Exploratory and Multi-Directional: NO BASE TRIO’s Newest CD

No Base Trio - Press photo

Ethereal and abstract, the improv tone poems contained in the eponymous new album by NO BASE TRIO are mood-inducing, thought-provoking and uncontainable. Tracks are differentiated by number; their description and nomenclature are up to the listener. The music explores all corners, offering, for example, electronica that might feel like next-next gen Emerson Lake & Palmer; note-bending changes that defy key; sweet chirping guitars that play outside of conventional rhythmic structures; and distortion that almost morphs to the conventionally melodic, but instead takes you down a back alley for more surprises. An open mind  and a patient ear will find their reward with the inventiveness of the No Base Trio’s music. This is their first CD.

The trio consists of Jonathan Suazo on alto saxophone and EWI, Gabriel Vicéns on electric guitar and Leonardo Osuna on drums.

When did you begin writing the music for this album?

This particular ensemble (No Base Trio) doesn’t have any written music or music sheets.
The music is 100% improvised and we feed off each other’s ideas to create a musical soundscape. It’s always been like this. Each and one of us have our own groups where we do write music in a more traditional way and NBT has always been a way to escape from that and get out of the written music and just play with no plan to what’s coming next. 

What does the title of your band mean? 

No Base Trio is a play on words. It basically describes a general concept within the band, meaning that there are no predetermined ideas (“base”) when we come together to play.

What were your musical or thematic influences when writing it?

We bring our own knowledge and experience with composition to the mix every time we play together, responding, adding, creating layers, strong statements, or subtle melodies. Even though we are not thinking about any specific musical genres when we are playing, some of our influences are Harold Budd, Morton Feldman, and Jon Hassell, Brian Baker, George Garzone, Mark Shim, Tito Puente, Wayne Shorter, and Dream Theater.

Why did you choose to name the tracks the way you did?

We choose the name EXT meaning extemporization which is another word for improvisation. The word improvisation is overused so we just thought using another word would make things a little bit more engaging.  

What is the jazz scene like in San Juan and around the island?

We’d say that it’s a small scene but alive, constantly influenced by different initiatives and constantly growing and being heard. Many names come to mind: Causa Común, Orbits Quintet, Paoli Mejías Gabriel Vicéns Quintet, Jonathan Suazo Quintet, SM Quinteto, Gonchi Sifre Quartet, Holograma, Tito de Gracia, Naoka Jam, Daniel Ramirez, Joel Mateo, Mario Castro, Jeremy de Jesus and many more.  

Why did you choose to work with Setola di Maiale?

We were actually doing some research about different labels that work with experimental and improvisational music and after receiving different offers, we thought that Setola di Maiale was the appropriate one for this release. The label is run by Stefano Giust who is also an incredible drummer and from the beginning, it just felt right. There are also some very interesting projects coming out of  that label which we encourage everyone to check out. 

How would you characterize your vibe as a band?

The word interconnected comes to mind. When we go into the creative space together we’re embracing all of our influences, trying our best to put egos aside and focus on living in the moment to create something. The vibe from the listener’s point of view can change depending on the day. Some days the vibe may be meditative and other days the vibe can be very aggressive or all of that or none of it, if that makes sense. The music reflects our emotions and life experiences. As life is, so is our music. Constantly changing.

How is being a part of a collective a different kind of approach than the typical ensemble?

There are many ways ensembles come together. Ours is having no preparation at all. It’s actually a “no-no” to even speak of an idea before we start. We respect and trust much each other’s mental space so much that we don’t want to influence our minds beforehand. If we were to do so we believe it can create mental barriers that would be counterproductive to the art form. 

How would you describe this album and are the tracks intended to be heard in order?

Eclectic. There are many influences from jazz, rock, electronic music, ambient, free jazz, etc. So, you are going to listen to different moods and energy throughout the release. Listeners would feel a lot of different states of mind. The entire material was recorded in one take and then split into sections using post-production techniques to create an album format. We thought that this would be a good way to present the album to the public. 

What excites you most about having your first CD finally released?

We think that just the simple fact that our project is officially documented it is definitely very exciting. Everyone in and out of Puerto Rico can now discover and witness our sound and concept. This is something that definitely motivates us. Also, this means that the public can see  art music coming from Puerto Rico and not just the mainstream and easily accessible artists/bands. 

Also, we don’t just want to speak about ourselves but for the art community in Puerto Rico in general. There are a lot of cool and interesting things happening on the island, not only in the music scene but also in the visual arts, dance and theater. We urge everyone to do some research about this. This is not something you are going to find that easily compares to the mainstream bands, for example,  but if you dig a little bit, you will discover other quality projects. 

Other comments?

We encouraged everyone to please check out the music scene in Puerto Rico. There is a lot of really original and cool stuff happening. We are a small island but full of passionate and creative artists. One thing you can do is to access Bandcamp and check the tag “Puerto Rico”. You will find a lot of artists and bands there. Support them!

For more information, visit www.nobasetrio.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Gabriel Vicéns (second photo shows Vicéns).
(c) Debbie Burke 2020

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