Bassist Mark Wade takes the art of the trio to brilliant new heights with his debut recording Event Horizon.
Working with trio-mates Tim Harrison, piano, and Scott Neumann, drums, Wade shines as an instrumentalist, composer, and bandleader.
“I always loved listening to great piano trios,” the Queens, New York-based bassist says. “With no horn players or other musicians, there is so much space for expression, but with that comes the responsibility to have something to say. You can’t hide behind a lot of other musicians. Everybody has to really stand out. I wanted to challenge myself and put myself in a situation where I had to be an excellent soloist.”
Writing for the piano trio was a challenge Wade embraced. “How can you orchestrate and arrange three instruments to sound big and full?” he asks. “If you’ve got 12 or 20 people, you have a lot more colors at your disposal as a writer. With three people, it forces you to think about what is really essential to get across a musical idea.”
Wade’s compositions range from the opening waltz, “Jump for Joy,” and the peaceful ballad “Cold Spring” to the aggressive, edgy “Twist in the Wind” and the Afro-Cuban-flavored “Tossed.” The ballad “Apogee” has no time, while “Singsong” has no melody (“It’s a motif that keeps coming back, holding the song together”). The only non-original on the disc, Harold Arlen’s “If I Only Had a Brain,” is notable for its use of swinging 5/4 and its re-harmonization and modulations.
The title Event Horizon, says the self-described “science enthusiast,” refers to “where you go from not being in a black hole to falling in. In a broader concept, it’s the edge at which something happens. This album for me is kind of the edge of something happening because I’m launching my solo career. I see it as an adventure, a stepping-off point.”
Wade first worked in a trio setting with Tim Harrison and Scott Neumann while the bassist was an artist-in-residence at the historic Flushing (NY) Town Hall in 2013 and ’14. The three connected so well that Wade began composing for the new trio. “Their musicality,” he says, “influenced the writing choices I made.”
“Tim really excels,” says Wade of the Nottingham, England-born Harrison, “not just as a soloist but also as an ensemble player and an accompanist. He’s very sensitive, he listens, and he’s really conscious about getting the music right and sounding good.”
“Scott is a unique voice on the drum set,” Wade says of Neumann, who was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and whose extensive credits include work with Woody Herman, David Liebman, and Kenny Barron. “There’s a never-ending supply of ideas for everybody to play off of.”
Mark Wade was born in Livonia, Michigan (Dec. 29, 1974) and raised there and in Long Valley and Morristown, New Jersey, where he taught himself to play electric bass at age 14. At New York University, he studied with Mike Richmond, who encouraged him to also take up acoustic bass for jazz gigs. Wade considers Richmond a major influence, along with Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, and Scott LaFaro.
Since graduating NYU, Wade has busied himself in a variety of musical contexts, from jazz to classical. His jazz credits include playing in the string section for the Jimmy Heath Big Band’s performances of Ernie Wilkins’s Four Black Immortals, appearing with vocalist Stacey Kent on The Today Show, playing with Bill Warfield’s New York Jazz Repertory Orchestra, and recording with vocalist Elli Fordyce. And Wade has played with numerous classical ensembles, including the Key West Symphony with which he backed guitarist Sharon Isbin and violinist Robert McDuffie, both of them Grammy winners.
Wade also directs New Music Horizons, an organization he founded in 2014 to perform and promote the works of emerging jazz and classical composers. “There are a lot of challenges composers face in getting their music accepted,” he says. “Top venues often don’t want to program artists who don’t already have a large following. Reaching new audiences is difficult when you aren’t playing at top venues. It’s a tough cycle to break. I started New Music Horizons to give composers a chance to showcase their work at established arts venues to attract new audiences to their music. I think this kind of support is critical to the long-term success of new music.”
The Mark Wade Trio will be performing at two CD release shows in support of Event Horizon: 3/5 Somethin’ Jazz Club, 212 E. 52nd Street, NYC, 7:00-8:45pm; and 4/15 St. Peter’s Church Midday Jazz Series, 619 Lexington Ave. at 54th Street, NYC, 1:00-2:00pm. •