Take Five With Rhinoceri Trio
The Rhinoceri trio, named for the most ponderous and terrifying beast of the primeval forest, both ponders and terrifies. Firmly rooted in the jazz tradition, the group's repertoire spans and blends a tapestry of influences from Duke Ellington's jungle jazz, Eastern European folk music, Ornette Coleman, Bach, Wagner and minimalism.
Given the history of its members, the Rhinoceri Trio's wide musical pallet is hardly surprising. Cooney and Mervine are both members of West Philadelphia Orchestra, a balkan brass band. Brendan Cooney and Chris Coyle play bluegrass together in Noggin Hill (with Cooney on banjo) and have collaborated on several film scores. All three are at home in many genres: Gregg Mervine plays in the Klez Dispensors, the Panorama Jazz Band, and has toured with Ari Up. He has spent the last year in Brazil absorbing the local folk-samba traditions. Cooney plays classical music in the New River Trio, composes extensively for choir, and works as an arranger for pop groups like Dr. Dog and Buried Beds. Coyle is a founding member of the experimental rock project Son Step, works with Keisha Hutchins and Gillian Grassie, and performs all over Philadelphia in various jazz projects.
Perhaps this is why, in their new album Libera Me, Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" evolves from a brooding study in counter-point into an other-worldly cry of explosive energy, or why the Overture to Wagner's Tannhäuser finds itself in a lilting Macedonian 11/8 groove. For the Rhinoceri Trio Bach is just as comfortable in a moody salsa, virtuosic Latin passages are comfortable morphing into minimalist textures, Debussy is at home in a Bulgarian 7/8 in the style of Ivo Papasov, and the Rhino seems at home in the big city. This is as it should be in the forward-looking creative music of the new millennium.
Piano, bass, drums.
Teachers and/or influences?
Brendan Cooney: My biggest influence musically has been my study of the Taubman Approach to Coordinate Technique under the tutelage of Bob Durso, a world renowned expert on piano technique. After nine years of study with this discipline I have not only recovered from the tendinitis that crippled me during my early twenties but also completely liberated my technique, allowing me to play at an almost limitless level of virtuosity.
This new approach to the instrument has led to a profound series of revelations, many of which I am just beginning to work out. For one, I no longer see musical ideas, ears and hands as separate. Rather, they form a dialectical unity which I can now make sense of given the methodology of the Taubman Approach.
Gregg Mervine: I studied old-school military technique and big drummingpercussive orchestrationwith Tony DiNicola, and he also insisted upon me playing melodically on the drums. In Philly, I learned a lot from watching Edgar Bateman, Mickey Roker, and all the other Philly drummers. But mostly, I feel influenced by my playing experiences, especialy my gigs and rehearsals with klezmer, Balkan, reggae, indie and Brazilian projects.
Chris Coyle: I started taking music lessons seriously when I was in high-school, studying with Kevin MacConnela veteran Philadelphia jazz bassist and professor at University of the Arts. He was a huge influence. Other teachers and mentors have been John Hood, Adam Berenson, Ben Schachter, Mike Boone as well as others. Most of my learning and influence has come from listening to all kinds of music, especially early on when my family planted the seeds of melody in my ear via Willie Nelson, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young and others.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when...
Cooney: When I was a kid I wanted to be Bob Dylan.
Mervine: I'm still not sure that I want to be one.
Coyle: When I first had some serious encouragement from people like Kris Jennings and Kevin MacConnel.
Your sound and approach to music:
The Rhinoceri Trio's approach is influenced by a variety of factors. Pianist Brendan Cooney and drummer Gregg Mervine are founding members of Philly's popular brass band the West Philadelphia Orchestra which plays music influenced by Eastern European brass band traditions. These Balkan grooves have infiltrated much of the trio's repertoire. There is a strong compositional arc to the writing which is a reflection of the three's deep listening to great composers like Bach, Ellington and Wagner, and years of study of the classical tradition. Extra-jazz influences aside, the three come from a city, Philadelphia, with a strong jazz tradition. Drummer Gregg Mervine came up listening to greats like Mickey Rocker and Edgar Bateman. Bassist Chris Coyle has studied with Mike Boone, John Swana, Ben Schachter and many more.