Take Five With Rhinoceri Trio
Mervine: We like good melodies no matter where they come from, crafted arrangements in which many stories unfold, and sounds that we have yet to hear in a jazz trio format. In the interest of creating songs that are unified wholes, we give composition and improvisation equal weight, dovetailing them together as seamlessly as possible.
Coyle: I think we like to take difficult material and turn it into something poignant, and along the way cause some trouble, some head tilting spontaneity. I often sense that we are trying to run through a wall, like a rhino would of course, as if breaking through the challenges that musicians like us face every dayHow do I write this tune? How do I get my music heard? What's in the ice-box right now?
Your teaching approach:
Mervine: I think someone must really internalize the movements, sounds and emotions they think they want to play through listening and observation; one can play the notes but it's got to be in the right way, in the right character. I've taken some inspiration from method acting.
Coyle: get your hands to feel what you are playing, learn how to hear and not just listen, and most of all, learn how to channel yourself into the music. To me, the music has to come from something within, come from something non-musical in order to stand out.
Your dream band:
Mervine: Shostakovich on piano, Bach on bass (synth, organ, or whatever he'd want), Naftule Brandwein on clarinet, Louis Armstrong on trumpet, and I'd have three singers: Mederic Collignon, Mario Joao, and Yossele Rosenblatt.
Road story: Your best or worst experience:
Mervine: what happens on the road stays on the road.
Mervine: packed West Philly basements.
The first Jazz album I bought was:
Cooney: Concert by the Sea, by Errol Garner;
Mervine: a Preservation Hall tape;
Coyle: Bright Size Life, by Pat Metheny.
CDs you are listening to now:
Cooney: Ivo Papasov, Dolly Parton, Art Tatum;
Gregg: Budowitz, Don Cabellero, Callers;
Coyle: Ali Farka Toure, Ben Webster, Panda Bear.
Desert Island picks:
Cooney: Stienway concert grand and the following books: Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues for Piano, Now He Sings Now He Sobs transcriptions, complete transcriptions of Oscar Peterson, Complete keyboard works of Bach, Kapital 1-3 Karl Marx Mervine: Andras Shiff's Bach Preludes and Fugues; Bartok's string quartets (Emerson Quartet), a good Louis Armstrong collection with the early stuff; Young Tuxedo Brass Band's Jazz Begins.
Coyle: Paul Bley, Open to Love; Pat Metheny, Bright Size Life; Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life; Brian Eno, Apollo Atmospheres and Soundtracks.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Cooney: Jazz today is in a sorry state. This is not due to a lack of talent, skill, vision or dedication on the part of the thousands of players who pour out of the conservatories each year, or the many more thousands of players eking out a living on the fringes of musical society. The state of jazz seems to be, rather, a result of much larger forces beyond our control. This is not a society that nurtures those who wish to do fulfilling work that betters us as people.
Rather, it is a society of assembly lines that seeks to divorce the human from any control over the labor process. As noble as the desire of musicians is to do meaningful work, this desire will never be strong enough to change the basic material realities of a society founded on the subordination of the individual to the needs of profit.
Mervine: Jazz is a deep American tradition that still inspires new music all over the globe. The traditional jazz format, having explored form and harmony to the outer reaches of intelligibility, and having appropriated plenty of appealing styles, seems rather exhausted to me creatively. The vamp formatplaying over a short repetitive figure, one chord/one groove, or playing free timeI don't think comes from jazz at all, but rather from salsa, gospel, Middle Eastern music, Indian music, Cantorial music, etc. The new musicians I like are rarely jazz musicians, or at least it's not necessary to call them jazz musicians, once and for all.
Coyle: If certain influential educators and musicians keep pounding "tradition, tradition, tradition" into young musicians heads then jazz is heading straight for the museum. Classical music has experienced this, as many ordinary people consider a symphonic concert akin to a trip to a historical museum.