TRICYCLE featuring Rob Mosher at the Pure Spirits Patio (55 Mill) as part of the Distillery Jazz Festival, Saturday (May 21), 7 pm. $25. distilleryjazz.com. Rating: NNNNN
It was almost a year ago that I first heard Tricycle. I loaded their debut set, Emerge And See (independent), onto the carousel and spent the whole night wrapping my head around the humble Toronto jazz quartet's album.
Given the way Tricycle effortlessly fuse bluegrass and jazz with a funky rhythm, I assumed they must have spent every Saturday night for the last five years smoking huge joints while going through the entire Grateful Dead catalogue, planning their own jam band world domination.
Turns out they're all clean-cut, well- spoken individuals who think Bonnaroo is a children's cartoon character and couldn't name a Dead tune to save they're lives.
"I don't know anything about any of those bands," main man Jayme Stone offers when I suggest he's in denial. "I connect with bluegrass, some alt- country stuff, African music and jazz. The whole jam band thing has totally flown under my radar. For me, a jam band would be Ornette Coleman."
He takes his jazz seriously, and it shows. Stone, who's rubbed shoulders with the likes of Béla Fleck and Bill Frisell, is a master of the banjo, and his ability to weave its distinct tone into an improvisational jazz quartet is both unique and admirable. But for their upcoming show at the Distillery Jazz Festival, Tricycle will be a six-piece.
"We're all very excited about playing the festival. Not only will Gordon Allen, who played some trumpet on Emerge And See, be joining us, but sax player Rob Mosher is coming in from New York. He has a really open approach; last time we played with him, he played just his mouthpiece for a while and sounded like a screaming cat."
With enough tunes in the can for a new album they're hoping to get out by fall, Tricycle see the Distillery gig as a solid showcase for theie new sounds.
"The new numbers are a lot more complex. The horn arrangements are pretty amazing and add a wider dynamic to our sound, so we'll definitely be playing a lot more of the new material Saturday night. There are some subtle African influences that blend real well with the bluegrass and should surprise a few people."
But I'm still hung up on the whole jam band world domination deal. Or at least world domination. When a band works so well together as a collective unit, has garnered as much critical praise as Tricycle, has a regular gig at the Drake and an every-other-Saturday deal at the Rex kicking off May 28, it's hard to believe they haven't been signed to a major.
"We don't even have a manager. I get so focused on playing and writing that I don't think about representation that much, and we haven't even sent out demos to major labels."
The near-psychic chemistry between Stone and guitarist Kevin Manaugh shapes the sound of Tricycle, but lately bassist Paul Mathew and drummer Kevin Coady have been getting into the creative side of things.
"We play together so much and know each other so well, it's just natural for all four of us to share different ideas and sounds. Paul has brought in some great ideas, and at least one of his songs will be on the next album. For me, it shows just how well we're getting along as a group, and when that happens it's easy for the magic to come through."