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The New Cool: Trio Subtonic puts a musical cap on 2020 with 'Coda'

Graphic design is by Pop Wonder Design, Portland, OR
A coda is a musical ending, and Trio Subtonic helps us wrap up 2020 and look ahead to better days.

It's nearly over, the shut-down-pandemic slog of 2020. The vaccine "light" at the end of the tunnel is still some ways away, and it will take a lot of work to return to some sort of normal next year. Thankfully, I believe jazz musicians are more than ready to do their part. Portland's Trio Subtonic offers the final word on the year past, and suggests better days ahead with their new single, "Coda."

The brand-new digital single "Coda" is available Friday on their bandcamp page. The first notes you hear are from frequent musical partner — and "Fourth Subtonic" — guitarist Dan Balmer. His acoustic plucking and strumming sounds dowright Western, and Balmer's electric guitar states the opening theme  a twisty melody that Trio Subtonic fans will recognize as distinctly theirs.

Galen Clark unveils his unique Hammond organ-playing for the first solo, playing against the somehow natural sounding 7/8 time signature. Bassist Bill Athens excels in these pulsing rhythms, and though he doesn't solo or really break through in this song, Athens gets the composing credit.

Balmer's strumming guitar returns for a mid-tune breakdown, and he layers on an electric guitar solo both burning and beautiful. His tone finds a wonderful balance between rock and jazz. This solo closes the song efficiently under five minutes, ending with a satisfying final chord where lesser bands might have faded out.

Together about 15 years now, Clark and Athens remain the core of the band on keys and bass respectively, also providing most of the compositions. The role of drummer continues to change for Trio Subtonic. Seattle's D'Vonne Lewis played on last year's single; the "Coda" single features Micah Hummel, and the Sunday livestream will feature drummer Tyrone Hendrix.

With another "guest" appearance from frequent collaborator Balmer, perhaps 2021 will bring a name change for the group  Quartet Subtonic, anyone?

Following the single release "Elegy" by more than a year, and their album Live at Alberta Street Pub by more than three years, I'm sure hoping for a full-length release from Trio Subtonic in 2021. Stay connected!

More details will surely be shared by the band at their live streaming release party from the 1905 in Portland Sunday at 6 p.m. — Portland cool wherever you want to watch. Pass it on!

In the new year, the New Cool has some big news: The show will be moving to Friday nights at 9. More details coming VERY soon. Stay connected!

Until the end of the world end of the year, The New Cool will fill your Saturday with groovy comfort and joy. This week includes holiday melodies from Robert Walter, Samuele Pagliarani, The Jive Turkeys and Sammy Miller & The Congregation.

Happy holidays and congratulations on surviving 2020. Bring on the new year!

The New Cool airs Saturdays from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a third generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.