Next week Natalie’s welcomes an innovative modern jazz trio joined by a magnetic vocalist for a special concert. NYC’s AMP Trio featuring Tahira Clayton plays Natalie’s on Wednesday, July 18th at 9pm – tickets and more details are available here. Consisting of pianist Addison Frei, drummer Matt Young, and bassist Perrin Grace, AMP Trio formed in 2011 at the University of North Texas Jazz Program. Since then, the group has released multiple albums and garnered awards, including the 2017 DCJazzPrix, in addition to leading their own impressive solo careers. Addison Frei was kind enough to answer my questions via email. Keep reading to learn more about the group and prepare for an exciting Wednesday night show!
Tell us about AMP Trio’s latest release, “Three.” Did you have a particular plan in mind when writing the songs and putting the album together?
Addison Frei (AF): Three came about naturally after our previous release m(y)our world. M(y)our was the first time we had recorded with Tahira Clayton, and we also expanded to include guitar, organ and percussion on some tracks.
Three was about revisiting our roots as a trio and bringing each member’s original compositions to life. I think our individual writing styles continue to become more defined over time, and Three really highlights those differences. Sometimes I like to think of our group as three bands in one, because the language that informs Matt or Perrin’s compositions is so distinctive and unique from my own. Conversely, there’s a cohesion that builds from trying to fluently shift gears between compositions.
It was also our first recording in New York (the previous two had been in Texas), and our first release that has some postproduction (Rhodes dubs, Community theme throughout), and our first recorded non-original “Smile.”
How did the group connect with vocalist Tahira Clayton? What do you feel she adds to your sound?
AF: Our first recorded collaboration with Tahira was on my debut album, Intentions.
After moving to New York, most of my writing developed into vocal songs with lyrics. I’m very drawn to Tahira’s soulful voice, charismatic phrasing, and careful attention to lyric. It became natural to write for her, and Matt and Perrin began writing several vocal tunes too.
Tahira brings a presence and energy that audiences are drawn to. We love to perform with her because there’s always a spark and liveliness from her that inspires our performances.
I see that the trio has experimented with a subscriber model for releasing new music. How did that project work?
AF: We ran an email campaign in the spring designed to try to create a more intimate experience for our audience. In addition to exclusively releasing three new tracks and videos, we also added a couple unreleased bonus tracks, photos, and journals about each composition. It was nice to be able to share things directly with fans of the group and to connect on a personal level with listeners.
Tell us about Matt and Perrin. What excites you about playing with them?
AF: Matt and Perrin and I have played together so much over the last eight years. Our origins came out of being a rhythm section for other leaders, playing all kinds of music. I think those experiences helped us learn to work as a team and establish the beginnings of our group sound. They both kick my butt with rhythmic phrasing!
Do you have any advice for young students thinking about getting into jazz?
AF: Seek out fellow musicians that share common interests and set up playing situations. At the same time, it’s helpful to keep an open mind too—you never know how new music can influence your own playing. Be proactive in creating performance opportunities!
Do you have anything else to share for Columbus jazz fans thinking about checking out your show?
AF: Our repertoire hopefully brings something for every music fan. Any given set will span from R&B dance grooves to modern jazz to even more avant-garde.