Heartland Trio founder and bassist Hannah Marks’ introduction to music performance had spiritual beginnings, if by accident.
“When I was in eighth grade, I joined my church band, which played a casual Saturday night service,” said Marks. “It was sort of a bluegrass, folky, praise band.”
That church was the United Church of Christ, which she characterizes as a fairly progressive Congregationalist church. It’s a background not nearly as many whites cite as a musical grounding compared to black performers. Marks said it was formative, as her church band leader helped her adapt to a musical setting other than jazz.
“When I came in as an eighth-grader I had already studied jazz for a year or two and was trying to play changes and lots of chromatic things. The guitarist pulled me aside and said, ‘Don’t play as many notes, just be melodic.' That was important to learn how to take my jazz training and apply it to music that has so much soul in it with people that might not have much musical training” said Marks.
Heartland Trio debuts their new album “Year One,” on Wednesday, Dec. 19, when Marks and fellow Indiana University students Barclay Moffitt (saxophone) and Rocky Martin (drum) make a stop at Nightshop in Bloomington.
With her folk background, it’s no surprise a cover of the traditional standard “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” is included on the album. Surprising was how they deconstructed what Marks called “probably my favorite song of all time” to be almost unrecognizable.
“I’ve been playing this song for so long, and the iteration I brought into the trio was closer to what I had done with my church band for a long time. We played that song every show for the last year, year and a half, and it’s been breaking down more and more,” said Marks.
It’s not unlike what the better known The Bad Plus might have done to the song; the Minneapolis trio’s penchant for deconstructing songs from popular rock and pop artists including Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Cindy Lauper, and the Bee Gees is a comparison Marks would likely consider flattering, as Heartland Trio touts the same DIY ethic and garage-rock sensibility the Minneapolis trio brings to their jazz based music.
“We were just inspired by the process of garage-rock musicians,” said Marks. “We really wanted to have a ‘band,’ so we weren’t’ just playing pick-up gigs and not rehearsing. That’s sometimes a trap jazz musicians fall into because we’re always on the go. We spent a year rehearsing regularly and workshopping music together.”
The Bad Plus recently played Nightshop (a coup for owner Chris Golwitzer). It didn’t go unnoticed by Marks, who said drummer Dave King conducted a workshop at Indiana University earlier this year.
“King has been immersed in DIY culture and I think it’s amazing The Bad Plus is still willing to go around the Midwest and play smaller venues like Nightshop. They’re another band that has the garage rock personality where they’re working on songs together and have an incredibly distinct sound,” said Marks.
The Heartland Trio plays Nightshop in Bloomington on Wednesday, Dec. 19. Music begins at 6:30 p.m.
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