logo   Jeb Bishop Trio (OD12029)
Musicians Jeb Bishop Trio:
Jeb Bishop — trombone
Kent Kessler — bass
Tim Mulvenna — drums
Cover and Artwork cover

Cover lettering by: Jeb Bishop
More design & typography: Louise Molnar


1. Nomads (8:47)
2. Anticipation of an Embrace (8:25)
3. Cryptic Remark (7:27)
4. Pyramid (12:09)
5. Duress Duress (7:46)
6. When I Was (15:53)
7. Big Stubby (9:01)
total time: 69:28

All compositions by Jeb Bishop (BMI) except "Anticipation of an Embrace" by Lisle Ellis (Echoic Base Publishing [SOCAN])

Recording Info

Recorded at Airwave, Chicago, IL, November 29, 1997

Produced by: Jeb Bishop
Executive Producer: Bruno Johnson
Engineered by: John McCortney

Liner Notes

In the event that somebody someday writes a history of Chicago’s creative music renaissance, that researcher will find Jeb Bishop’s sonic fingerprints all over the joint. Since flinging himself into the scene early in 1993, Bishop has secured a crucial place in the music’s ecosystem, moving steadily and dedicatedly from ubiquitous supportive sideman to loader and instigator. Jeb Bishop Trio is the 36-year-old’s debut at the helm of a band, a declaration of independence and as a bold a statement as anyone could need of the presence of his muse. But even seem from outside the trajectory of the trombonist’s blooming career, the record is no less than an opening volley by one of the city’s most exciting, fully-developed working units.

Bishop hails from Raleigh, North Carolina. His initial residency in Chicago came in the early ’80s, as a student at Northwestern University, where he studied classical trombone. After two years, he returned to Raleigh, where he picked up electric bass and started playing punk rock, at the same time dipping his ’bone into jazz. A period studying philosophy in Belgium gave Bishop an opportunity to hear a panoply of European and American musicians; while there, he met Garrett List and visited the trombonist’s free improvisation class at the conservatory in Liège. After returning to North Carolina in ’85, he began playing guitar and concentrated his energies on the rockier end of his interests. As a grad student in philosophy (in Belgium, Tucson and Chicago), Bishop’s musical activity died down — "apart from some self-taught classical guitar and a noisy rock band in Tucson" — and he went cold turkey from trombone from August ’89 to January ’93. But once he settled in Chicago, Bishop was smitten with the budding new music he encountered in his adopted home, and quickly became a member of the "punk-jazz" ensemble the Flying Luttenbachers, established contact with keystone reed-player Ken Vandermark, and set course for a fresh life in free music.

The impetus for starting his own trio came as a direct result of working with bassist Kent Kessler and drummer Tim Mulvenna in Vandermark’s group the Vandermark 5; in that ongoing ensemble, Bishop doubles on trombone and electric guitar. Inspired by Vandermark’s music and the dynamite rhythm section, he heard the potential for a somewhat different bag. "I wanted something with more open, with more space," Bishop reports. "With Ken’s music, the blowing space is constrained by the overall form, which is usually pretty complicated. I wanted something that would let everyone stretch out, including me. And to have the interest of the music come from seeing how we deal with that space." This challenge is met head-on in this context, with ample room provided for extrapolation and improvisation. Themes offer a modest amount of germinal material; the musicians connect the dots and invent in the open areas.

But Bishop’s charts are also one of the most wondrous features of this disc. Terse, direct, tough, memorable jazz tunes — the swagger of "Duress Duress," tender moments like the ember-and-ashes glow of "Nomads," the sporty gear-shifting of "Cryptic Remark," a few strategically placed swinging sections built for speed, as well as morphing zones that slip out of time like the opening to "When I Was." Modularity and sectional construction hearken to Mingus, infused with an airy, winsome quality and an unmistakable sense of conviction and assurance. All of which spotlights the collective imagination and abilities of this particular threesome. And his is more than a more rhythm section; it’s a partnership, everyone pulling his own weight, looking for openings and making the best of opportunities.

"With a trio it’s really minimal, but the possibilities are enormous," Bishop suggests. "It’s this inexhaustible format. I wanted to see what I could do with that as a writer, dealing with the space but also offering enough variety in the writing to keep it interesting." In fact, although the trombone trio is theoretically as versatile and potent as the classical tenor sax trio, only a few brave trombonists have ventured forth to front the unconventional lineup. "It’s an instrument that works well in combination with other horns," Bishop hypothesizes. "Maybe trombone players have focused on that — it obviously hasn’t been thought of as being as much out-front as saxophone, trumpet, etc. But it has such possibilities, especially timbrally, that it’s perfect as a front-line instrument."

That was, truth be told, Bishop’s hidden agenda in forming the trio: he wanted to push himself as a player, to take the strides he’d made as a sideman, collectivist and ad hoc improviser (the latter clearly audible on his new 98 Duets, meetings with Mats Gustafsson, Josh Abrams, Hamid Drake, Wadada Leo Smith, Fred Lonberg-Holm and Vandermark, out on Wobbly Rail) and put them to a different kind of test. No doubt a player is on the line in a special way putting their name on the marquee, particularly as the sole "melody" instrument. Nowhere to run to, baby, no place to hide. But once again Bishop’s confident as hell, surfacing the giddiness, earthen-tone and inherent elation in the very bubble and spurt of slide trombone — recollection of early ’bone’s buoyancy and incipient experimentation of pioneer tailgaters — and building on the sly, omnidirectional sound of today’s Chicago.

- John Corbett, Chicago, November 1998



Although Bishop’s unit has been heard for some time as the pulsing heart of Chicago’s Vandermark 5, Jeb Bishop Trio marks the trombonist’s album debut as a leader. Eschewing avant garde trickery, Bishop applies his robust tone to the business of no nonsense jazz improvisation. Strong melodies supply the impetus, but the group takes its time, delving and probing, working through the options. Kent Kessler on bass and drummer Tim Mulvenna respond appreciatively to Bishop’s striking and authoritative voice, stretching out for an excursion that effectively tests the format’s potential, with neither frills nor fuss.

- The Wire, Summer 1999