>> write // chris trinidad's common themes ii: liner notes

chris trinidad: bass guitars
morgan childs: drum set
aaron hardie: alto saxophone
paul miyai: piano

produced and mixed by chris trinidad for elementalmusicworks.com

recorded by mike rogerson with lisa tyack on 22 july and 23 july 2004
at bakerstreet studios, north vancouver, bc, canada

mastered by allan bacani on 17 august 2006
at dogwood sound, vancouver, bc, canada

layout and design by jonathan bongato

The Capilano College Connection. That is what this album could have been called. My time attending the college was a fruitful and, sometimes, a frustrating experience. Being around players who really knew their stuff helped to elevate my musicianship. We were taught to always try to find playing situations where players better than us were in the group so that we would be challenged to raise our playing level. Because I played bass guitar rather than double bass my opportunities to learn from those better players than I were rather limited. There was [and there probably still is] a stigma about the primary instrument that I play. The common misconception amongst student-musicians [and even some faculty] is that the instrument belongs with rock and roll bands and fusion groups but not in big bands or smaller straight ahead jazz sessions. But there was something about developing a voice of my own that was infinitely more appealing than trying to exist in some pre-determined box wondering if I should also learn the double bass. So, then, how was I supposed to get better if the best players in the program would not play with a bass guitarist?

I suppose that some of the music students enrolled in jazz studies at Capilano College wanted to learn about jazz, in general, and bebop, in particular, but in my opinion, this was sometimes done by excluding other genres of music or even other periods of jazz history. In other words, the feeling of wanting to push any boundaries, to extend beyond the tradition, and to explore the very feeling of jazz -- that of forward momentum and that of developing an original voice, seemed to be lost amongst some of the players studying. On the other hand and in hindsight, I have grown to appreciate those players who wish to dedicate themselves to a particular genre of jazz because it is what they want to do. I would only hope that they would equally respect those of us who are trying to do something a little differently.

Enter Paul Miyai. I met Paul on the last day of the first week of my first semester of jazz studies. I was jamming with a drummer and saxophonist, both of whom, incidentally, had graduated five years earlier than I from the same high school I attended. It was a reunion of sorts, with Paul sitting in on piano. I remember losing the form of the tune we were jamming on more than one occasion. I also remember the musical life rings that Paul threw my way when he saw that I was lost beyond hope: he shadowed the roots with his left hand which allowed me to get back on track while he continued to play an amazing solo with his right hand. He showed considerable poise, professionalism, and patience as I struggled through the rest of that session.

I remember the evening vividly. I had just come from my second year small ensemble repertoire class feeling dejected and down about the whole college music experience. I stood in the entrance area of the music department mulling over all of this and whether I wanted to continue studying jazz. If I had decided to quit, and wanted to further pursue playing jazz, my options would have been rather limited because I played the bass guitar. Capilano College was one of the few [if not the only] institution that allowed a student-musician to major on the instrument. I saw Paul walking down the hallway toward me having just spent a number of dedicated hours in a practice room working on his craft.

I told him that I was feeling demoralized about school, about my playing, and about jazz. I explained that I was coming from a different background, one of loving progressive rock and jazz fusion, and that there seemed to be no room to think in that way at the college. He then laid on me six words that proceeded to solidify my original decision for attending jazz school: "Do what you want to do." That phrase literally liberated me from being shackled to thinking that bebop was the only thing worth studying. That phrase brought me back to the realization that I had a choice in what I wanted to accomplish and that any successes or failures in my studies would be attributed solely to me. Finally, that phrase allowed me to be myself amidst the myriad of jazz school clones all sounding like one another.

I do want to make the point that I am glad to have graduated from the Capilano College Jazz Studies program. Firstly, I succeeded in realizing my quest to obtain an undergraduate degree from a recognized institution. Secondly, I met many amazing, musical, and open minded players from my time there. Lastly, my studies at the school broadened by understanding of music and I even grew to love straight-ahead jazz.

During that same second year, I was lucky enough to be placed in several small group situations with saxophonist Aaron Hardie. Over the course of playing together, he invited me to be a part of the first incarnation of the Aaron Hardie Quartet along with Allyson Mara on piano, and either Mike Zobac or Ryan Davis on drum set. We rehearsed after the last semester of our second year at the college in preparation for a summer-long residency at a historic hole-in-the-wall bar called the Marine Club on Homer Street in downtown Vancouver. Hardly anyone showed up so we hardly got paid, but it was there that I was able to develop and practice a number of walking bass line concepts that my teacher at the time, Andre Lachance, had taught me. It was also that time that I was introduced to Aaron's book of tunes. He was a prolific composer bringing new compositions to our weekly rehearsals and gigs on a regular basis.

I remember that during one of our rehearsal sessions, he gave me some words of encouragement and some crucial advice about my bass playing. First, Aaron said that there was nothing wrong with clean electric bass guitar in straight ahead jazz, and second, he suggested that I kept the walking line moving by minimizing the number of consecutive repeated notes I played so that consistent forward momentum was always felt. Aaron is that rare type of player who gives supportive commentary and constructive criticism in such a way that newer or younger players can readily assimilate and understand. Indeed, immediately after graduating from the Capilano College jazz studies program, he enrolled at the University of British Columbia teacher education program. I followed that move a year later.

In my last year of high school, I had won a scholarship to a week long jazz camp that was to be held in Penticton, a town found in the interior of British Columbia. It was there that I first met drummer Morgan Childs. He was a scrawny and tall 15 year old kid just getting a handle on the drums. One day, standing in the same foyer at Cap where Paul had that encouraging conversation with me, a tall figure approached me. "Chris? Chris Trinidad? How are 'ya?" We shook hands and reminisced on our time together in Penticton and vowed to do some jamming in the near future.

When I was forming a band for Amalia Townsend, I thought of Morgan because his enthusiasm and passion for music making was infectious and would be just the type of drummer we would need to drive the ship. His facial contortions, perhaps only outdone by Keith Jarrett's famous vocalizations, earned Morgan the nickname Morgasm from many of his friends. Today, the scrawnyness is gone, he's still tall, and taller still is the way he swings on the drum set. As a well-respected member of the Vancouver jazz community, Morgan regularly hustles to make gigs happen, supports other local jazz musicians by attending their gigs, and continues his commitment to study jazz and his chosen instrument, the drum set. These ideals made him the perfect choice this time for this project. (If you listen closely to the tracks, you might hear a number of 'clicks' particularly during 'heated' moments. With perhaps a little inspiration from the spirit of Keith Moon, that's Morgasm's drumstick making contact with a microphone.)

I jumped at the opportunity to record this album while the first Common Themes project was sitting idle on my hard drive, unmixed. The timing was absolutely perfect because pianist Paul Miyai schedule allowed him to stay in town for a week immediately after his stint aboard ship. Aaron Hardie was in town on break for the summer after teaching band at a local high school. Morgan Childs was on the island visiting his grandparents and would be back on the Lower Mainland specifically for this project.

After three days of rehearsal, we recorded once again at Bakerstreet Studios, but this time in the sweltering heat of summer. Mike Rogerson and Lisa Tyack were behind the controls making sure everything sounded great. From a recording and production standpoint, we printed to tape (committed to hard drive?) "live off the floor." In addition to producing, I took on the role of amateur mixing engineer. As with the rest of the series, mastering was handled effortlessly by Allan Bacani.

By the Way [Aaron Hardie]. This is a fun tune that came about while Aaron was on a break at a school that he was teaching at. He was a little surprised at how fast it completed itself. He made a little joke to himself that although he was identified by those around him by his job as a music teacher and dealing with everything that goes along with that, he was secretly maintaining his life as a player and composer. "By the way, I also do this …," says Aaron.

Two by Four [Paul Miyai]. Paul wrote this tune on his laptop and with his portable USB keyboard. It mixes elements from his favourite piano players, namely, inspiration from Herbie Hancock's early Blue Note recordings, the blues playing of Oscar Peterson, and the quirkiness of Thelonious Monk.

White Tigers and Grey Elephants [CT]. I wrote this tune early one summer morning in 1999, after a conversation with a friend who had a love for huge stuffed animals. I formally asked her out about a week later. We dated for a while, she moved away, and we didn't last. The tune makes use of close chromatic root movements, and motivic development, two compositional tools I loved experimenting with at the time.

Miyai-E-I-O [Aaron Hardie]. When Aaron heard that our friend Paul Miyai was going to be on this project, he wanted to contribute something that would be fun and energetic that we could all play together. Aaron always enjoyed playing with Paul because although Paul's a serious player, Paul still keeps the mood light with his humour and easy going attitude. Miyai-E-I-O is a nickname that Aaron came up while at Capilano College.

Corinne [Aaron Hardie]. This is a ballad that Aaron wrote quite some time ago with his wife in mind. While there are many songs written with a woman's first name as the title, he chose to go with her middle name because during their early days together, he had trouble pronouncing it and figured this would help him remember. It did. This tune was played often during our "residency" at the Marine Club. Corinne is probably my most favourite Aaron Hardie composition.

Straight Up, Almost [Morgan Childs]. This tune was born out of Morgan's constant experimentations with the piano. He would often sit at the instrument and try to reconcile what he was hearing in his head with the inevitable clichés his fingers gravitated towards. At times, this would lead to juxtapositions of "weird" harmony with more traditional figures, as is the case with this tune. Morgan hears this tune as a synthesis of the compositional styles of Herbie Hancock and Sonny Rollins, two musicians whom he idolizes to this day. The end result of these influences is the perfect marriage between the funk and jazz he grew up listening to. Recently, Morgan was reflecting upon the death of the great saxophonist Michael Brecker. Brecker was one of those musicians who helped draw Morgan into the world of jazz and improvised music because he so seamlessly blended the elements of jazz and rock music. Morgan says that he will forever be thankful for Brecker's music and inspiration and would like to dedicate this tune to his memory.

Dark Green Neon [CT]. Inspired once again by the writing of Brad Turner for his quartet, Pat Metheny for his group, and Tony Banks for Genesis, I wrote this tune as an exercise to synthesize these influences. It was written aboard the Voyager of the Seas in 2002. The title refers to a particular type of car.

For the Fallen [Aaron Hardie]. On September 11, 2001, four US airplanes hijacked by terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania killing nearly 3,000 people in a matter of hours. This song was written shortly after.

Indubitable [Paul Miyai]. This is the second tune that Paul came up with using his laptop and USB keyboard. During rehearsals for the sessions we experimented with a number of arrangements. The final result is a melding of concepts from each player: Paul came up with the initial ideas, Morgan suggested playing the 'head' freely, Aaron proposed to solo over the chords 'in time', and I sat back and watched the whole thing unfold!

Until Then, My Friend [CT]. I wrote this tune in 1998 but completed it in 1999 after listening to copious amounts of Ralph Towner, Pat Metheny, and Roy Haynes. Morgan, in fact, introduced me to Roy Haynes both on record and in person. Hearing Roy on record for the first time was electrifying and shaking his hand in person was equally incredible. Morgan used his flat ride on this cut at my request.


Common Themes II Cover

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