TRIO TRIO Raising the standards

Perth jazz group Trio Trio are set to release their second album Trio Trio 2 on Saturday, July 6 at Dress Circle Bar in His Majesty’s Theatre as part of the King Street Corner Pocket Jazz Festival. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with pianist and founder Harry Mitchell (right) to find out what drew him to jazz piano, the tradition of jazz standards, what he’s looking forward to at the festival this year and that one time he shared the stage with a Rolling Stone.

Congratulations on releasing your second album with Trio Trio, how was this one different from your first as a group?

Thank you! I guess some of the songs on this one are slightly more arranged than on the first one. The first album we didn’t really rehearse, although we had been playing music as a trio for a few years before that. We really just wanted a chance to play on standards as we don’t get to play that repertoire as often as we would like.

For those not familiar with the terminology, what are jazz standards? Are there any songs most people will be familiar with that are jazz standards that we might not have known?

Standards are the songs that most jazz musicians learn to play on. There’s no definitive list of standards, but I guess if you can find five different versions of a tune it’s probably a standard. Initially they were songs taken from musicals and used as vehicles for improvisation. Often musicians would take a song from a musical and write a different melody over the top. Then over time a lot of those originals became standards. On this recording there are a mostly classics like I’ve Got It Bad and In Walked Bud, but also some gospel tunes like Down By The Riverside and Amazing Grace. We also included a Bill Evans tune which people might not know, called Interplay, which I guess you could call a fringe standard.

You started playing jazz piano at just 13 years old. What was it that got you into playing? Were there any musical heroes or even people in your own life that inspired you to take it up?

I didn’t love piano before I was 13 any more than I loved any other activity that I did. When I reached High School though there was a music teacher who was into jazz, and I’d heard him play in a big band that he directed and thought it sounded different to anything I’d heard before. He took me on as a student and gave me two artists to check out; Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. So I went to JB Hifi, when they still sold lots of CDs, and bought Miles Davis Super Hits and The Essential Herbie Hancock. That was the start of me discovering a lot of good music. Shortly after that my dad took me, my brother and my cousin to a gig at the Hyde Park Hotel. Andy Fisenden, Dane Alderson, Matt Jodrell and Tim Jago were playing quartet stuff. Seeing musicians of such a high calibre really inspired me to take playing seriously.

And speaking of heroes it seems you’ve had a few brushes with fame in your playing career already. For starters you played piano on a Hank Marvin album, how did that come about?

Hank’s son Ben came to a gig I was doing with a band called Riffz2000, who coincidentally will be playing in the Corner Pocket Festival too. I’m pretty sure he knew our drummer, also called Ben, and Ben hooked me up with that. He also plays very good drums on that record.

And possibly even more famously you were onstage playing piano when Charlie Watts put on a surprise guest performance at the Ellington Jazz Club back in 2014. That must have been a pretty unforgettable experience, especially being only a teenager at the time?

Yeah, I remember the late Graham Wood, who opened the Ellington, was going through some rough treatment at the time, and he messaged me asking me to fill in for him. I didn’t know that Charlie was coming to the gig until he jumped on stage and started playing. Somehow people in the audience knew he was coming because I remember seeing Adam Gilchrist there, and I definitely hadn’t seen him at a jazz gig before.

The launch happens as part of the second ever King Street Corner Pocket Jazz Festival. Were you able to take part in the festival last year and if so what did you enjoy most about it?

I did get to take part. The last one was great because all of the gigs were so close together, so it was easy for audiences and musicians to hop from one gig to the next.

And how about this year? Any acts you are looking forward to in particular?

I’m hoping I get to see Ricki Malet’s new project. He’s a badass trumpet player and will be debuting some new music.

And speaking of looking forward, what’s next for Harry Mitchell and Trio Trio in 2019 and beyond? Any new music or exciting gigs coming up you can let us know about?

I’ve got another launch coming up on July 27 at the Australian Piano Warehouse in North Perth. That band is like the Trio Trio plus Jamie Oehlers on saxophone, playing my original stuff. The Trio is also going to Bali in August to play at the Ubud Village Jazz Festival which will be heaps of fun. I’ve also been working on some re-imagined Paul Simon songs with an amazing vocalist called Allira Wilson, so hopefully we can put some of that music out soon.