The Joe Policastro Trio Releases “POPS!”…
POPS!, the new release by bassist Joe Policastro and his trio, celebrates the intersection of time and place. The place is Pops For Champagne, one of Chicago’s top night clubs and where the trio performs three nights a week, and the time is the “pop” music of artists from the 1960s–90s, such as Prince, Tom Waits, The Pixies, Neil Young, and others.
Chicago is a city with a deep musical history. It‘s been a breeding ground for blues, straight-ahead jazz, experimental, improvised, and postrock music. Policastro and his trio incorporate all of these elements, creating a jazz sound that is truly their own.
The trio is made up of Joe Policastro on bass, Dave Miller on guitar, and Mikel Avery on drums, musicians who are well known on Chicago’s diverse music scene and are leaders in their own right. The CD also features two guest artists, Andy Brown and Andy Pratt, two guitarists who often perform with the trio. Each of these musicians has his own strong, unique voice, making this project a genuine collaboration that is the culmination of the many hours of performing together week after week.
According to Policastro, “When I got the job at Pops for Champagne, I saw it as a great opportunity to experiment with incorporating different musical styles, including rock, funk, soul, and Brazilian music within a jazz trio framework. I was lucky to find a steady gig where I could compose, arrange, and develop new ideas, and I was even luckier to find musical partners who shared my vision.”
The different approach this band takes is apparent right from the opening number, “Wives and Lovers,” written in 1963 by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Policastro thought it was a good idea to open the CD with this tune because he feels that Bacharach is a figure who represents the transition from the era of the Great American Songbook to the modern pop era. Although it’s been recorded numerous times, the trio re-imagines the tune with a funky 6/4 meter giving it an updated and very contemporary feel that is difficult to classify.
Policastro quips that the CD is almost “an accidental tribute album” because it includes tunes by Prince and Billy Paul, both of whom died after the CD was recorded. Policastro says, “Prince has been part of our repertoire for a long time. I adore him. We had two separate arrangements for “Condition of the Heart” and “Diamonds and Pearls,” but one of the great things about playing together regularly is seeing how the music grows and changes. The two tunes eventually morphed into a medley with open spaces for improvisation.” The voices of the trio are individually and collectively on display here as the tunes move between blues, Americana, minimalism, and even free jazz.
On Stevie Wonder’s “Creepin’” the band plays a highly charged funk jam with strong arco work by Policastro and featuring Miller’s singular guitar sound and Mikel Avery’s unique drumming and auxiliary percussion.
Guest artist Andy Brown’s reputation extends far beyond the Chicago area, playing in jazz festivals around the world. He is an old friend of Policastro and joins the trio on two tunes, Billy Paul’s “Me And Mrs. Jones” and The Bee Gees’ “More Than A Woman.” Policastro says, “A lot people don’t like to admit they like the Bee Gees’ music. It’s a guilty pleasure for some.” The trio plays several of their tunes live and decided to record this one because they have so much fun with it. On this project, they take the disco standard and turn it into an up-tempo samba with Brown taking the lead and leaving plenty of room for drummer Avery to display his unorthodox percussion work.
Andy Pratt is a Chicago native who has played with the trio off and on for years. He appears on the Pixie’s “Wave Of Mutilation” and “Drive” by the Cars. “Drive” was an international hit in 1984-85. Policastro says in the liner notes, “…what better way to end an album dedicated to a champagne bar than with a song that asks, ‘Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?’”
Whether playing Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” or Tom Wait’s “Take It With Me,” the secret ingredient that holds it all together is the singular jazz sound that can only develop between musical compadres who have worked together as long and intimately as the Joe Policastro Trio and friends.
About the Joe Policastro Trio
Joe Policastro is a Chicago bassist, composer, arranger, and educator. He was raised in the fertile jazz, classical, and popular music scene of Cincinnati, OH and moved to Chicago in early 2003. He has performed and recorded with jazz luminaries such as Diane Schuur, Jeff Hamilton, Howard Levy, Phil Woods, Tim Ries, Ira Sullivan, Howard Alden, Rick Margitza, Jim Snidero, David “Fathead” Newman, and Billy Hart. Policastro also leads and co-¬leads three Gerry Mulligan¬esque ensembles: Jeru, the Mulligan Mosaics Big Band, and the Mulligan Mulligan Mosaics Nonet for which he has extensively written and arranged. As composer/arranger, his work can be heard on recordings by numerous artists including Ira Sullivan and the Rob Parton Big Band.
Guitarist Dave Miller’s notable associations include Patricia Barber, Ted Sirota, and Brazilian composer Clarice Assad.
Drummer Mikel Avery is an interdisciplinary artist whose associations include the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Rob Mazurek, and international artist Theaster Gates.
POPS! is available on Amazon, iTunes, and a host of digital media outlets.
Visit online at www.joepolicastro.com