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Take Five With Trey Wright

AAJ Staff By

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Meet Trey Wright: Trey Wright is a jazz guitarist, composer, and recording artist based in Roswell, Ga. While studying Sociology at the University of Georgia, Trey studied jazz improvisation with pianist and composer Steve Dancz. In 1994, he co-founded the Athens/Atlanta based jazz band Squat. The group is a six-time winner of Best Jazz Band at the Flagpole Athens Music Awards and has been at festivals and clubs throughout the Southeast. Several of Trey's compositions with the group have received international airplay and have been featured on Sirius radio.

Trey has also performed with Jimmy Haslip, John Patitucci, Joe Lovano, and Corey Christiansen. Trey has performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Jazz A Vienne, and the World Sacred Music Festival in Bangalore, India. As a solo guitarist and with his trio, Trey has been a featured performer at the Athens Music and Arts Festival, the Lake Oconee Jazz Festival, Mulefest and the Atlanta Jazz Festival.

In December of 2002, Trey completed a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies at Georgia State University, and he currently is on faculty at Kennesaw State University and the Atlanta Institute of Music. In 2006, Trey released his first CD, Where I'm Calling From, receiving rave reviews and international airplay. The Trey Wright Trio released Thinking Out Loud in the summer of 2009 on Blue Canoe Records.

Instrument(s):

Guitar.

Teachers and/or influences?

My teachers have included pianist and composer Steve Dancz and jazz guitarist Dave Frackenpohl.

As for influences, there are too many to name but a sampling would include Jim Hall, Brad Mehldau, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Bill Frisell, Wayne Shorter, The Bad Plus, Radiohead, U2, etc ....

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

Music is the only thing that has ever made sense to me. I never planned on being a musician for a career but I always knew it would be an important part of my life.

Your sound and approach to music:

I've always been interested in music that told a story and took the listener somewhere. I want to play jazz music in which solos aren't the focal point, but are a part of the natural evolution of a song's dynamic progression. Early on in my education I was taught that less is more, something that I always try to teach my students as well!

Your teaching approach:

I believe in focused, goal oriented lessons. I always spend the first lesson asking the students what their goals are and then I try to come up with a plan to get them to where they want to be. Having a plan helps keep the student motivated and get them to where they want to be!

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

I could write a book of nightmare experiences that we had when Squat was on the road.

One of the worst was when we were the backing band for an artist that attempted to leave us stranded in Grand Junction, CO as he drove off in his van with all of our gear in it!

Favorite venue:

Some of my favorite performances have been overseas. I'm always blown away by how appreciative and receptive foreign audiences can be to jazz music and jazz musicians. It's easy to get discouraged playing to ten disinterested fans in your own home town!

My favorite was the World Sacred Music Festival in Bangalore, India. I was playing with pianist and composer Steve Dancz and was completely inspired by our surroundings and the other music acts we played with. I hope to begin playing abroad on a more regular basis.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

The two trio CDs I have done - Where I'm Calling From (2006 Namaste Records) and Thinking Out Loud (2009 Blue Canoe Records). I love playing with the trio; the openness of this format gives plenty of room for harmonic exploration and expression.

Bassist Marc Miller and drummer Marlon Patton are amazing musicians and I am always amazed at what these guys do with the tunes I bring to the group. We all have similar influences and we are constantly listening and interacting with each other as we play.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

I'm honestly not sure .... but I do know that the album that had the biggest influence on me when I was learning was Grant Green, Feelin' the Spirit. I had never heard a guitarist play with such a strong pocket before. I love turning students on to this record.

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

Although I do my best, I realized a long time ago that I was never going to be the guitarist around. There are so many amazing players! I feel that I have found my niche as a composer and have developed my own style as a player (it only took me 20 years to figure it out!)

Desert Island picks:

The Brad Mehldau Trio, Art of the Trio Volume III arner Bros.)

Charles Mingus, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (Impulse!)

Radiohead, Amnesiac (EMI)

Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden, Beyond the Missouri Sky (short stories) (Verve)

U2, Achtung Baby (Island).

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Musically, jazz is stronger than ever. I am always amazed at the wide range of talent and ideas in the jazz world. Unfortunately, it needs a broader and more supportive fan base.

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

This is a very important question and I don't think there is a simple answer. Jazz music has to become more visible and accessible to a wider audience to survive. I think interpreting modern day "standards" by contemporary pop artists can help. Is an essential part of the jazz tradition to interpret popular music.

What is in the near future?

The Trio has been playing a wide range of venues including clubs, festivals, schools and churches. I am considering recording an album of Radiohead tunes with the trio next year. We'll see ....

By Day:

I teach at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA and at the Atlanta Institute of Music.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

No idea .... a sociologist? (whatever that is).

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