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New Groove

Published: 2002/03/20
by David Siegel

OM Trio

OM Trio, tongue and cheekily named after the John Coltrane jazz classic, are in the midst of a continuous exploration of their musical boundaries. This up-and-coming ensemble based in the San Francisco Bay area showcases the vast talents of three well-trained musicians offering up a vast spectrum of musical stylings. At any given performance, you are likely to hear a multitude of genres including funk, reggae, fusion, electronica and progressive rock, making it impossible to pigeonhole this group as your typical jazz trio. They possess a very intellectual and realistic approach towards their music, as well as a continuous awareness of what is happening in other musical circles.
OM Trio is comprised of energetic drum master Ilya Stemkovsky, Brian Felix on keyboards and Peter Novembre on bass guitar. With all three members growing up in rural New Jersey, their exodus to the West Coast is an interesting one. After performing in various jazz and funk bands throughout high school and later through college, the three members collectively decided to make their way to Oregon in 1999 to hone their skills and congeal as a group. As each member eventually found his own sound, they deemed it time to move to the larger market of San Francisco to begin to make a name for themselves. Since then, they have embarked on numerous whirlwind tours throughout the West Coast performing in many notable venues alongside many of the biggest names on the jamband and jazz circuits.
All three members carry a wide array of musical influences, which manifest themselves through a wide spectrum of genres referenced in any given performance. As Ilya Stemkovsky relates, We can take everything that we play and point it back towards something. If in the van on the way to a show we are listening to some electronica like Squarepusher, its no surprise that we are going to have a heavier drum and bass feel to our music that night. This non-pretentious attitude towards their influences is just one strand of the culminating philosophy of this trio, which does not simply want to become a one-layered function band, playing everyday just to make people dance. They more courageously strive to continuously push their musical talents with every single performance. This same philosophy also translates into their outlook on fame. Keyboardist Brian Felix said, we would much rather play to a room full of ten people that are really listening and really being affected by us, rather than a room of 700 people where nobody is listening.
OM Trios music is challenging to describe. Using varying time signatures and ever-changing tempos, they weave in and out of songs almost effortlessly, making it difficult for the untrained listener to decipher transitions of songs, let alone a complete setlist (which the band does not use). On stage, the bands communication is very precise, as one new drumbeat or bass riff can send the melody spiraling in a whole different direction. In addition to a well-balanced blend of original tunes, the group often will intermix an occasional quirky cover towards the end of the set. Feeling the California vibe at one of their recent shows at the Temple Bar in Santa Monica, they even busted out a very jazzed up, funky rendition of Guns n Roses Paradise City.
OM Trio is one of the new bands that are gradually beginning to create a buzz around the country and quite deservedly so. The coming months will be a very important, possible breakout time for these guys. They will be heading out on a cross-country tour hitting Jazz Fest in New Orleans, and many as-yet-untouched venues on the East Coast with a spot already booked at this summers High Sierra Music Festival back in California. Keep your ears and eyes open, for when they will be coming to your area because they are a band that certainly deserves your attention.

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