The X Factor

The X Factor

On October 14 at 4:00 p.m., the Trio X will descend upon Donovan’s Pub. With them they carry “haunting improvisation,” “wonderful life-enriching and affirming music,” “abstract lyricism and tonal poetry” and “peaks of ecstasy.”

The Trio X consists of bassist Dominic Duval, drummer Jay Rosen and saxophonist and mastermind Joe McPhee. While each member has made significant names for themselves as solo acts (McPhee in particular, having been on the scene for close to 40 years now), the three have been performing together since the late 1990s, recording five studio albums and three live albums to date. Most recently, the Trio has been touring Europe, playing to audiences numbering well into the thousands at jazz festivals in Vilnius, Rome and Berlin. ?

The group’s sound has most commonly been described as “avant-garde jazz,” their experimental style often violating typical musical conventions.

“They come out of a tradition that emerges from jazz that’s mainly seeking to make music that is intuitive and expressive and, in a way, deeply existentially engaged,” Colgate’s Chaplain and resident jazz drummer Mark Shiner said. “So, a lot of the same kinds of rules and conventions that you find in most jazz aren’t really adhered to with the same kind of rigor that they otherwise would be.”

And yet, for all their general classification as avant-gardists, many aspects of the Trio’s sound are surprisingly accessible. For example, their practice of incorporating old standards, such as Edward Starr’s “War” or Richard Rodger’s “My Funny Valentine,” into their sets and basing their improvisations off of them lends their sets a unique touch of familiarity that experimental groups seem to lack or avoid.

“Because Joe [McPhee] is such a political person, I think sometimes people tend to put them in these radical categories,” longtime friend and fan of the group Kara Rusch said. “One of the things I like most about the trio is the way they use songs that everyone’s heard before as a reference point that the audience can easily access.”

This is not the first time that Duval, Rosen and McPhee have visited the Colgate campus. In 2006, the Trio performed in the Picker Art Gallery, turning out a set that McPhee reportedly claimed was the best of the tour.

“The band’s interaction with the crowd was great,” Colgate senior and fellow musician Brendan Young said. “McPhee was really good about telling the audience who they were and where they were coming from.”

When asked how the Donovan’s Pub show will differ from the last one, organizer and Professor of English Michael Coyle replied that he thought the atmosphere of the upcoming show would be more relaxed.

“The fact that it’s in a pub as opposed to an art gallery will probably make the atmosphere a lot more laid back,” Coyle said.

“Anyone who’s really willing to give themselves over and see how the music makes them feel without worrying about categories will definitely have a good time,” Rusch added.

“I remember once at Hamilton College, I was watching the band set up around a bunch of students who had no idea who they were or what they were doing,” Rusch continued. “Every once in a while one of them would look up from their books to see what was going on, but for the most part no one really paid them any notice. Once they started playing, though, I started to notice them all looking up and becoming engrossed in what was going on. No one got up and moved; they all seemed to recognize that they were hearing a force to be reckoned with.”