Music » Music Stories & Interviews

Undistilled acid



It's midnight on a Monday evening and I'm sharing a loveseat with two dogs that have made this piece of furniture a dugout of their own. The rest of the place bears all the markings of a musician's pad: a coffee table covered in music sheets and jazz magazines; drumsticks and dumbbells finding their happy place on the floor and the television armoire that's morphed into more or less a shelf for towers of music DVDs standing tall on top. All the while a large painting of Abraham Lincoln, Christmas lights wrapped around the frame, kindly keeps guard over the room. This is local veteran Bobby Koelble's cave, and it's just as influential to the senses as his music.

"I wanted to do something like a super-modern jazz thing," explains Koelble, one-third of Taste Restaurant's weekly Wednesday night residents, the Absinthe Trio. Guitarist Koelble, bassist Matt Lapham and drummer Rion Smith founded the trio only a couple of years ago, but they have known and performed with each other for more than a decade — Koelble as the frontman of Junkie Rush, Lapham and Smith as performers in the talented prog-funk act Shak Nasti. The Absinthe Trio was a concept the three were already hoping to pursue when they were approached by Church Street Station's now-defunct Absinthe Bistro and Bar, where they were offered a weekly gig.

"We wanted to do something that combined the essence of jazz but not make it just a jazz band," says Koelble. "Something a little more contemporary that had more of a drum & bass, electronica feel."

The Absinthe Trio performs in layers, beginning with electronic samples before administering doses of in-the-pocket jazz until finally falling into a pool of trip-hop rhythms. On most occasions they incorporate the appropriate saxophonist, percussionist or vocalist to maximize the effect. "Another big part of the original conception is to have Rion's wife Yuki perform with us as a vocalist," says Koelble. "We have tunes that are written especially for her." Whenever Smith is unavailable, thanks to occasional performing duties with the Sam Rivers Trio, they call in local great Anthony Cole, now playing with Mofro.

Capturing the trio live is where parallel universes collide. "We like to incorporate traditional bossa nova with a more electronic, Latin and Brazilian type of influence," says Koelble. Performing with solidity and carrying their abstract rhythms through each of the night's three sets, they deliver personal interpretations of the classic works of greats like Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock and Jimi Hendrix.

"It's difficult stuff that we're playing," says Smith. "For me, as a drummer, I feel like sometimes my arms are stuck in molasses and my ideas are going so fast but the flow isn't there, you know? You have to work through that."

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