PJCE director Andrew Oliver presents a piano trio outing with his long time collaborator and friend Tyson Stubelek on drums and Portland stalwart Bill Athens on bass. Featuring original compositions by Andrew, Tyson, and Bill including music inspired by youthful existential crises, imported tea, and mountains. Strong melodies and intuitive group interaction prevail.
Andrew and Tyson have a playing history together that spans over fifteen years. They first met as students in the Portland Youth Jazz Orchestra (PYJO), and continued to collaborate throughout high school and college. Even when Tyson moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory and Andrew moved to New Orleans to attend Loyola, the pair would reconvene in Portland over the holidays and continue to make music. In addition to countless jazz gigs and sessions, they have been working on a “secret rock album” for many years, and one of the tunes on the new CD “Northwest Continuum” was originally composed for that side project. Andrew and Tyson also play together in Tunnel Six, a half Canadian, half American sextet formed at the Banff Jazz and Creative Music Workshop in 2009. In the years since its inception, Tunnel Six has embarked on several successful tours across the United States and Canada. The musical chemistry of this group is elevated by Andrew and Tyson’s extremely long playing history, and they continue to develop and refine their rapport through the opportunities this project provides. The Andrew Oliver Trio is rounded out by Bill Athens, Portland’s most intrepid and flexible bass player, and a great composer in his own right. This combination of talent and playing history has paved the way for a trio record that is sophisticated, beautiful, and highly approachable.
The material selected for “Northwest Continuum” represents many years of forays into jazz composition by Andrew and Bill. Like many players in Portland’s jazz community, Andrew and Bill are always writing, and consequently many great tunes end up sitting in the vault, waiting for future documentation. “Northwest Continuum” provides a home for many of these tunes. “The Tea Suite” consists of three pieces written in tribute to the many fine varieties of tea that Andrew and Tyson would drink during the existential crises of youth. “Standing Still Mountain” is a beautiful, spacious ballad which many of Andrew’s earlier groups have performed live. “Angry Youth III” is a contemporary rock tune by Bill Athens, somewhat reminiscent of his writing for Trio Subtonic, one of the many bands benefitting from Bill’s talent and vision. “Recon,” also by Bill, is a blues with some erratic time changes and an Ornette influenced sense of melodic freedom. This collection of performances constitutes some of Portland’s best home-grown jazz talent presenting an exciting cross section of their constantly evolving, forward thinking body of work.