Trio M Freewheels Into Piedmont Piano

This jazz supergroup is more than the sum of its superlative parts.


Trio M plays an array of musical styles.

Photo courtesy Marc Pokempner

A jazz supergroup that convenes all too rarely, Trio M is a collective ensemble featuring pianist and UC Berkeley professor Myra Melford, bassist and UC San Diego professor Mark Dresser, and New York drummer Matt Wilson, whose numerous teaching commitments include a founding faculty position at the San Francisco Conservatory’s Roots, Jazz and American Music program.

The lofty academic perches indicate the esteem these master improvisers have earned as composers and bandleaders, and Trio M is a setting for some of their most freewheeling work. The group returns to Oakland on Saturday, Nov. 16, for performance at Piedmont Piano.

The group’s second and most recent album, 2012’s The Guest House (Enja/Yellowbird, 2012), was conceived in the East Bay as the sonic manifestation of a project with jazz enthusiast Paul Canales, then chef for Oliveto (and now ensconced at his Uptown restaurant Duende). In preparation for a grand evening of music and food, the players exchanged musical ideas with the kitchen maestro, who in turn sent them photos of dishes he developed in response to their new tunes.

The resulting music encompasses a wide array of moods and textures. Steeped in the modern jazz continuum and deeply versed in avant-garde strategies, the unit can lock into a gospel groove or explore slippery bitonal harmonies. Wilson is among jazz’s most playful and loose-limbed drummers, a musician who finds constant delight in the music’s ebb and flow. He positively revels in the company of musicians as deep and resourceful as Melford and Dresser. Jazz is rife with disappointing all-star sessions lacking chemistry, or a sense of soul-bearing communication. Somehow, Trio M is more than the sum of its superlative parts.

Trio M., 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, Piedmont Piano, 1728 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, $20,

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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