It’s always a treat seeing the faculty create music outside of rehearsals and lessons, and the concert in Harper Hall on January 12 was no exception. Pianist Bill Carrothers was joined by the rest of his jazz trio – bassist Dave Redmond and drummer Kevin Brady – whom he has played with throughout most of his career as a professional musician.
While music in itself is a language, jazz can be a whole other language entirely, and each member of the trio was undoubtedly able to speak this language fluently, and more importantly, with each other. The virtuosity and talent of each player also did not go undetected. While having their musical conversation, they were all able to shine the spotlight on their fellow bandmates, and sometimes each one simultaneously.
The first tune, “Reets and I,” featured the piano and was played in the style of Bud Powell’s live performance of it in Paris. Carrothers’ playing was complex technicality making it sound more like a player-piano than a human playing. Since this was the main attraction, Brady and Redmond backed off while still supporting Carrothers rhythmically and harmonically. Knowing one’s role at every specific point in the music is vital for it to be effective, and it certainly was here.
Despite the frenzied first tune, the concert seemed to bring out the tender and emotional sides of the trio. A majority of the following tunes were filled with often simple, but hauntingly beautiful harmonies, smooth bass lines and often sporadic comping from the drums. The relaxed nature of the piano was contrasted with the often rhythmically active drums, creating an interesting set of musical layers.
One of the greatest musical moments was when Carrothers had an interesting idea – playing a dissonant chord during a specific bar that sounded very hip – that the rest of the trio immediately latched onto, after hearing the effectiveness of it. They then were able to build on the idea altogether to illuminate it before going on to something else.
While the concert was superb musically, the best part was the overall atmosphere and vibes given off to the audience. All three musicians were remarkably comfortable on stage, especially Carrothers. He cracked jokes and helped the audience unwind and have a good time without taking away from the music. Even if the listener didn’t understand all the incredible things he did musically, the concert could still be enjoyed.
Although the Ireland Trio might not be playing here again anytime soon, Bill Carrothers will still be playing his heart out in many other settings here at Lawrence. You can also check out his website for an extensive catalogue of recordings.