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Dan Loomis: On The Wee Trio and "Live At The Bistro"

Fiona Ord-Shrimpton By

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The idea for us of playing that kind of pop repertoire, it was never to get the immediate response of, “Oh I recognise that song, and I'm happy to be hearing that,” that's like a nice fringe benefit. —Dan Loomis
The Wee Trio, comprising Dan Loomis: bass; James Westfall: vibraphone; Jared Schonig: drums, are a band to keep looking out for. Having released four impressive albums already, including the recent, Live at the Bistro, their star continues to burn slowly—as all true stars are bound. The Wee Trio is a component of a new musical breed of elegant fearlessness that can play anything and make it sound right.

In winter Skype interviews are just the best, you can sidestep potentially awful delays like nasal and stomach flu while imbibing ginger ale and prescriptive Saltine crackers (as required) without leaving the house, and still manage to have a great discussion. Dan Loomis eloquently located the current path of The Wee Trio and the direction the band may be heading.

All About Jazz: I'm possibly one of a small but growing number in the UK to hear your music. Nice to talk about how the influences of your era came through in your music? You'll appreciate that school age music listeners are not necessarily into David Bowie, but they might know him through their parents, through old MTV programmes, YouTube, or some well-placed designer label advert...

Dan Loomis: Right, that was a sobering moment for us actually, we started the group about 7 years ago, so for the first few years, we would go to high schools, and everyone would recognize the songs, although the music was quite old at the time, somehow it was still current with kids. And now, when we go into high schools— if we ask if anyone has heard about The Colonel, it's not on anyone's radar. So yeah, we're experiencing that very personally.

AAJ: But in a good way right?

DL: Well, it's great for us, because the idea for us of playing that kind of pop repertoire, it was never to get the immediate response of, "Oh I recognize that song, and I'm happy to be hearing that," that's like a nice fringe benefit, but the idea for us was always we're just playing the music that was in our ears. We all studied and dove way into how to play jazz, at some point in our high school and college careers and we got really nutty about learning how to swing, and learning about all that goes into that tradition. That doesn't change the fact that we grew up in early 80's, 90's, 00's— and that music was the music around us, and we love that music too, that's the music of our time. It made the most sense for us to be playing a lot of that music. It was the most honest thing for us to do, because it was the milieu --- the atmosphere we grew up in. If kids don't know it so much, it just tells you you're growing older, which we are. We're still happy that it's an honest expression of what we are hearing.

AAJ: The live sound is resonant on the album. There's a freshness about new American jazz bands in particular, that seems to be coming through again. You'll understand what I'm trying to say. In the UK, there was a sense of jazz stirring when Joshua Redman first came to Britain, he was one of the new lions for his era. Now there's a freshness about playing modern music in the jazz sense again that feels like the rediscovery he was implied with. The music seems to be as honest and fresh as jazz must have sounded when it first appeared. It seems to be a churning process, it's starting to come out again that young musicians are confident playing jazz in themselves again, would you agree? Or is that just a process because you're all gifted musicians, in a good band, have been playing together for a long time and know each other well enough to have that level of confidence.

DL: Hopefully that's a part of it, but yeah, I think you're exactly right, you put it in a really interesting way, that there's an honesty to it. That's something we all think and talk about a lot in the jazz genre, because some of the best feeling and infectious music is from the swing side of things, people playing music which has an incredible beat and drive to it. We all love music from the 50's-60's, when people were really swinging, earlier than that of course, but the period where people were stretching the music. If you've been into jazz at any point you'll love that period. You might not stay there, but you have a love for it. The challenge for us as musicians in the time we're in is to find that feeling but you can't just do it again, because you can't repeat the same art and expect it to feel fresh. Have to find something that feels as fresh to you as what they were doing felt to them. That's the thing, if you love an artist, you can't just copy that artist. You have to copy or think about what that artist would have done in your era. If you're just copying the artist then you're making still born art/music.

Yeah, I think that experience of Joshua Redman, he was able to find a sound in swing/groove music, an experience distinctly of the 90's. He's always able to find a sound that is distinct, exciting to his time. And that's what we're trying to do, we're always trying to find things that speak to the era that we're in. And from that if we can find a way to get that infectious groove and drive of jazz into that, then for us that's a winning combination.

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