‘Trio’ let their lives direct the jazz improvisation on stage


Aventurina King, TAIPEI, Taiwan, Special to The China Post

Bill Mays lightly fitted his piano notes into the intermittent silences of Lewis Nash’s percussion. Then it was Wei Sheng Lin’s turn to pluck his base into the musical conversation. After a few moments of this tensioned restraint, saxophonist Joe Lovano nodded his instrument in unison with the others and set up a whirlwind of jazz. With this perfect and effortless coordination, it’s hard to believe that these four musicians are only performing once together. To be more precise, the Joe Lovano and Bill Mays trio (plus one) will be kicking off the National Chiang Kai Shek Cultural Center’s 2004 summer jazz festival tonight at 700 p.m. The instrumentalists though, are perfectly aware that their collaboration is temporary. “After tomorrow’s performance,” stated Bill Mays, “we will each go our own separate ways, each to be leaders of our own bands”. They are united though, by a common opinion of music. Their jazz music is constantly recreated through improvisation. When asked whether they rehearsed as a group Joe Lovano answered: “Bill and I talked about the repertoire, we don’t need to talk about what’s going to happen in the music, that itself is the pleasant on-stage surprise”.

Bill Mays added that tonight’s “performance primarily features original music. We only have a few standard pieces”. The four artists are not troubled at all by the audience’s possible unease at hearing unfamiliar tunes. Lewis Nash’s deep voice explained why originality in good music does not throw the listener off balance. “If you hear familiar music played with a heartfelt expression, and then you hear the same heartfelt expression in some music that you’re not familiar with, you’ll feel like you’ve heard it before,” he said.

Joe’s large dark glasses did not block out the intensity of his stare as he manifested his view of jazz.

“Jazz is all about the interpretation, how you play more then what you play,” he said. Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1952, he is known as one of Italy’s greatest musical treasures. When he speaks, his Italian lineage is most apparent in his constant circular hand movements and the passion which his imposing build packs into every syllable.

“I like to be in a situations that are creative, I don’t like to play in bands that sound like a rehearsal,” he said.

He said his playing is the result of adaptation to external as well as internal factors.

“People that you play with make you play in a certain way, you develop your solos within the framework of who you are playing with. Your music is also all your experiences, what you see, who you are, your past,” he said. He ended his passionate pledge with the importance of the instrumentalist’s adaptation: “to improvise, you live in the world of music, not in a style of music.”

“You should not have an agenda on the bandstand, everybody up in the band listens to each other” Bill Mays added. Despite all this praise of adaptation over personality, it’s hard to ignore the national identity of one of the members. Wei Sheng Lin, the bassist, is Taiwanese. He spent 24 years in Taiwan before becoming a jazz graduate student at the New York State University.

“New York is the place to be for Jazz,” he said. He also admits his Asian roots seep into his music.

“There must be some influence because I didn’t grow up in the United States, but in Taiwan,” he said. “Maybe it is the Taiwanese folk songs and melodies which come out when I improvise although on the spot I don’t really recognize them.” A timid smile explains how he got interested in jazz.

“I was originally a guitarist, then two of my friends wanted to start a jazz trio, but they needed a bassist, so they prompted me to study jazz base,” he said. Any path, as long as it’s yours is suited for jazz. Tomorrow evening, four paths will converge into music that is both about listening to others and finding yourselves.