On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, Sean Moran will reunite with Brian Jones, Randall Pharr and Adam Larrabee for the first time since Moran began studying at New York University in 1998. This weekend, the quartet will have the the opportunity to relive some of the chemistry they developed fifteen years ago while playing all new compositions.
Richmonders know the talents of Brian Jones, Adam Larrabee and Randall Pharr, but in the 1990’s there was a fourth musician that explored original compositions, developed a sound and performed with them regularly. Guitarist Sean Moran lived in Richmond for five years. During his time in Richmond, he played in the Telemantra Trio alongside drummer Jones and bassist Pharr. For more than a year, they held a weekly gig at two different locations on Main Street. Even as Brian Jones left town to tour, Nate Smith (Dave Holland Quintet, Chris Potter Underground) stepped into play. Towards the end of his residency, he teamed up with Adam Larrabee in a two guitar quartet that played regularly around Richmond.
On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, the four will reunite for the first time since Moran began studying at New York University in 1998. This weekend, the quartet will have the the opportunity to relive some of the chemistry they developed fifteen years ago while playing all new compositions.
RVAJazz: What originally brought you to Virginia Commonwealth University and what was your experience?
Sean Moran: I originally moved to Virginia to attend William and Mary, to study physics. Skip [Gailes] was teaching at William and Mary and I was playing music all of the time and I said, I am not going to be a physicist maybe I should go somewhere in Virginia to study music. Skip was also teaching at VCU and he recommended it. I was also studying with Fred Hibbert. They both recommended VCU.
That was 1994, maybe 1993.
I met Brian Jones soon after that because I knew Stewart [Myers] from Agents [of Good Roots]. He went to William and Mary for a while and told me since I was into jazz that I needed to meet his friend Brian.
RVAJazz: Can you talk about what Richmond was like in the early 90’s and what Telemantra Trio did differently?
Sean Moran: What I remember about that trio was we rehearsed a lot. Jones was touring with Agents at that point but whenever he was in town we would always get together. We’d all write music, bring it in and then rehearse it and play it on a pretty consistent basis. We also had a weekly gig. Those two elements really led to basically the development of a good band. There was also no real preconception of what the band was supposed to be. It wasn’t like: we are a jazz trio, or we are a jazz guitar trio. Whatever anybody felt like playing or writing, we would try it out and play it.
There wasn’t a lot of that going on at the time in Richmond. Back then VCU was very traditional. I’m not sure what it is like now. Most of the gigs people were doing would be standards or maybe some other lesser-known standard tunes. People wrote their own stuff too. Some of the older teachers like Skip Gailes and John D’earth and those guys, amazing musicians, but they were sort of an older generation. As far as younger guys, there was less of it.
I remember a few that were a little adventurous. This guy Woody had a band called Hotel X that was a little Frisellian. I think he was really into Zorn at the time. I think the awareness of the downtown experimental scene was very limited in general. In terms of it filtering to VCU, it was almost not at all.
RVAJazz: That’s funny because it is a little different now.
Sean Moran: You know, things change. [laughs] Back then; you couldn’t just record your gig. The whole idea of recording is just totally different. You can set up your stuff at home and have your own version of Pro Tools and buy a couple of mics and make a low budget recording that sounds pretty decent. Back then it was a lot more difficult to record your own music.
RVAJazz: Can you offer some insight as to what Brian Jones and Randall Pharr were like in the mid 90’s with the Telemantra Trio?
On Jones: I haven’t played with him for ages so I’m not sure what he is like now but he was extremely prolific, extremely creative and he could just crank out tunes. He liked to try out new things and loved to just play. I used to go play at Brian’s house all the time during the day, you know, just to play music, rehearsals were a whole different thing. At the time, it was sort of rare, just getting together to play music and write music all of the time. Brian was also just an adventurous musician. We were playing one gig with him, a recital or something, and he had Steve Kessler playing harpsichord and Howard Curtis playing timpani. At that time, not many people in Richmond were that free with their thinking.
On Pharr: Randall Pharr was older than me. When I was there, he was already one of the main called bass players. He wasn’t writing a ton but Randall was super solid, had huge ears and made you feel like you could play anything and he would be right there and help the music along. I’m sure it is the same now.
He used to have weird analogies. Sometimes he would talk about improvising like a chess game. He was really into chess. So he would talk about chess moves and how you deal with ideas as responses. That was a different way of improvising than just saying oh lets play this scale. It was a totally different practice.
RVAJazz: When you moved to New York what did you experience? How much shock was there upon your arrival?
Sean Moran: There was a lot of shock. New York is so filled with musicians in any genre and there is a lot of cross-pollination going on. I still experience it. I can play a rehearsal at a guy’s house and there is some drummer from Holland who is amazing. Who has played with all of these people who you have never met or heard of. That happens on a weekly basis. You meet people who aren’t in your circle and they are great.
You can go hear amazing Balkan music or amazing flamenco music, bongo or whatever you are into. Someone is doing it. There is an almost overwhelming amount of information in the city, which is a good thing. I find it continually inspiring.
RVAJazz: When was the last time you were in Richmond?
Sean Moran: I would come to Richmond for a few gigs right after I moved to New York, which was in 1998. Maybe that year, I would go back and forth a little bit but I haven’t been since then. I don’t really remember what I played. I am definitely looking forward to playing with Randall, Adam and Brian. I was just looking over some of Adam’s tunes and laughing because his sense of harmony is so much his and the same. I could play the tune and just know, that’s Adam’s tune. Obviously, they are more sophisticated and he is dealing with longer forms but it’s still very much him.
RVAJazz: What are you looking forward to the most about coming back to Richmond?
Sean Moran: When you play a lot together with someone, the more you become like them. You get more in tune, almost telepathic. I am sure those guys have been playing together a lot so it will be fun for me to jump into their thing.
The group will be playing:
Sunday April 24th, 7pm
203 N. Lombardy
Richmond, VA 23220
Monday April 25th, 7:30pm-9pm
609 East Market Street, Suite 112
Charlottesville, VA 22902
Sponsored by the Charlottesville Jazz Society
Tuesday April 26th, 9pm
1621 W. Broad St.
Richmond, VA 23220
w/ special guests