- Patrick Brush
- Modal citizens: Trusedell and company prepare for battle.
Quartet of Jazz Death's name doesn't say it all, but it does say a lot. While the band may not shred like a death-metal band, it definitely ventures into musical terrain where most local jazz players are unlikely to travel.
The moniker is also something of an inside joke. Four years ago, when bassist and bandleader Collin Trusedell, electric guitarist Steve Langemo and drummer Stefan Flores first started playing out together in Colorado Springs, they adopted the name Trio of Jazz Death as an homage to influences from an earlier and no-less-adventurous era.
"Back in the '70s, Tony Williams, John McLaughlin and Jaco Pastorius had a group called Trio of Doom," explains Trusedell. "They just put out one album, which was also called Trio of Doom. That name and that group of musicians have always stuck in my head."
The band became a quartet with the addition of Shawn Hanlon on synthesizers and keyboards. And while the Jazz Death moniker fits a band whose mix of funk, jazz and rock bears little resemblance to more traditional jazz, Trusedell does see it as a mixed blessing.
"Sometimes I wish that I had maybe gone with a name that was a little less abrasive," he admits. "I mean, I still think it's badass. But I also think that, over the last several years, the world has gotten crazier. And so, you know, when you have a mass shooting, and then you get these dudes calling or emailing saying, 'Hey, will you book my band, the Quartet of Jazz Death?" it kind of gets like, "Are you serious?'"
An Indianapolis native who has earned feature articles in both Downbeat and Bass Player Magazine over the past year, Trusedell moved to Colorado Springs to join the Air Force Academy Band. Prior to that, he spent four years in the Navy and then took a break from the military to study music business and jazz performance at the University of Miami.
While those "it's not just a job, it's an adventure" recruiting ads tend not to show marching bands in parades and half-time shows, being in a military band does enable Trusedell to support both his family and his outside musical pursuits. He's released six albums to date. Three are primarily acoustic jazz, and a new album of jazz standards with vocalist Krista Joyce is on the way. The other three are more electric and adventurous.
Trusedell is also looking forward to booking Motif, the local jazz club that's scheduled to reopen next month after shutting its doors a year ago.
This coming Friday's Stargazers gig will give the group an opportunity to showcase material from Quartet of Jazz Death, Vol. 2, albeit with one significant change: Keyboardist Hanlon has been shipped overseas, so Pete Wilson, a guitarist whose plethora of effects enable him to sound like pretty much any instrument, will be filling in.
Like its predecessor, this latest Quartet of Jazz Death album leans toward songs that clock in around the seven-minute mark. "The Opener" is an elegiacally beautiful song that's as much chamber music as it is jazz. "In a Nasty Mood," meanwhile, suggests the progressive jazz of the 60s-era English outfit Soft Machine, while "Cosmos" and "Tribute to New York" recall classic fusion acts like Weather Report and Chick Corea's Return to Forever.
"Some of the harmony on the album is pretty advanced," says Trusedell. "You know, you've got all these Major 7 sharp 11 chords, but then our rhythmic elements are much more funk and, at times, rock."
In fact, he and Flores went through extreme metal phases growing up, and that's still part of their DNA. "Stefan and I can talk about Meshuggah all day," says Trusedell with a laugh.
Still, the common denominator for Quartet of Jazz Death remains, as you might guess, jazz — a genre whose death has been prematurely reported for decades.
"But we're not really a jazz group," says Trusedell. "I'm not sure what you can compare us to."