Out on the Edge

Amongst them, the members of Winter Trio have probably racked up around 120 years of performing. As a distinct musical entity, though, they’re just hitting their stride.

The group consists of pianist/composer Daniel Janke, bassist Paul Bergman and drummer Ken Searcy.

Searcy moved here about 20 years ago and made his way into the Yukon music scene.

“That’s how I met Daniel, so he and I have a fairly long connection,” he says. “Paul moved back to the territory three or four years ago. He used to play here in the ’80s, and he played with Daniel back then.”

Playing together as a rhythm section on different projects with other Yukon groups, the three soon recognized they were at a similar level musically and had shared musical tastes.

“We all have very busy lives, so for us to get together and play, there’s something there. There’s a reason to do that,” Searcy says. “For us, playing jazz (or improvisational music, to use the term the three prefer) is fun, it’s a challenge. It’s kind of like the ultimate way for us to grow and create and make better music.

“We recognized that in one another, and we enjoyed playing together. From there, we just put aside a once-a-week session to get together and play.”

As their playing progressed in those weekly gatherings in Janke’s studio near Whitehorse, Searcy says it began to take on a group voice, or trio voice.

“When we started to feel that, and we were rehearsing in a recording studio, we took the next step.”

From the start, they had done basic recordings of each session to share and learn from. They also talked about what they’d each been listening to and listened to some new music one of them had discovered.

“When you’re out there and talking, and you’re relating to where each other’s at, and the music is happening, that’s fun for us. So, if it’s fun for everybody, then we need to keep doing it,” Searcy says, explaining the decision to perform and record as a group.

Last summer, they decided to put together a CD. Instead of using any one member’s name, they decided to call themselves the more generic Winter Trio, to reflect both the season they’re able to get together more often, and the collaborative approach they take to their music.

Although Janke comes up with most of their original tunes, they consider themselves equals in terms of shaping the finished product.

“There’s a common understanding that has to take place, a common ground. So we’re all there,” Searcy says. “But then you have to get together and you have to see how things progress and how free you’re willing to be.”

He quotes an unnamed musician to explain the process of playing jazz as “becoming more comfortable with being uncomfortable,” and being willing to stretch one’s personal boundaries.

“With the trio, we’re people who have that and are willing to do that. You’ve also got to be there to support the other person going out there, too,” he says. “When someone is hanging out on that edge there, you have to go with them. And sometimes the whole trio goes out there. So it’s trust, respect and common ground that make it a good thing.”

Of the nine cuts on the trio’s self-titled album, which will be officially launched this week, four are Janke/trio compositions: “Hermione,” “Kensington Man,” “Falling Again” and “Cadenza Forever.”

“A couple of the tunes are a full arrangement and a couple of them are just a basic four-bar theme, and then we go off from there and come back to the theme at the end,” Searcy says.

Two tracks, (“Iris” and “Orbits”), are jazz standards by American saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter. There are pieces by Canadians George Koller (“Compassion Blues”) and Ernie Tollar (“Heron”), and even a traditional gospel number, “How Can I Keep From Singing.”

Although reluctant to select a personal favourite among the nine, Searcy admits being especially moved by Koller’s piece.

He and Koller worked together years ago in Calgary and Janke had played with Koller in Toronto. Last year, the three of them performed a trio concert in Whitehorse.

“He brought two or three tunes to play and one of them was ‘Compassion Blues.’ It’s just great writing. You can feel the emotion there when you listen to it,” Searcy says.

While Janke handled the recording and mixing side of the album’s production, Searcy is the one responsible for getting it into the hands and ears of consumers.

“Now we have a CD, what are we going to do with it? That’s my next step: where to get some radio play, get it up on CD Baby and iTunes and get familiar with new media. This is a whole new education for me,” he says.

Winter Trio’s debut album will be released Friday, April 15 with a concert at the Old Fire Hall, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Dean’s Strings.

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