Friday, March 07, 2008

Adrian Belew Power Trio: 3 is a Perfect Number

Just a quick update for now - I have to run out for an hour or two but I saw this wonderful article in the Buffalo News today -- the trio will be in Buffalo tomorrow evening (Saturday) -- tonight you can catch them at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio, where I understand a MAJOR SNOWSTORM is unfolding...arghhh...typical, eh?

Below photograph once again courtesy of Tour Manager Andre Cholmondeley - I believe this one was sent to him by Adrian's agents at Monterrey International who made the show in Chicago...actually, I have a bunch of great shots from Chicago which I will post later.

Jeff Miers: Sound Check
Three is a perfect number
New power trio yields creative dividends for Adrian Belew
Updated: 03/07/08 6:58 AM

The Adrian Belew Power Trio makes a stop at the Tralf Music Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday.

A casual glance at the man’s resume is enough to make you question your own achievements. Clearly, Adrian Belew has not slept much over the past 30 years. His musical exuberance, indelible guitar stylings, unfailing songwriting acumen, and apparently, unerring ability to land in the right place at the right time, have served him rather well.

Belew has made it plain that he owes his career’s genesis to a certain Frank Zappa, who spotted the guitarist playing with a cover band in a hotel lounge and hauled him kicking and screaming from relative obscurity into the weird and wonderful spotlight of his own ensemble. This was right around the time of Zappa’s “Sheik Yerbouti” album, and the filming of his “Baby Snakes” film, both of which feature Belew prominently.

From there, Belew moved seamlessly into David Bowie’s band; played with the Talking Heads; teamed with Robert Fripp for the strongest lineup of King Crimson the band could ever have hoped for; maintained a prolific solo career; worked with his own power-pop outfit, the Bears; and found a kindred creative spirit in Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor.

Belew’s latest gambit, however, is one of his highest-yielding, creativity wise.

A few years back, the guitarist visited the famed Paul Green School of Rock Music in Chicago — the eccentric institution that provided the inspiration for the Jack Black film vehicle “School of Rock.” There, at the behest of the mercurial Green, Belew happened upon the talents of the still teenage b r other-sister bass/drum s combo of Julie and Eric Slick. The Slicks played Zappa’s “City of Tiny Lights” — a complex number, to say the least — for Belew, whose jaw rather rapidly smacked against the carpet.

Belew saw more than abundant talent in the Slick siblings. He saw his own future. Within weeks, he’d enlisted the pair, and the Adrian Belew Power Trio was born.

“Julie and Eric are absolutely incredible musicians, for any age,” says Belew, speaking by phone from his home office just prior to hitting the road for a winter tour that stops at the Tralf Music Hall at 8 p.m. Saturday.

“The fact that they are as young as they are — well, it baffles me, first of all. But it also gives me a great feeling of hope. These guys know their history, and they are more than able to add to it.”

Much of that history, ironically or not, involves Belew himself.

“The Slicks grew up on their father’s record collection, and they fully digested all of this music. Funnily enough, so many of the records they grew up with were things that I played on! So there was a commonality, a shared language from the first moment we played together.”

Indeed, the level of intuitive musical interaction the Belew Trio has grasped is in full evidence on the just-released in-concert document “Side IV: Adrian Belew Power Trio Live,” available through

On the record, Belew and the Slicks tackle pieces from throughout the guitarist’s career, but this is no oldies revue: Rather, the Slicks add abundant fire to the performances, make the music their own at every turn, while always performing in the spirit of the original composition. Most importantly, the fluid, dynamic and incredibly energetic rhythm section is clearly pushing Belew, and hard, toward new creative vistas.

“Man, this is definitely the best band I’ve ever had, in my solo career,” Belew all but gushes. “Because Julie and Eric can do anything at all, there is the opportunity to stretch out — way out! [laughs] To the point where I’m almost overplaying in order to fit into the fabric of what they’re doing. It’s forcing me to really play in the moment. And I’m finding that really thrilling.”

Finding himself in the thick of uber-dynamic, high-intensity, envelope-pushing musical situations is far from a new thing for Belew. With Fripp in King Crimson, Belew radically combined elements of hyper-percussive Indonesian Gam-elan music with the minimalist tape loop/phasing experiments of American composer Steve Reich.

And they made it rock, a fact incredibly evident throughout the pioneering works “Discipline,” “Beat,” “Three of a Perfect Pair,” “Thrak” and “The Power to Believe,” among several others. Crimson, by the way, is an ongoing concern for Belew: As our conversation commenced, the guitarist was just finishing an e-mail to Fripp, cementing the beginning date for Crimson tour rehearsals, which Belew says “will begin pretty much the day I get back from this tour.” (Did I find myself a bit giddy talking to one of my musical heroes as he sent an e-mail to another of my musical heroes? In a word, yup.)

For now, though, Belew has his eyes firmly on the prize, that being seeing just how far he and the Slicks can take the music.

“Playing live is definitely what separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls. And really, with the trio, I’m just the old guy in the middle, [laughs] thanking his lucky stars for the opportunity to play with these incredibly talented young people.”