I was a little torn with this playlist between taking the “favourite trio music“ route and the “music unique to trios“ route. In the end I've tried to find a selection of tracks which express some kind of “trioness“. I tried to mix up the instrumentation and the decades as far as possible so perhaps a future “guitar power trios“ theme will still have plenty of material.
My hunch that trios haven't generally been chart toppers was largely confirmed, though the most popular trios are already well represented in the Marconium (notably Hendrix and Nirvana).
Jimmy Giuffre Trio – The Train And The River
Jimmy Giuffre expanded his sound by switching between clarinet, and baritone and tenor saxophone. The two supporting players – guitarist Jim Hall and bassist Jim Atlas – flip deftly between pre-defined roles and spontaneous melodic support in this sui generis blues/folk/jazz classic from 1957.
Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris – My Blue Tears
Three heavenly voices combining in harmony, accompanied by Emmylou Harris on guitar. The hardest heartache is always made easier if you can share it with two sisters.
Trio Matamoros – Guajira ven a gozar
Miguel Matamoros founded Trio Matamoros as a "Trovadores" or "Troubadour" group, famed for its harmonies and equally at home in a ballad or a dance environment. Guajira ven a gozar is a "Son Cubano" and an invitation to a lover's paradise.
Trio Chemirani – Yazdah
A family group all playing the zarb, a Persian drum played with the fingers or palms. A fantastically subtle array of overlaid rhythms emerge in this brief piece, expressing the spiritual transcendence of three souls.
GoGo Penguin – Bardo
Based on a Tibetan Buddhist term for "the state between death and rebirth, varying in length according to a person's conduct in life and manner of, or age at, death". GGP's electronica inspired compositions invoke an emotionally charged state of suspension in the listener. The three instruments mesh organically, breathing life and warmth into IDM inspired patterns.
London Grammar – Everyone Else
Intriguing young band which looks to exploit the trio format based around Hannah Reid's stunning voice, which is underpinned with subtle washes of Rhodes and picked guitar lines. A tribal drum beat adds punch to the emotional heft of the lyrics.
Tony Williams Lifetime – Emergency!
So many power trios this week … here's "the ultimate badass power trio" according to @BanazirGalbasi. As well as devastating power they also dial it back for a smouldering organ trio segment. Rough production but that was always part of the legend.
Bill Evans Trio – Waltz for Debby
The premier jazz piano trio and the greatest trio album ever recorded (IMO). Telepathic interaction, and even if Evans is still the main man here this band revolutionised the role of the rhythm section in jazz, bringing bass and drums into intimate dialogue with the lead instrument. The live "dinner" setting just enhances that intimacy.
The Police – Walking On The Moon
Mistrusted by punks for not being a 4-piece, The Police took the best aspects of a number of genres- punk's energy, prog's arty weirdness, beats and chords from jazz and reggae- and stripped them down to an essential core. The amount of space between the notes of "Walking on the moon" is astounding, as is the meticulous separation of the three instruments' rhythmic roles.
Zounds – Can't Cheat Karma
@Carpgate points to the stop/start dynamic between vocals and guitar in this track, which allowed the singer/guitarist to concentrate on one thing at a time. It's an effective strategy and makes the most of the capabilities of all three musicians, as do the tempo changes, bass drop-outs and melodic/motorik contrasts. Bit of an early Go-Betweens feel to this one.
Sleater-Kinney – Jumpers
Sleater-Kinney's album The Woods was a brilliant exercise in capturing their live sound in the studio. That's readily apparent on the urgent and tragic Jumpers, as the band members each step into the limelight and the song triangulates towards its devastating finale.
Di Meola Mclaughlin De Lucia – Fantasia Suite
A collaboration that should never have worked but from the very first note these three master stylists play like they grew up together. De Meola's composition allows each very different guitarist in turn to soar out on solo flights of fantasy while the other two work miracles in the background. A musical triumph.
The A-List Playlist:
The B-List Playlist:
Trio – Da Da Da
In contrast to many suggestions, this is about as minimalist as you can get with three people. There's something beguiling about the utter laxness on show here, three grown men
doing something your average schoolchild could program today in 5 minutes. Also instructive for anyone convinced that Germans are a hard-working people.
Johnny Winter – I'm Yours and I'm Hers
There's a wonderful freshness to the various blues styles on show here.
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Guinnevere
Credited to CSN but possibly only a duo between Crosby and Nash? Luscious in any case.
The Fugees – Ready or Not
Tension here as Lauryn Hill had already left the band, and only agreed to return for the vocals if Wyclef Jean was absent. Somehow they got this one together before the band imploded for the final time.
Nat King Cole Trio – Only A Paper Moon
His voice distracted attention from what was a surprisingly innovative piano style. But what a voice.
Nonstop Body – Fuck Shit Up
A quartet would be far too ostentatious for this music, but a duo not loud enough. Three is perfect.
Dinosaur Jr. – Freak Scene
J. Mascis did an awful lot of things on guitar before anybody else did. Whether or not he really needed a rhythm section is another question.
Le Trio Joubran – Misage
Friday night in Nazareth. Three oud players combine sublimely.
Jaco Pastorius – Okonkole y Trompa
Hypnotic and compelling.
Sonny Rollins Trio – What Is This Thing Called Love
Probably the greatest ever saxophone trio recording, such joyful playing as Sonny, Wilbur Ware and Elvin Jones trade licks.
Bronski Beat – Tell Me Why
Early LGBT classic. The eighties saw an explosion of trios thanks to synthesizers taking on any number of the roles required, though it can be hard to pin down any particular "trioness" in this music
Traffic – Empty Pages
Fine solo here, well supported by the rhythm section.
Guru’s Wildcard Picks:
Morton Schantz – Godspeed
”Weather Report“-styled supergroup with Schantz, Marius Neset, and drummer Anton Eger.
Aufgang – Good Generation
Two concert pianists and a percussionist let their hair down. Slightly.
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: A magic number: songs and music by trios. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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