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Faculty Artist Series concert features jazz fusion trio 3rd Man

Posted on 02.20.2013

After a long, silent break, Music Faculty Adjunct Jack Helsley brought his collaborative jazz project, 3rd Man, to the University of Indianapolis. The Faculty Artist Series concert took place in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall on Feb. 11.

The group formed in Bloomington, Ind.  German-born guitarist Peter Kienle is a longtime Bloomington resident; drummer Pete Wilhoit grew up there and studied music at Indiana University; and bassist Helsley, originally from Kentucky, moved there after leaving the military to complete a master’s degree in jazz studies.


The group  has performed together for over a decade,  but it had been sporadic. They had not played together in years. Wilhoit, who resides in Connecticut, barely arrived in time, so the group did not have time to rehearse before the performance.

However, Helsley said that the group had been emailing sheet music and audio files to each other. They also chose familiar songs.

(From left) guitarist Peter Kienle, drummer Pete Wilhoit and bassist Jack Helsley perform at UIndy as the collaborative jazz trio 3rd Man. Photo by James Figy.

“A couple of those tunes we’ve been playing for years and years and years,” Helsley said.

The group played a mix of cover songs by prominent jazz artists, such as Jaco Pastorius, Bill Frissell and John Scofield. The setlist also included original compositions by Helsley or Kienle.

One standout was Helsley’s “Madison,” which started with a melancholy bass interlude and led into sections of hard-hitting drums, with an electric guitar featured prominently. This type of fusion jazz was heavier than what is typical.

Helsley said that Kienle has an incredible ability to write songs and has gigantic binders full of his own compositions. The group jammed to Kienle’s “Hungry Hippos”—an uptempo bluesy tune—before breaking from the program to end with a song by jazz guitarist Pat Metheny.

Kienle said that he felt slightly self-conscious about improvising at the beginning of the concert, because the group members had not played together in so long.

“It took me a while to get the confidence, that, ‘Yeah, we can mess up, and it’s okay,’” Kienle said.

According to Helsley, mistakes are usually part of the magic, but an hour and a half of improvisation would have been imprudent. Helsley said that to perform with musicians who take risks is fun. But in the end, they are playing for the audience, he said.

Wilhoit normally drums in a Britain-based rock group called Fiction Plane.According to Wilhoit, he started playing music in elementary school, when some of his friends formed a band called The Explosives. He said that the attention they got from classmates was addictive and was partly why he stuck with music. However,  he said that playing jazz requires a different headspace.

Since the members were all in Indiana last week,  3rd Man made the most of the opportunity by performing at the Jazz Kitchen and The Chatterbox. According to Wilhoit,  3rd Man members get along well, because they have similar personalities, senses of humor and tastes in music.

“We all like the same kind of music,” Wilhoit said. “And we all enjoy each others’ playing.”


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