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Take Five With the Anansi Trio

Mark Merella By

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About Anansi Trio

We are a group of like-minded musicians drawing from a wide range of musical influences. Using the language of jazz as our starting point, we use elements of Afro-Cuban and Indian music as well as other global traditions. With a diverse rhythmic approach and a focus on improvisation, we hope to put our own stamp on the American legacy known as Jazz.

Instrument(s):

Soprano and alto saxophones, acoustic bass and a hybrid drum kit consisting of drum set elements, congas, cajon and other percussion.

Teachers and/or influences?

We're influenced by many of the jazz masters including John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and Wayne Shorter and also artists more associated with the avant-garde like Arthur Blythe and Ornette Coleman. World music is definitely in the mix with artists like Hamza El Din and Zakir Hussain, and Miles Davis for his constant reaching for new sounds and styles.

Your sound and approach to music.

We like the stripped down sound of the sax, bass and drums trio. It has the loft jazz vibe but also the more folkloric sound you get without the chordal accompaniment.

Your dream band

Since we're working with the trio format we could see maybe adding a guest artist on a gig or maybe in the studio. An oud player could add a nice touch or a guitarist that uses lots of colors.

Favorite venue

D.C. has a strong jazz scene and there's a good number of clubs in town including Twins and Alice's Jazz and Cultural Society. The Atlas Theater is a nice venue acoustically and the Phillips Collection has a nice staff and monthly jazz series.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

Since we just released our debut CD it would have to be that, On The Path.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

We're trying to create a unique ensemble sound. The chordless trio has been done quite a bit, but with the congas and other percussion we have a different sound than say an Elvin Jones trio. We love Elvin, Sonny Rollins and what other groups have done with the trio format and hopefully we're adding to that legacy.

Did you know...

The Anansi Trio has its origins in the band Mosaic. Along with pianist Ned Judy and David Font-Navarette on percussion, the members of Anansi recorded two albums as Mosaic: Unsaid, Undone and Live At Sangha.

Music you are listening to now:

JD Allen: I Am I Am (Sunnyside)
Rashid Khan: Reflections (Sense World Music)
Arthur Blythe: Hypnotism (Enja)
Hamza El Din: Eclipse (Pacific Arts)
Wayne Shorter: Alegria (Verve)

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

There seem to be two camps. Those that are dedicated to playing jazz as a repertory music and those that are looking toward the future. It's important to understand and incorporate elements of the tradition but if an art form is to continue to stay valid it has to keep reinventing itself.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

There are lots of folks putting out great, creative music. Jazz is alive and well. To keep it growing, more venues would be helpful and music and arts education is important to keep any culture thriving.

What is in the near future?

We just released our debut CD so we'll be playing venues in D.C. and Baltimore to support it. Hopefully we'll do some other East Coast gigs if we get the opportunity. We're also rehearsing and working on new music to keep things fresh and record in the future.

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