- October Trio, Performance Works Granville Island, today at 1: 30 p.m. Free admission as part of this year's TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
THE song starts with a hypnotic riff as bass player Josh Cole lays down a bedrock for his band to build on.
The son of a church music director, Cole honed his craft at his childhood home in Langley and in churches in Kampala, Uganda.
Like a soft siren cutting through the night, Evan Arntzen's tenor saxophone comes in over the top of Cole's bass groove.
The grandson of a New Orleans-style jazz clarinetist, Arntzen hails from an East Vancouver household that was awash in the strains of trumpets and saxophones.
With Dan Gaucher's superb drumming rounding out the rhythm section, the song becomes wilder, almost to the point of seeming unhinged as it nears its conclusion.
"1983" is the first track from October Trio's latest album, New Dream.
The trio, which formed at Capilano College in 2004, is set to take the stage at Granville Island Performance Works at 1: 30 p.m. yhis afternoon, as part of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
"I kind of grew up on the pew," Cole says of his musical background. "When I was a teenager I was still getting exposed to that whole world of gospel music."
Originally a saxophone player, Cole first hefted a bass so he could travel to Uganda.
"My dad was doing a trip," Cole remembers. "He's like, 'I'm going to Africa, I want to bring you with me, but I need a bass player.'"
After the learning the basics of electric bass, Cole hopped on a plane with his father.
"My dad was going over there to do some music training, not that the Africans need any music training, but, classic old-school church," Cole says, laughing. "I just got to tag along and play with a bunch of really rad Africans."
While his father worked on technique with his students, Cole played every day, picking up an assortment of new rhythms.
"There was a lot of joy in the music and a trueness to the rhythmic element," he says. "I just remember everyone always had big smiles on their faces and were always happy to play and be in church."
While Cole was picking up the bass, Arntzen was putting it down.
After learning piano, voice, and bass, Arntzen found his instrument of choice.
"My grandfather was the first one who taught me clarinet, which is one of the instruments that I still play, and then I moved on to saxophone from there," he says.
While Cole initially resisted playing music, Arntzen felt like he never had a choice.
"My grandfather on downward, through his six children, and both my parents are musicians," he says. "I always kind of knew that I was going to be a musician. . . . What type of musician was in question."
Both musicians were affected by saxophonist and composer John Coltrane in their early teens, but for slightly different reasons.
"My Uncle Bruno, he gave me John Coltrane's Blue Train," Cole remembers. "At the time I was playing alto saxophone in high school jazz band, and I thought it was the coolest thing, and all I did was basically listen to that record for a super-long time," Cole says.
While Arntzen enjoyed Coltrane's music, buying his album only served as a reminder of the music he'd spent a lifetime learning.
"I bought a John Coltrane album Giant Steps and then brought it home and put it on and it was like, 'I know this,'" he says, discussing the surprising familiarity of many jazz standards.
Both musicians say they don't recall when they went from playing together to forming a band.
"They wanted to do some jamming or something," Arntzen recalls of Cole and Gaucher.
"We just started getting together on our breaks at school and working over different tunes that we were listening to."
"It wasn't like a conscious effort to start a band when we first started, we just played a couple recitals together," Cole agrees. "The more that we did it, the more we enjoyed it and then we realized, 'Wow, we have something special here, maybe we should take this a bit more seriously.'"
The group has a dedication to improvisational freedom with an understanding that no solo should veer too far from the song's melody, a practice Artnzen credits to Cole.
"In terms of the musical choices, I think right from the get-go Josh was the guy who was spearheading most of the music, which is still true to this day. Although Dan and I make our voices heard in our own way. If we disagree with Josh about something we'll be sure to tell him," Arntzen says, laughing.
"Something that we just got criticized for in one of our recent reviews is that we're too melodic," Cole says, "but I think that's something we actually hold dear."
Shortly after forming, the group earned a weekly gig at Falconetti's on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, eventually being asked to play a fundraiser down the street at Rime.
The performance won the trio a spot at Songlines, a Vancouver-based jazz and world music label.
"We ended up going on at like one o'clock in the morning," Cole recalls of the fundraiser. "Tony Reif. . . who is Songlines basically, heard us play and really liked what we were doing."
They eventually recorded the album Looks Like It's Going to Snow for Songlines.
"Very somber and moody," Cole recalls of the conflicts and inner-demons that weaved their way into the grooves of that record.
The New Dream record is a jubilant counterpoint to the previous album, according to Arntzen.
"This one we were just trying to reach some people with some more lively music that just connected with people instantly," Arntzen says.
"Not happy in a naïve way, but hopeful and optimistic," Cole agrees.
The bass player is currently working on material for the Josh Cole 4tet+2, an instrumental, experimental band slated to play at 9: 30 p.m. tonight at El Barrio.
Drummer Dan Gaucher, who currently lives in Ontario, is also in demand outside the trio.
"He's in two rock bands based out of Toronto that are kind of sucking up a lot of his time," says Cole.
Despite having recently completed a tour of Eastern Canada, Cole says getting the band on the same schedule can be tricky.
"Who knows the next time that we'll be playing Vancouver, so get it while you can," he says, laughing.
While schedules can pose a challenge, Arntzen and Cole remain in harmony when asked what personality traits translate into superior jazz musicianship.
"Open mindedness, and maybe a little bit of a sense of fearlessness," Cole replies.
"A willingness to explore, a willingness to take risks," Arntzen says when asked the same question. "You have to be able to improvise and you have to be able to express something, and whatever you end up expressing is indicative of what your personality is. I think you can probably tell, just by listening to somebody, a little bit of what's going on with them."
Over the last eight years the band has experimented with different lineups and suffered the natural consequences of spending too long together in one car. Still, Cole says the band is resolved to keep making music.
"We're also committed to just being friends and good people because at the end of the day you're not really in jazz to make a lot of money, you're in jazz to play with people that you enjoy as people and to try to make music that you find fun together," he says. "The most fun I ever have playing music is when I play music with people that I am friends with."