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''That the power of the melody comes through matters more than anything to me,'' reflects drummer, composer, and bandleader Jeff Sipe. His selfless dedication to the song at hand - to elevating it, enriching it, and propelling it - is why Sipe has long been considered a leading light in a vital, unique musical landscape that expands to encompass elements of jazz, rock, country, and funk. It's a landscape he helped to create, over a career now spanning more than three decades and including membership in such influential outfits as Colonel Bruce Hampton's Aquarium Rescue Unit and, along with collaborations with Shawn Lane, Jonas Hellborg, Phil Lesh, Béla Fleck, Jeff Coffin, Warren Haynes amp; the Jerry Garcia Symphonic Celebration, Debashish Bhattacharya and many more.
This terrain, as the new self-titled album from his Jeff Sipe Trio proves, is still very fertile ground. For while this contains no shortage of instrumental virtuosity, what truly distinguishes it is the band's deeply held commitment to melody, and the profound emotional dimensions it conveys.
''The song choices that were made for this record all stressed the importance of having strong melodies,'' he continues, ''in both the compositions and the way we improvised. This material is strong enough to stand on its own - these are songs, first and foremost.''
Jeff Sipe Trio is a compelling example of the endless possibilities of the improvising trio. ''The trio format is still exciting to me,'' Sipe explains. ''It's very transparent. There is nobody there to lean on - you have to play. You've got to be supportive and expressive at the same time. It's a challenge to play in a way that fills out the sound without grandstanding. It demands that melody, rhythm, and harmony all be active.''
This trio, in particular, is one that is particularly intriguing to Sipe, and one that he sees a promising future with. ''There were tunes that we didn't put on this record,'' he says, ''because we're already looking forward to doing them on the next one. Right now, this trio is my life.''