Every Tuesday, the musicians behind Sugar Hill Trio bring a new life to Hudson’s Library Bar for a night of innovative jazz and inventive cocktails. To give you an idea of what guests will find when things kick off this evening, we caught up with drummer and composer Austin Walker, who, along with Dr. Christian Torkewitz, Leon Boykins and Dylan Shamat, make up this exciting group.
What will visitors experience tomorrow at the Library Bar?
Visitors come in close contact with an intimate group whose members play the energy of the room and execute improvised music, telling a story in each composition. The venue lends itself well to creating a timeless setting where dynamics are felt and heard even at the softest volume. The music has a level of sophistication and romanticism that lends inspiration without being stuffy.
How do you characterize your sound?
Classic, warm, complex, dark, sophisticated, energetic, sexy, unique, edgy, deep and clear.
Tell us about your name – does it have a reference to the infamous rap group Sugarhill Gang?
The group has no reference to the infamous rap group, rather the name comes from an area of Harlem, New York that is rich in culture and was once a place where prominent jazz musicians such as Duke Ellington and Count Basie lived.
What makes a great live performance?
A great live performance is many artistic factors coming together to create something unique. Taking old ideas and rearranging them into something new is part of it. Taking risks as a performer is a standard in the idiom of jazz. If there is no element of surprise you’re not living in the present and wasting the audience’s time. A great live performance should leave you feeling energized, inspired, empowered and humble at the same time. Time should stop for a few seconds at one point.
How does New York City influence your sound?
New York City is the glue that holds my sound as a drummer and the sound of The Sugar Hill Trio together. There is a sense of timing here in New York that propels life forward. To me that forward momentum is at the core of my sound. It’s the adhesive that binds me rhythmically, melodically and harmonically. New York City is a raw urban metropolis, a grey canvas if you will, where life and light explodes from every corner. To me there is no other place in the world that has inspired me to combine beauty and urgency into my sound.
Did you see La La Land? What do you think about Ryan Gosling’s character’s claim that jazz is dying?
I have not yet seen La La Land. My answer to anyone that says jazz is dying is look at me and where I have come from and what I am doing every day as an artist. I am just one example of many artists that are thriving in what they love to do. Jazz is alive and well and always will be. Where there is determination and integrity there will be jazz. The art form is always evolving never ceasing to exist. I encourage people to go out and discover it live for themselves.