Lesser Lakes Trio + Svanoe/Townsend/Zielinski Trio Garver Feed Mill Patio — Friday, August 7, 2020 — 7pm

  • Jamie Breiwick — Trumpet
  • John Christensen — Bass
  • Devin Drobka — Drums
  • Anders Svanoe — Saxophone
  • Bradley Townsend — Bass
  • Nick Zielinski — Drums


By Michael Brenneis

Interviews: 07-08/2020   Posted: 08/02/2020


Well, It’s been a while, hasn’t it? The concept of a “Showbiz Roundup” has understandably fallen by the wayside. There have been a couple of updates not related to BlueStem, but I wasn’t sure there would be much call for the Roundup for a long while. The hunger for this music is still here, however, and hungry promoters like BlueStem are looking for ways to showcase this music in as risk-reduced a way as possible. It goes without saying that the musicians are hungry, even in the best of times. So here we are, there are shows happening!

The folks at BlueStem saw their schedule–which was building real momentum–evaporate before their eyes, and it was a real loss for the listening community of southern Wisconsin. They were drawing bigger and bigger names: musicians with deep history in the creation of this music; rising stars; international artists. In the scheme of things it may not seem so important, but the arts are vital in the fight for equality and equity. And the jazz and improvised music presented by BlueStem, and others, continues to act counter to the culture that permits systemic racism and wide-spread injustice. 

The two trios coming to Garver, while similar in instrumentation (horn-bass-drums), are substantially different in many ways. The seven-year-old Lesser Lakes Trio draws members from a swath of southern Wisconsin, plays members compositions incorporating varying amounts of improvisation, and, arguably, leans more jazz. The Svanoe/Townsend/Zielinski Trio, much newer on the scene (as a unit–they’re all long-time Madison scenesters, Zielinski being the exception), plays free music composed on the spot, and mixes a bit more rock with their jazz.

I caught up with Jamie and Anders via email.

Lesser Lakes Trio

MB: What is the vibe of the Lesser Lakes Trio? Do you feel this band has an overarching artistic statement? How is it different from some of the other groups you lead or co-lead? Have you been able to rehearse, and if so, how?

Jamie Breiwick: Devin Drobka (drums), John Christensen (bass) and I (trumpet) started the Lesser Lakes Trio in 2013. The initial reference for the group was the band Triveni (Avishai Cohen, Omer Avital & Nasheet Waits). At the time, the trumpet/bass/drum trio was a bit unconventional and it seemed like an interesting and underrepresented format to explore.

Certainly a huge inspiration for the band would be the various bands and recordings of the great Ornette Coleman and all the musicians in that particular orbit – but we are certainly not limited to Ornette’s sphere of influence. From the beginning of the band, though, we have made it a point to perform mainly original compositions, written by all three members. In our self composed band description, we call ourselves “sonic storytellers.” Each member offers a unique

compositional and improvisational voice, however all of our music has an overarching thread of “telling a story” (both in melodic delivery and improvisational content.) In seven years, we have only rehearsed one or two times, I think. I could be wrong, maybe it’s more, but not much more. Generally, we share charts and/or reference recordings with each other via email and try to memorize the music individually before we perform it. Logistically, living in three different cities (Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine) makes it tough for regular rehearsals. It seems to work though, as we have about 3-4 albums worth of original music in the LLT “book.”

MB: What is the balance between improvisation and composition? Is there a lead composer, or do members contribute equally? How do you select repertoire?

Jamie Breiwick: As far as the compositional balance, it differs wildly from tune to tune. Some pieces have little to no improv, performed like a pop tune, some are very “free and open” harmonically and rhythmically, and others yet follow a more conventional “head-solo-head” format. I would say there isn’t a set “formula” for LLT music. All three members contribute equally and we try and wear our wildly diverse sets of influences on our sleeves.

MB: Many musicians are really in a financial bind during the pandemic. How have you kept it together? Are you teaching online or anything like that?

Jamie Breiwick: For me personally (I cannot speak for John or Devin) I am fortunate to have a full-time middle/high school teaching job and a busy side business as a graphic designer. While I am certainly missing the outlet of performing music as a creative and financial endeavour, I have been able to keep busy and not take too big a monetary hit. Oddly enough, I have had a few gigs start to trickle in including at Cafe Coda (live stream), a private gig, another live stream gig in Milwaukee later in August, and this wonderful concert at Garver – though the performance calendar is much emptier than usual. It seems like people, clubs, venues, organizations are starting to figure out creative ways to present live music again.

[MB: The small private school where Jamie teaches will be opening with in-person classes this Fall, albeit with strict precautions in place.]

MB: It’s hard to know what’s safe to do these days. Do you have any health and safety concerns about performing in proximity to a live audience? Have we seen this group in unmasked live-streams recently? Are you guys getting tested? Any concerns about playing in proximity to Devin and John?

Jamie Breiwick: I think if people stay appropriately distanced and wear masks I am confident we can safely perform in front of a live audience. It being an outdoor event helps as well. We recently performed a live streamed concert at Cafe Coda. We did not have a live audience other than Hanah and the couple technical crew that were present, but we stayed distanced and wore masks (I obviously didn’t while playing). It felt great to play again despite there not being an in-person crowd! I am looking forward to the Garver event and playing in front of a safely distanced and masked live audience!

Svanoe/Townsend/Zielinski Trio

MB: You formed this trio to play an Improv jam session series at the ArtLit Lab, which has been shelved during the pandemic. Are there still plans for it to happen at some point? Can you talk about the idea behind doing this, and who the target audience is? Have you been able to rehearse, and if so, how?

Anders Svanoe: Yes, this is the house band for the all improvisation jam session that happens on the second sunday of the month. We [were] scheduled to start up in the fall, but still not sure.  It was going to start at the start of the summer but got shelved. My guess is it will start up again next year. 

The jam is a feeder into the new music series that is the last sunday of the month. [The purpose is to] get to know new people. The target audience is free/experimental heads. This band rehearsed every other week last fall for a couple of months [and] did an acoustic moose recording/concert in January.

MB: Is this a totally free improv group, or are you playing any compositions? If so, whose–and what are they like?

Anders Svanoe: Totally free. We all contribute simple strategies and then play it.  We’ve got maybe a half dozen ideas and go. It’s, of course, very free and open sonically, but I think Nick brings a rock element to the group, and there is for sure some of that steady beat kinda shit.

MB: Many musicians are really in a financial bind during the pandemic. How have you kept it together? Are you teaching online or anything like that?

Anders Svanoe: Yeah, I started teaching online in April, or end of March?  Lost a bunch of work-no gigs-lost some students. Right now [I’m] just trying to live on the cheap and make it through. I’m working on [State of the Baritone] volume 5. Volume 5 is a latin jazz record. We are recording remotely in our homes, and have done half of the record now. It’s Frank [Martinez] on drums, Arno [Gonzalez] on congas, John [Mesolorus] on bass and Louka [Patenaude] on guitar.  Been practicing a lot and updated my Sonny Red and my own website so i’m staying very busy.  More time with the family and shit so that’s good too.

MB: It’s hard to know what’s safe to do these days. Do you have any health and safety concerns about performing in proximity to a live audience? Or in proximity to Brad and Nick? Are you guys getting tested?

Anders Svanoe: I don’t have too much concern outside if there aren’t tons of people and we are socially distanced with masks. It’s a fine line between staying safe and not going insane. This will be the first gig I’ve done since march. As a horn player it’s a bigger concern with the breathing and expelling air. I’ll have some kind of mask set up I’ll play through or a bandana.  I’ve been tested and negativo.


Some notes about the venue: The Garver Feed Mill Patio is a large outside area. Attendees will be seated by Garver staff, at reserved tables spaced at least six feet apart. Reservations are to be made online, in advance, and food and drink orders can be placed via an app. There are no menus to handle; minimal server interaction. Masks are required for use of the indoor restrooms. Because the patio is considered a restaurant with distanced tables, guests are not required to wear masks. (MB: I hope attendees will consider wearing masks when not eating or drinking.) Garver is encouraging guests to stay seated as much as possible, and not move about the venue except to use the restrooms.