The members of Aurelia Trio—pianist Theo Walentiny, bassist Nick Dunston, and drummer Connor Parks—met during their first year studying at the New School and quickly formed a tight musical bond. Out of their diverse backgrounds and musical interests, they have begun to forge a distinct and individual sound. Last year, they self-released an eponymous debut record, which you can check out below.
This Thursday, September 21st, Aurelia Trio will make their debut at The jazz Gallery, playing original compositions by all three members of the band. We sat down with the trio to talk about their origins and their constantly-evolving musical rapport.
The Jazz Gallery: How did the Aurelia Trio form?
Theo Walentiny: At the end of my first year I started an octet out of which this band formed—it’s kind of funny, that band has a lot of bands within it. There’s a quartet with a guitarist in it and us as well.
TJG: Has the concept for the band remained consistent since the beginning?
Connor Parks: It’s evolved but some things have remained consistent, especially the way that we deal with time and rhythm. We really had a rhythmic consensus from the beginning. That feeling is the same, the connection is the same. But the kinds of aesthetics and the various types of music that everyone writes and wants to play has evolved over time.
TJG: The first track of your EP, Blue Air, seemed to be very free. What was the time consensus on that tune?
CP: I feel like everyone will have a different answer. Nick and I have a very unique way of playing together, and Theo and I have a very unique way of playing together, and they have a unique bond too. Speaking rhythmically, I’m very free to play on some kind of grid or to not play on that grid, but we still move together.
Nick Dunston: We’ve always been so comfortable playing together from a rhythmic standpoint, so musical freedom is a given at this point. For me, I get to think a lot of orchestration, in the sense that we’re trying to give a lot of attention to our broad range of timbres—it’s almost as if we’re thinking very texturally on top of our intersecting rhythmic concept.
TJG: Does the textural quality of the music make the time harder to keep?
TW: There’s such a strong connection when you’re in the music, it’s oddly clear that you don’t have to think about it.
CP: I think the level of trust is very high, and that frees us to explore less common sounds on our instruments—to make a very orchestral sound or some other sound outside of classic jazz piano trio. That’s a product of the time we spend together—it frees us to try these new things.
TJG: Does this style of playing lead to certain roles emerging amongst yourselves? Connor, based on what I’ve listened to, it sounds like you play a heavily textural role in the group.
CP: Textural playing is something I’m very into—I think the way I relate to the drums is very textural and more broadly compositional than “drum” stuff. My goal is not to be playing drum-specific information. Obviously that’s what I studied for most of my life—trying to express the jazz drumming feel as an art form. But my interests very much lie in furthering that—getting beyond simply knowing it and referencing it.
Tyshawn Sorey is a huge inspiration in terms of composition and drumming, mostly because each time I hear him it sounds like a whole percussion section. It almost sounds orchestra, compositional, the way he improvises. I’m never thinking, “That’s so amazing, what he’s playing on the drums,” which of course it is. When it washes over me I’m thinking “This is composition. He’s transcended the drums.” He has all of the knowledge and the history, and he’s just going past all of it.
Elvin Jones is also great example of someone who shattered our expectations of the drums. He took it so much further than people thought it could go. It’s so rhythmic, it’s so textural—the arcs are huge. The phrases are so long. But the history of the drums and the language are still so strong. It really is a beautiful duality. I grew up playing percussion, so I very much come to the drums from that makeup. I thought I would be an orchestral percussionist for a long time, but then I picked up the drums—that’s my passion now and I feel very connected to it. I’m certainly freed by Nick and Theo also. The way Nick relates to the music very much allows me to play this way.