Trumpeter Joshua Trinidad has long loved ambient and avant-garde music, particularly that of Norwegian artists on the renowned German-based jazz and classical imprint ECM. For over a decade, he’s had a dream of making an album in Norway with some of those musicians.
While on tour playing trumpet with the hip-hop act Wheelchair Sports Camp a few years ago, Trinidad told the band’s drummer, Gregg Ziemba, about that dream. Ziemba, who also plays with the rock band Rubedo, gave him sage advice: “If you want to be part of something, you have to put yourself in it.”
Trinidad realized the truth of the statement, thinking, “Nobody’s going to come and ask you to join their club.” So he started reaching out to Norwegian artists whose work he most admires, and the top two musicians on his list said yes: guitarist Jacob Young, who released three solo albums on ECM and studied with late jazz-guitar great Jim Hall, and drummer Ståle Liavik Solberg, a key figure in Oslo’s improvised-music scene.
Trinidad took a risk and “invested a ton of money” to make his dream record, In November, which was just released on London-based RareNoiseRecords. “It was like, just do it. It doesn’t matter how much it costs,” Trinidad says. So in November 2016, he flew to Oslo, where Young and Solberg met him at the airport. The three then flew to Alesund and drove to the small town of Giske.
“We lived together for three days,” Trinidad recalls. “Just us three in this tiny house where we recorded this record together. It was very minimal out there — no fast food, no restaurants. We all cooked for each other. We all took turns cooking, which made the recording process really cool, because I think the more time we spent doing stuff like that, the music just sounded better. We were all getting to know each other. You’ll hear it in the record. There’s a part where we’re very cautious, and then you can hear the record progressively loosen up as we got to know each other.”
There’s some stunning playing throughout In November, Trinidad’s seventh album as a leader. There’s a purity in the minimalist musings between the three on the ambient “Bell (Hymn)” and “Bell (Lullaby),” while “Feathers” is more spirited, propelled by Solberg’s nuanced drumming and Young’s wah-wah guitar.
While Trinidad, who studied with Denver-based trumpeters Ron Miles, Hugh Ragin and Al Hood, has demonstrated his masterful skills on previous releases, he doesn’t necessarily flex them on In November.
“I think what I love about these guys and just ECM artists in general — and I guess I can say this for RareNoise, too, in general — is that it’s not about an Olympic event of how fast you can play or how high you can jump,” he explains. “I think it’s about the essence of the music and what you can create, and it’s been like that for ECM and RareNoise, to be able to believe in that kind of paradigm. I embrace that fully. Not like the Clifford Browns or Wynton Marsalises — I love those guys. But there’s a reason I like [ECM trumpeter] Nils Petter Molvaer.”
There’s a lot of space throughout the eleven songs on In November where the focus is on the clarity of Trinidad’s magnificent tone.
For an artist who often runs his trumpet through guitar effects pedals, forgoing the electronics for a pure acoustic trumpet tone was a big decision.
“It can be a bit of a stigma,” Trinidad says. “If I play on pedals, a lot of people are like, ‘Well, Josh just plays on pedals. Let’s hear him really play.’ I wanted a record that showed not only that, but to also capture the essence of the instruments. I just wanted to have something like that, especially with these guys, who sound beautiful acoustically. Jacob’s acoustic guitar playing is beautiful, and Ståle plays on some amazing [pigskin] drums that he flew out.”
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Trinidad, who’s finishing his Ph.D. in ethnomusicology and education at Colorado State University, teaches both undergrads and graduate students.
“I always tell them it’s about being themselves and not trying to be like other people, and staying firm to what they love and embracing their abilities and being okay with not sounding like a textbook,” Trinidad says. “Or being okay with not being able to play the Charlie Parker Omnibook. When you think about our individualism, it doesn’t come down to a checklist before you walk in the door at a gig. It’s about what you bring individually. I always tell them to embrace themselves and their own voice and not to worry so much about what other people think.
“I spent so many years worrying about a fake race in my head — like, I wonder what Gabe Mervine’s doing, or I wonder what John Lake is doing or John Gray or whoever here in town. But it’s not like that. It’s about us all doing our own things and just loving each other for that. I think the moment that I was able to do that, I think that’s when records like these came about — feeling confident in being myself.”
Joshua Trinidad Trio, 9 p.m. Friday, April 13, Dazzle, 1512 Curtis Street, 303-839-5100, $10-$15.