The Sophie Faught Trio we enjoy weekly on Wednesdays at the Chatterbox Jazz Club is traveling a new road — a vinyl road — with the release of Three Muses, an album of original jazz music by tenor saxophonist Faught, bassist Nick Tucker and percussionist Ben Lumsdaine.
"Every song in this collection is written for a specific painting by Steven Sickles," Faught says. " The paintings and the songs together create an immersive experience, an all-encompassing landscape rich in color, tambour, and perception. They plumb the depths of the symbiotic relationship between sound and sight."
The album, a limited vinyl release, will also include nine 11″ x 11″ high quality prints of Sickles' paintings, whose contemporary abstract work invites a viewer to ponder and feel.
"Nick, Ben and I visited Steven's home, an amazing showcase for his art. He showed us all the paintings, told us some of his inspirations, and let us really view them," says Faught, by way of reiterating the process of creating Three Muses.
"We each had certain paintings that called to us. So we worked from them on our own at first and then brought pieces to the band," she says. "One thing I love about Nick and Ben [is that] I deeply trust them as musicians and artists. These songs wouldn't be what they are without their input. I would come with something and maybe have some reservations, but they would always have suggestions on how to make it work. We all were inspired and wanted to make this music sound great, live up to the paintings, and we worked on it until we felt it did."
"I want the listeners to draw their own conclusions about how the music we've written corresponds to Steven's paintings," Lumsdaine says. "I drew very specific emotive elements from the paintings that I tried to incorporate into the pieces I wrote; however I'd rather the listeners find their own meaning and correlation rather than be looking for what I found."
Faught adds, "Really simply, I want this music to be heard and these paintings to be seen. I want people to experience them together, because they were literally made to go together. We were struck by their sonic nature and really believed in that."
Faught sees Three Muses as an expansion beyond her group's 2013 album, Day One.
"I want people to enjoy this [new] music as music, not necessarily as jazz or as a mixed media project, or for any other genre-or label-specific reason. It's no gimmick; we were inspired by something we saw and we wanted to create good music in tribute to that," she says.
"This is a trio album; Day One was a quartet album," expands Faught. "Three is a very strong number for improvisational music; you really come to trust and lean on your band mates. You can take a lot more risks because of this dynamic. We play every week together at the Chatterbox, and because of that I feel that this trio has a strong and cohesive sound that has matured over time. Each of the original compositions on this album was written for us — for Nick, Ben and Sophie to play. They were tailored to our sound and our strengths. So I think it goes a little beyond strict jazz tradition towards a more elemental musical voice that we are speaking with, still strongly influenced by straight ahead jazz, but also more than that."
These concepts parallel what Sickles feels about his work as a visual artist.
"I try to create paintings that are provocative and attract closer inspection," he says. "Conceptual art, although it is of historical interest, is often exclusively about the idea. My paintings are more aligned with the abstract expressionists. The painted surface should be as interesting as the concept behind it."
Lumsdaine adds his thoughts on the change in dynamics from quartet to trio: "Since David Linard, who played piano, left for New York City I like to think that our group concept as a trio has developed and changed since our being a quartet. Day One was a little more straight ahead and swinging, and while our new record certainly still incorporates those elements, I think we are allowing ourselves a little more freedom than before."
The group will release Three Muses at a free, all-ages show Friday at Indy Reads. Sickles' work will be on display.