By Shelby Otto
Arts and Entertainment Editor
On Nov. 21, the Michael Mester Trio, a jazz group, will be performing in the newly established Lyric Room at Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. The Allentown Symphony Orchestra, a prestigious group, often plays at this venue, making it an incredible opportunity for students at KU.
According to band member Keith Rippey, “Part of the problem of any working musician is getting a job in a nice, respectable place, so to get a job at a really nice venue like this [that features world-class musicians] is pretty cool.”
“They say that a gig is an audition for another gig,” said Mester. “You never know who is going to be in the audience, so really, we don’t know what could come of the performance.”
For KU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, then, having Michael and his band featured at the Lyric Room will hopefully open new doors for other singers, instrumentalists and even comedians at KU, as the venue has already featured groups from other schools, such as Muhlenberg.
“When I think of what I want to do in the future,” Mester said, “I see myself playing in NYC, in that circle, and trying to push the music forward in some way. By learning what the great musicians of the past have done, you can apply that to what you’re doing and modify what they did a little, and by doing that you can push the music forward while still remaining true to the tradition.”
The Michael Mester Trio is pushing jazz forward by not including a bass player, which is, typically, the staple of any kind of jazz group.
“What we’re doing here is really unique. The standard jazz combo always has a bass player, and we don’t, so it’s a step out, and it takes a lot of trust in the other musicians [to be able to do this well],” Rippey said.
Listening to them perform, it creates a very different sound, rhythm and feeling that you wouldn’t normally experience when listening to jazz groups who do have a bass player.
“It gives us a lot more responsibility for keeping good time because the bass player is the one that really grounds the group, and since we don’t have one, we have to really listen hard to each other,” Mester said.
So, while the lack of a bass player within the Michael Mester Trio does create some complications every now and then, it does also make them stand out as musicians.
“It’ll be interesting to see [how the show] goes over,” Rippey said. “However, it does give us a lot more freedom within the structure of the song, overall.”
Ultimately then, the audience gets a different taste of jazz that they might not normally get in other venues or groups of performers. Their sound takes jazz as a genre and moves it forward conceptually.
“The sound is really unique,” Rippey said.
While students are encouraged to attend the show on Nov. 21, the Michael Mester trio practices together in Schaeffer 114 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 9 a.m. and students are welcome to come observe for however long they want. According to Rippey, Miller Symphony Hall typically provides free tickets to students, so those interested should visit their website at millersymphonyhall.org.