Willie Wisely - guitar, vocals
James Voss - upright & electric bass
Peter Anderson - drums
Greg Wold - trombone
'Plays & Sings' (cass. only) Nov. 1989
'Make Love' (cass. only) Aug. 1990
'Raincan' (CD/cass.) Feb. 1992
'From Whence We Came' (cass. only) Jan. 1993
'Parlez-Vous Français?' (CD/cass.) Feb. 1994
'True' (CD/digital) 2011
No one-trick pony, the Willie Wisely Trio leaps from era to era, delivering an ambitiously vivid aroma of days past. But wait, it's not retro. It's just easy to love.
Whether you're reminded of Mahalia Jackson 'Moving On Up a Little Higher', or Ray Charles proclaiming 'I Believe To My Soul', Rod Stewart coercing a stadium to sing 'Maggie May', or Neil Young delivering an epic guitar solo it's always more Willie than anything else. But that hasn't stopped comparisons. The group has been referred to as a 'troupe of minstrels gallivanting', 'Sinatra on crack', 'Jazz-tinged bards', and 'neo-burlesque'. One critic warned 'David Lee Roth watch your back' while another imagined, 'if Willie were to fart loudly you would no doubt feel inclined to utter an appreciative thank you'. The Trio truly makes music in a different way.
If stripped naked the group would still be wearing Willie's songs. Loaded with content and blessed with form, Willie composes like a theater director. Scene One: two lovers do not speak the same language. The curtain rises: the song is half rhymed in French, played to an oozy, 1960's TV commercial bossa nova. Next scene: man comprehends the scope of his lustful desires and warns the lady to BEWARE. The curtain rises: eight minutes of screaming guitar feedback, sunk to the seething six-eight pulse of the most hideous of Hammond organ tones. Amazingly though, each song is just as effective if sung by Willie with an acoustic guitar. Indeed the Wisely's are a rare band, one that is compelled by their musical frontiers and not held captive by them.
In 1986 after leaving Beloit College and finding a job at the Wax Museum record store in Dinkytown, a college-town neighborhood in Minneapolis, Willie began a quest to understand and love jazz music. Previously only the Beatles had really left an impression. In 1987 Willie and James met while attending Music Tech of Minneapolis. Willie had signed on to the one year degree program because, despite being a good songwriter, he sucked on guitar. Well, learning a lot of scales and chords made him even worse'temporarily. But that didn't matter because Willie was a performer, born to be a ham' and he could really sing too. The two students decided to form a band incorporating the classic jazz and classic rock that they loved. James, being a versatile musician, had played some 'jobber' gigs. This is how he met Peter, an exciting drummer, in love with the frenetic Babes In Toyland, free-jazz, The Carpenters and Neil Young.
The Trio was complete. James played his dilapidated upright bass. Peter, taking cues from John Bonham and Tony Williams, syncopated across the bar-lines. And Willie pretended to be his heroes: yes, John Lennon, but also big church-going black women singing gospel music way up in heady falsetto. The local critics dug it, and Willie appeared on the cover of City Pages in April 1990.
In November 1989 the Trio was playing at a bar in Minneapolis. It was there that Greg Wold, part owner of the bar and part trombonist first saw the group. Greg played in the jazz scene, but everyone knew that his talents lay in the realm of noise making. He could squeal and fart and blare out that slide trombone with only the best. He was a shoe-in for the Trio, and after many scotch (the usual) he invited himself on stage proclaiming his oft-repeated lines; 'You are three of the most attractive young musicians I've ever seen…'. For the next three years Greg was the crowning touch as the group became louder and more circus-like. In early 1992, with their loyal audience begging, they released the first CD titled 'Raincan'. The disk created booking opportunities on the East Coast and an invitation to perform at South By Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas. It also stirred activity on the regional CMJ radio charts.
Only after touring through a blizzard in the Pokanoes mountains and marrying in December 1992 would Greg want to leave the group. Losing the horn though, was not completely devastating. Willie's guitar playing (sans pick) became a distinctive feature of the band. They were rocking harder than ever before, adding greater flights of improvisation, and never playing the same show twice.
The Trio headlined at small clubs throughout the midwest in 1991-93. In fact, they toured like dogs, releasing three home-made cassettes and a CD. Hundreds and hundreds of gigs, thousands of people and a slew of backstage kisses later, they decided to take a break to reinvent the musical vision. The product of rest is their new CD 'Parlez-Vous Français?' originally released on Chicago's Pravda Records in February 1994. It is rumored that Wisely's intend to do a deluxe reissue of Parlez-Vous in the coming years–with as many at 7 unreleased bonus tracks from the emotionally frayed sessions.
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