Trio 149, celebrating the release of its debut album Raise Up on RMI Records, is the brainchild of jazz pianists Jen Allen and Noah Baerman. The unorthodox instrumentation, at least in a jazz setting, belies the organic sonic blend and musical synergy at the heart of the group.
Though the group first performed together in 2014, Allen and Baerman were friends and colleagues for years prior, first meeting in the late nineties as part of the jazz scene in Connecticut where Baerman had just moved and Allen was completing her degree at the Hartt School of Music. Their families eventually became close and they continued to compare notes as musicians and educators, even co-writing an instructional book, Sitting In: Jazz Piano, for the Alfred Publishing Company. Their first time performing together was in a sense accidental, as they played a piano/keyboard/trio gig out of logistical need, yet the musical excitement made it clear that the collaboration needed to move from abstract intention to front-burner project.
The trio (named for the total number of keys between the piano and the synthesizer used for that first gig) went on to experiment and hone the sound, sometimes with bass as the third instrument and sometimes with drums. The latter became more common as Baerman shifted focus to organ, inspired by classic soul and gospel as well as the comparatively small handful of modern jazz piano/organ pairings like Joe Chambers/Larry Young and Michel Petrucciani/Eddy Louiss. Allen experimented with adding Fender Rhodes to the acoustic piano from her corner of the bandstand, while Baerman began using the synthesizer on some compositions, sometimes for melodies or solos, other times for different bass line textures.
Raise Up was a true collaboration, as Allen and Baerman used the impetus of a record date as an opportunity to create a narrative of intergenerational support and inspiration, articulated by textures that are at times lush and at other times raucous and gnarly. Recorded on a single afternoon, the energy of the trio, filled out here by the brilliant Johnathan Blake (Kenny Barron, Pharoah Sanders, Ravi Coltrane, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Q-Tip), is palpable and their soulful exploration of these themes aptly marks their first chapter as a recording ensemble. In time, the unorthodoxy of the instrumentation will become less relevant, but the soulful music and uplifting ideas will remain at the forefront.
For more information about Jen Allen, visit www.jenallenmusic.com
For more information about Noah Baerman, visit www.noahjazz.com