their previous gig in April at Cafe Paradiso was the first time all three had played together as a trio, but he has played in drummer Mike Essoudry's octet and septet, and Essoudry had gone to school with and has played frequently with keyboardist Adam Daudrich.
"[The trio] was my idea, actually," Decho said. "I had been wanting to do something with Adam and Mike for a long time. I finally got us the gig at Paradiso and it lit right away. Just as I expected it to."
"These guys are totally into that vibe. It's hard to find people that can think alike and want to take a tune and just really explore it but really not talk about it. I thought we pulled it off convincingly – at least we tried to."
View photos of the show
He said he was looking for a free sound, "half-way between swing, it's kind of funk, it's half-way between straight [jazz]".
Both Essoudry and Daudrich have considerable backgrounds in free, avant-garde jazz, as well as mainstream. Essoudry has also played in the jazz/R&B Back-Talk Organ Trio, and his own jazz/Klezmer/Balkan crossover Mash Potato Mashers, while Daudrich plays in soul bands. Decho is in bands ranging from Latin to mainstream jazz to funk and soul, to fusion, to Cuban and salsa, to blues.
"So we all have a lot of common ground, in the soul music, and the funk music, [...] but we all do different things, too," Decho said. "It adds a nice touch. And that's what I had in mind, even last year. I thought these two guys would be great together. I did duos with Adam last summer, and I then I just thought having Mike in there would really add a lot because Mike also speaks on drums. He doesn't just play the 4-4. He has a conversation."
The Mercury Lounge show was arranged at the last minute. "Phil [Lafreniere] called me and said, 'Hey, I've got a cancellation for the Up&Up series. Do you have anything you want to do?' And I said, 'Well, actually, yes, I've got this trio. It's totally different than anything you've done. I've played a lot of different things here [in the Up&Up series] and I said, 'Sure, let's do the first jazz one!' "
"This is our second time playing together ever. It's just going to get more interesting now because Adam is writing a lot of original tunes that we're doing; we performed a few tonight. The groundwork is there; we're just now getting started really. [...] Nothing's rehearsed at all [about] how we're going to do it. Which even makes it more fun – that's the jazz spirit. But it will eventually get molded into something a little more polished."
Their Paradiso show was all-acoustic, he said, because of the very ambient sound there and because it's a restaurant. But Daudrich switched to keyboards and Decho to electric bass for the Mercury Lounge show. At a previous show he played at Mercury, he said, the acoustic bass didn't work as well with the acoustics of the room, and, with the electric bass, "I don't have to crank it super-high; I can be really expressive on it. It cuts through drums nicely."
"So now we're getting into electric stuff, and it's fun because it's new. I've never really heard people doing what we did tonight before ([although] it probably has been done somewhere). We really want to try new sounds, new textures, new stuff – all within trio. No horns, just three of us."
Decho said he wanted to continue to develop the trio, but now needs to find more venues for it, in both Ottawa and Montreal. "I'm going to try to get some stuff going and we'll see what's happens."
– Alayne McGregor
All photos © Brett Delmage, 2011