Two local bands share musicians, but separate sounds

Slow Tide performs for a full house on July 13 at the Creek Street Cabaret. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

The Austin Hays Trio, a band made up of three Ketchikan residents, has been a frequent feature at the Creek Street Cabaret with back-to-back performances this summer, with plans to continue throughout the year.

The group also has been playing at Music at the Docks and in various local bars, in addition to other private events, such as weddings.

The trio includes Austin Hays on drums, Chazz Geist on bass and Kim Henrickson on piano.

The Austin Hays Trio was formed five years ago when Hays had the idea to experiment with a “classic” three-musician set-up.

“It's a good format,” Henrickson said.

Hays had known Henrickson as an old family friend for around 25 years, and met Geist in the summer of 2011.

Hays has been playing music since he was 4 or 5 years old, Geist since his freshman year of high school, and Henrickson recalls that he had “been flirting with the idea of piano” since the age of 14.

The trio first played together in June 2014. Soon after, Hays left Ketchikan and the band went on hiatus. Last year, with Hays recently back in Ketchikan, the group resumed performances. This year, the band reports having played even more shows than last.

The trio focuses on playing jazz and “fusion” music, which is a blend of music from different parts of the world.

“It's a very pure music,” Hays said about the trio's musical style. “It's hard to clutter it too much.”

The trio's recent selections includes work by Miles Davis, Bill Evans and Oscar Peterson, in addition to Latin music. The trio also performs its own music, written by Hays, who has also transcribed video game music – such as the theme from Super Mario Brothers – into songs for the group to perform.

“We do anything that can incorporate these three instruments,” Hays said.

Geist said that the style of music that the Austin Hays Trio plays differs to that performed by K-Funk, another local band that the trio is affiliated with. Geist described K-Funk's style as “dance music,” which is “very popular among audience members,” and referred to the trio's music as “sit down, shut-up music.”

The three band members all listen to different kinds of music in their free time, but rarely disagree about what to play when it comes to the Austin Hays Trio. Hays said that he hands music to his bandmates, and the other two musicians learn it almost immediately. He joked that he wished Henrickson and Geist would be vocal about the music they like or dislike, but instead, they will agree to play just about everything.

Any music that the band can't agree on doesn't get added to the catalog of over 100 songs that the trio has learned for various events.

“We don't like something, we get rid of it,” Hays said. “Just to keep from getting bored, I'll come up with a different set list (for each event).”

When not playing with the Austin Hays Trio, Hays enjoys listening to film scores – John Powell being his favorite composer. Geist and Henrickson agree that listening to music in the background as they work on other activities is difficult for them, because they find themselves instantly wanting to focus on and dissect the parts of the song. However, Geist does enjoy metal music and “gypsy jazz,” and Henrickson listens to “so many” artists, including Chick Corea.

All three members report that the Austin Hays Trio is a low-stress “drama” break from their other, bigger music groups, and that it is easy to organize.

The trio is set to release an album with 10 original songs. According to Hays, the songs have already been recorded, and all work on the album was done in Ketchikan, using local sound equipment, studio space and photography efforts.

The Austin Hays Trio also has another endeavor: combining talents with Nashville musician Cullen McCormick to start a new band, Slow Tide.

With Hays on drums, Geist on bass, Henrickson on piano and Cullen McCormick on guitar, Slow Tide made its debut July 13 at the Creek Street Cabaret in front of an estimated audience of more than 150 people.

McCormick, who splits his time between Nashville in the winter and Ketchikan in the summer, hopes to relocate to Ketchikan permanently next year. He works seasonally with the Ketchikan Pub Crawl tour.

Even though McCormick only pitched the idea for Slow Tide back in April, it had been in the works for quite awhile.

While playing in the Ratfish Wranglers band two summers ago, McCormick met Geist and Hays. He already was acquainted with Henrickson, who also was performing with the Ratfish Wranglers during the same time.

“I knew that if I ever moved up here, then I would want them to be part of my band,” McCormick said.

The group performed a mix of rock, blues, reggae and original songs written by McCormick during their opening night.

Geist described the band's style as “somewhere between Jimi Hendrix and John Mayer,” with McCormick adding that the “old blues guys” also influenced the sound of Slow Tide.

McCormick said that Slow Tide's attitude on stage was “opposite” of the group's name, although they thought it was a good fit for a relaxed Ketchikan band.

“It's fun, it's energetic, and it's entertaining – and it's kind of loud,” he said about Slow Tide.

“And it's spontaneous,” Hays added. “We do every song a little different. The energy of live performance, I've noticed, is much, much different than rehearsals. So it's kind of exciting for me.”

According to Geist, each member of Slow Tide brings a “different element” to the group. McCormick describes Geist as the “band analyst,” while Hays is “the perfectionist” and Henrickson and himself function as “the goofballs.”

McCormick describes Slow Tide much like Hays described the Austin Hays Trio: small and easy to manage.

The members of Slow Tide – three of which play in the Austin Hays Trio – have also noticed that the audience for the new group differs from the audience that listens to the trio.

“The jazz trio isn't going to play in bars,” Geist said.

“No one ever dances to the jazz,” Hays added. “It's more just sit down, listen. Especially towards the end of (opening) night, (Slow Tide) almost had a mosh-pit type thing going.”

The members of Slow Tide agree that they had a late start to the summer season, and hope to start advertising sooner next summer. They want to be “more established” by next year, and “add more variety” to their performances in the future.

Slow Tide is slated to perform Aug. 7 at The Arctic Bar and Aug. 10 at the Creek Street Cabaret.