Though he may live in Chicago now, bassist Joe Policastro of the jazz trio that bears his name is no stranger to the Dayton area.
He grew up in the Cincinnati area before spending time playing in Europe and coming to rest in the Second City. But he’s also played several gigs here and is looking forward to returning this Thursday, Nov. 10 at Spinoza’s in Beavercreek, a show he managed to book from those previously established connections.
“The owner of Spinoza’s used to own Pacchia, which is a club I used to play at all the time. A lot of Cincinnati musicians used to go up there,” Policastro recalled.
The Pacchia connection would later help the Joe Policastro Trio land an important regular gig that led to the current lineup of Policastro on double bass, Dave Miller on guitar and Mikel Avery on drums creating the very accessible Pops album.
“When I first moved to Chicago, I wandered into a club called Pops for Champaign and I met one of the managers there. He had been a former manager at Pacchia, and it turns out that the main wine buyer had also worked there as well. So there’s this really bizarre connection. This three-night-a-week gig sort of landed in my lap at Pops for Champaign. We started to just explore or make projects out of it.”
Thusly Pops is both a nod to the Chicago club which gave the Joe Policastro Trio a stage to experiment on, and for the collection of covers contained therein. Artists like Prince, Tom Waits, The Pixies, Pink Floyd and more are represented in what makes for a fun listen.
The germ of the idea for Pops came after the group had previously reworked and released songs from the musical West Side Story in 2013.
“I like to arrange a lot. It was really fun grabbing some of my favorite non-jazz music and trying it out there. I think the thing that we instantly noticed is that people were connecting with it in a different way,” Policastro explained.
And those audiences didn’t seem to mind the group, which Policastro insists is his in name only, taking liberties with the songs, which encouraged them further.
“When we were doing this, I also noticed we sort of had carte blanche to do things that we wouldn’t have been able to get away with as much if people didn’t have some sort of touchstone. We could take a Prince song or a Neil Young song and then go fairly left with it and experience some free jazz moments, and people were willing to go along for the ride.”
Of course, the not-so-fun part about releasing an album of covers is going about getting permission from the artists. Neil Young and the late Prince, long known for being very particular with how their music is used, took their time granting permission, but granted it was.
Policastro now looks forward to coming back home and showing off what the trio can do with this collection of classic mainstream tunes.
“This is actually the first time this group has had the chance to play in that area. So I’m really excited about bringing it to Ohio and my hometown area,” he said.