The nu Trio Pursues The Unknown

by Gus Marshall

The nu Trio displayed a vibrant performance to an engaged Royal Room audience August 4th. The nu Trio is an avant-garde jazz outfit that plays sincere cerebral jazz with an abundance of spirit. Consisting of Nathan Breedlove, Phil Sparks, and Brian Kirk, together they balance impeccable taste and talent in an effort to pursue the vast sonic unknown.

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Nathan Breedlove plays the trumpet, during a Nu Trio show at the Royal Room in Seattle, Washington, on Aug. 4, 2018. (Photo: Carolyn Bick)

Peculiar melodies are delivered with an unmasked vulnerable tone. Nathan Breedlove emotes and explores with his trumpet, searching inward and outward for inspiration.

“I look to the cosmos for new ideas,” Breedlove explains to an attentive crowd. “It’s gotta have spirit, like Duke said, it don’t mean a thing if it aint’ got that other thing.”

The highly esteemed and versatile Brian Kirk has the ability to conjure a percussive thunderstorm, or encompass the syncopated splashes of a waterfall with his impressive stick and brush work.

Phil Sparks is an integral piece of The nu Trio. His diligent bass playing drives the groups core rhythm section, while also navigating its uncharted chordal movements. He leads the charge on this front, acting as the adhesive between the trumpet and drums.

Nathan Breedlove spoke with The South Seattle Emerald about The nu Trio’s formation his personal inspirations and the pursuit of the unknown.

Gus Marshall: Where did you grow up?

Nathan Breedlove: I was born in Tacoma and raised in Memphis, TN. I went to school with David Deacon-Joyner, Donald Brown, and Mulgrew Miller.

GM: How did you meet Phil Sparks and Brian Kirk?

NB: I met Phil Sparks around 1986 when I formed my band with Hadley Caliman and we’ve remained close ever since. Brian Kirk and I met at the jam sessions in NYC around 1991. Brian and I were both in New York paying dues at the same time. We’re still trying to establish which session we first met at.

GM: What inspires you about their playing and presence?

NB: For me the first thing is the soul connection. That is primary before musicianship. Phil and Brian are truly my soul brothers and we connect on and off the bandstand. The fact that we share so much history in this music is our bond. Lastly … I consider the two of them as the premiere rhythm section of Seattle … my foundation.

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Brian Kirk holds a drum brush in his mouth, during a Nu Trio show at the Royal Room in Seattle, Washington, on Aug. 4, 2018. (Photo: Carolyn Bick)

GM: Can you tell me about how The Nu Trio was formed?

NB: I decided about three years to form the trio. After living in isolation for many years it was time to reappear on the scene. The spirits were willing … so I contacted Phil and Brian and we decided to form The nu Trio. It is a project we are equally invested in and I often make the joke, we are equal around here … 33%, 33% and 34%. Since I’m out front, I get the last call. We released “Captain of the Light Brigade” two years ago and we’re preparing to record for our new release this winter.

GM: What drew you to music originally?

NB: My mother Nettie was a true music lover and she introduced me to the music of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. I started classical music studies in Memphis at the age of 11 and trumpet at 12. My piano teacher was Mrs E.L. Cole and she also taught Booker T of the MG’s fame. My high school jazz band were national champions and that is where I made my decision to … play for life.

GM: What keeps you inspired to perform and create?

NB: My inspiration comes from life itself and from the spirits that live among us. I meditate when I’m playing music as it serves as a doorway to other worlds and realities. My goal is translate what I experience into perfect little melodies that reflect my own musical soul. What I play, is mine … I don’t do others … though I often tribute Fat Girl (Fats Navarro), Clifford (Brown), Lee (Morgan) and Booker (Little) … what I play is mine.

GM: How do you feel you have you changed as musician over the course of your life?

NB: I am a true late bloomer. Some jazz artist are like meteors, flashing through the sky early in life. Others like me, come into their own voice later in life after learning and discarding the influences of others. I abhor cliché and try to stay far away from it. Being aged and on the path to wisdom I have finally learned to pace myself, employ much more silence and give living form to my ideas. Lastly … I have finally reached the point where I can play exactly what I think, at the exact moment in space/time that I conceive, see it or think it. No separation between my mind, the universe and my music. This has taken me many, many years to achieve. The ability to transcend music and just tell stories. Stories of life and love.

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Phil Sparks plays the bass, during a Nu Trio show at the Royal Room in Seattle, Washington, on Aug. 4, 2018. (Photo: Carolyn Bick)

GM: How did you get into the realm of avant-garde jazz?

NB: I was introduced to the avant-garde by Denis Charles, Cecil Taylor’s first drummer. I was living in NYC with Evelyn Blakey and Denis came by one day in 1991 and said, “You want to go to Europe?” We did a small tour of Europe and when we played the Eindhoven Jazz Festival … after playing the first two tunes we had rehearsed, Jemeel Moondoc, saxophonist loudly declares, “Fuck it, we ain’t playing with no more music,” picks up the music stand and takes it to the back of the stage. At that exact moment in time, I became a full-fledged member of the avant-garde!

GM: What speaks to you about the pursuit of the unknown?

NB: The search for personality survival after death. I want to continue my music education after my spirit leaves the flesh. The spirits whisper that there is a special place for musicians in the heavens … the celestial musicians corp … I’ve already applied. Meditation, love and worship … the key to opening one’s depth of perception.


Feature Photo: The nu Trio plays a show at the Royal Room in Seattle on Aug. 4 (Photo: Carolyn Bick)

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