Bringing free jazz music to the people

The JEM Trio

Matt Bachmann is a practical composer — writing songs with the intent that they will be heard by an audience. That’s why over the last year he has been creating music for his own group — the JEM Jazz Trio.

“I know them,” said Bachmann, who plays the upright bass and is the M in JEM. “And what they are good at and play up their strengths.”

And he’s not the only one making up tunes. All three members of the trio, which include Ethan Maier, of Seattle, on piano and James Ford, Portland, Ore., on drums, write the original compositions that will be heard for the first time at their upcoming show Jan. 7, 7 p.m. at the Lopez Center for Community and the Arts.

Bachmann, 23, has been living on Lopez since the fall, and commutes to San Juan Island for his teaching assistant job with Spring Street International School’s music teacher, Grisha Krivchenia. In a few weeks he plans on living in Friday Harbor full time and teaching music while Krivchenia takes a two month leave.

He also teaches private music lessons and occasionally subs as an upright bass player for the San Juan Quintet on Sundays at the Rumor Mill.

Back in his native Chicago, Bachmann played electric bass with a rock band – inspired by the sounds of Radiohead, Neil Young and The National.

He also plays piano and guitar.

The upcoming show on Lopez will be his trio’s first gig on the island, but Bachmann said he didn’t have to twist any arms to get the other two members to play on the beautiful San Juan Islands.

“We’ve been looking for a venue to play and we miss playing together,” said Bachmann. “It’s a win-win.”

The three musicians met while at Whitman College, in Walla Walla, Wash, and formed to create instrumental music that blends new and old jazz and  emphasizes the group rather than the individual. The trio is influenced by Bill Evan’s first trio and the Bad Plus.

Bachmann is also inspired by rock, and like the Bad Plus who mixes jazz, pop, and rock — the JEM Trio has an eclectic range of sounds including old-school jazz and modern tunes.

During his time teaching at Spring Street and watching Krivchenia work with students, Bachmann has found a new excitement for playing and writing music.

Living on the island in the quiet months of winter has given Bachmann a chance to be completely immersed in music and he can focus without many distractions.

The performance is free, similar to the Community Performance Night, which has been recently introduced by the Lopez Center for Community and the Arts.

“We try to find ways to get the community involved,” said Robert Harrison. “Bachmann’s concert is under the same vein as our free Community Performance Nights. It’s a way to bring free music to the people by inviting great musical talents to perform.”

Bachmann said he has embraced the idea of free music, especially since it is inevitable with so many different ways of sharing music without cost like downloading online or burning CDs.

“I’m all about getting music out,” Bachmann said. “I never want there to be a barrier between the music and the people.”

Donations will be accepted at the concert, which will have cafe style seating. Call 468-2203 or visit for more info.