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"If you’re feeling sinister"

Calgary groove trio knows how to use its organ

Drummer John May has been busy since making Calgary his home a few years ago. Upon moving to Calgary, May made himself a fixture at the Broken City Jazz Jam every Saturday. It was while onstage that May inadvertently pieced together the members for his latest project, Sinistrio. Sharing stage time at Broken City with guitarist Jeff Drummond and running into organist Steve Fletcher at a Ryan Bourne show, May solidified an intention he had been talking about for a long time — forming a groove-based organ trio.
“I’ve always really liked the sound of organ,” admits May. “But in particular, there’s something about the left-hand bass. The tone that you can get out of it is lower than a regular bass, and it fills the space so much more.”

Interested in the particular texture that was created with an organ-based trio, May didn’t have to stray far from Calgary for like-minded musicians. Steve Fletcher is possibly best known to Calgary audiences for his work with Recipe From a Small Planet and, more recently, Jay Crocker and the Electric Apes. Though Fletcher’s playing certainly leads the group’s sound, it’s the groove created from the interplay of all three, with Drummond’s intricate guitar work and May’s subtle, understated drumming, that make what they do work so well. Their self-titled debut album, released on Chronograph Records, a new Calgary independent label run by bassist Kodi Hutchinson and Stephanie Wadley, certainly shows the influence of other organ-based trios like Medeski, Martin and Wood, and Soulive. At first conceived as a mere demo, it didn’t take long for May to realize that they had a full-fledged album in the works.

“We started playing together last fall and started to getting a lot of gigs,” says May. “At that point, I thought we really needed to get a demo done. Jeff had this old Tascam reel-to-reel 8-track. Steve had a friend that had a huge, open garage. We pretty much borrowed as much as we could and just sat down and started recording. It was completely live off the floor. No tape cuts, no edits. Everything you hear on the disc is exactly as we played it. We spent three days recording, two of which were spent getting the bugs out and then the rest laying it down. I was really surprised by how good it sounded, so we said screw it and released it as a full album.”

From the sound of the album, May had nothing to be surprised about. The calibre of playing and easy free-flow with which solos are passed around between the players speak of the perfect sum of all the three parts — that, and the fact that they speak each other’s language. May thinks of music as a universal language and particularly a language that all three understand intrinsically; knowing when to take a turn, when to step back and when to respond.

“I think Count Basie said it best,” says May, “that there’s two types of music — there’s good music and there’s bad music. No matter who you are, you can tell the difference between the good and the bad. Even if you can’t really appreciate something or it sounds weird, you can at least sit back and respect what’s going on. In some way it’ll make sense.”

May’s hoping that people will file Sinistrio under “good,” even if jazz isn’t their thing. Their CD release shows at the Beat Niq will showcase the group’s comfort playing in all genres, from Latin to groove to art-rock. Even their covers aren’t your standard fair (The Flaming Lips and Jimi Hendrix will both make an appearance).
“I’m one of those Calgary musicians who moonlight in tons of different groups,” admits May. “I play everything from folk music to hip hop and funk. It’s how I make a living. If I just focused myself on one genre of music then I’d be pretty much screwed.”
- Kenna Burima - FFWD Weekly


“Steve Fletcher, Jon May and Jeff Drummond have proven they are not just another band from Calgary, but a great band from Calgary. No wonder they played the Beat Niq two nights in a row to a sold out crowd. Sinistrio is a must see for any jazz aficionado.” - Dave Broderick - Kerf Music


"While groove is the main attraction with Sinistrio, it certainly isn’t the only thing they do well. This ambient trio collaborates in genres besides jazz that will leave your ears feeling refreshed. Seeing them perform live leaves me asking only one question: when does the next album come out?" - Megan Mitchell - CJSW Radio

"Sinistrio – Not Quite Your Mama’s Jazz"

Sinistrio, a rocking little jazz trio from Calgary, rolled into Kelowna on August 30th, as guests of the Kelowna Jazz and Blues Society, to begin the first of several dinner shows that the Society puts on each year. The band was a perfect fit for the The Habitat, a quirky, organic little club. Sinistrio proceeded to take over the stage, and with their vintage sound, lay a big fat groove on the curious crowd, which in the end made believers out of everyone.

The fixed expressions of Jon May – drums, Jeff Drummond – guitar, and Steve Fletcher – organ, gave no indication of what they were going to unleash upon the wine and martini sipping patrons. It wasn’t until after the second song, a Latin-esque number, that Jon May, band leader, introduced the band and the music. Returning to a retro sounding, jazzy Latin vibe in “Tango”, Sinistrio transported you to a sun soaked Cuban beach, and then launched into their unique twist of David Bowies’ “Rebel Rebel”, a song that is on their self titled debut CD. This was only a hint of what was to come.

If the first set was about getting people into the groove, the second set clearly showed that Sinistrio was in a groove themselves. The band trotted out one surprise after the other as they fused jazz with rock, first in a smokin’ original tune called “White Bread Brigade”, then in an outstanding cover of Jimi Hendrix “If 6 was 9”. Jeff Drummond, armed with a classy jazz guitar and an impressive array of effects pedals, played with a greased ease that let you know he is a master of the language, while Steve Fletcher channeled the force with left and right hands, on the organ, causing the whirling affair of the Leslie (speaker to modify the sound of an organ) to shoot sound all over the room. Completely in the moment, Steve lifted off of his stool, once, then twice until you thought the third time he could vault right over the instrument. Jon May was perched over a vintage drum kit and razed it with some spectacular solos, then returned to his slightly understated and perfectly tasteful drumming. Bringing the energy down a bit, Sinistrio played a beautiful and ambient tune called “No Title Yet”, which Jon May explained was written by a good friend. The song is on their CD. The fact that they can switch gears and keep the emotional intensity speaks to the outstanding musicianship of the three. The night ended with a finish of “Irish Tacos”, another energy driven, original song.

It is exciting to imagine what Sinistrio will come up with next, having been making music together only a short time. We will definitely be listening for the next offering of this unique trio.
- Shelley G, Jazz on the Rocks, CFBX FM Kamloops

"Saying Happy Birthday in a Sinistrio fashion"

Alberta-based jazz band Sinistrio will get both you and your grandpa rocking out.

And that’s a true story: drum player Jon May said a 15-year-old boy came up to him after a concert with his grandfather and told May they both liked the music.

“On our MySpace page, it says ‘A band you and your grandpa can appreciate,’” said May.

The generation gap is bridging thanks to the instrumental band’s wide array of influences. They cover rock/punk bands the Ramones and the Flaming Lips, but also write their own jazz songs and groove music.

“We write a lot of our own stuff. Some is more funky, some has a rock feel, and some is jazz,” he said.

They officially categorize their style of music as instrumental groove, but it’s hard to fit them into a box, said May.

Sinistrio will be making their first appearance in town on Aug. 31, when they play at the Duncan Garage Showroom.

May will be joined by guitarist Jeff Drummond and organ player Steve Fletcher.

“I’d like to think we put on a really good show,” he said. “What we play depends on the venue. If we walk into a club and people want to dance, we’ll put on a dance show.

“If it’s a concert, we’ll play more artistic stuff that’s slower and more low key.”

“We all grew up listening to jazz, rock and classical,” said May. “On our last tour, we spent the entire trip listening to metal.

“It depends on the mood we’re in and what we’re into at the time.”

The band is three years young, and plays mostly in Western Canada. Their tour of the province starts in Kelowna on Aug. 27 and ends in Duncan.

They will be performing at least once a day during the tour, and in both Victoria and Duncan on Aug. 29.

It will be tiring, but they are used to playing more than one gig a day, said May.

“We chose to become musicians because it’s fun, not because it’s easy,” he said.

Sinistrio’s performance is a part of Longevity John’s ninth-annual 50th Birthday Party. Other acts include: Little Blue Planet, Zoe Laukner, Bill Levity, Bex, Beverley McKeen with Marty Jones, and Rob McKenzie. Performances run from 2 p.m. until midnight.

Your ticket

What: Longevity John’s ninth-annual 50th birthday party

When: Aug. 29, 8 p.m.

Where: Duncan Garage Showroom

Tickets: by donation
- Cowichan News Leader


Debut, self-titled album released November 2007 on Chronograph Records.

Sophomore album expected in Fall 2008.



Although only on the Canadian jazz scene for a short while, Calgary based B3 organ trio Sinistrio is already making waves. Sinistrio’s refreshing new sound likens comparisons to groups such as Soulive, Larry Goldings, and Medeski Martin & Wood. Their music can be categorized as jazz, groove, pop, latin, and soul. Popular across a range of music listeners, this groove-based organ trio is a good initiation for those new to the jazz world with their funky and modern style. At the same time, their music reaches out to veteran jazz fans through the bands’ harmonic and soloistic depth.

Members Jeff Drummond (Guitar) Steve Fletcher (Organ) and Jon May (Drums) together make artful music based around the B3 organ. Sinistrio is indicative of the modern Canadian musical landscape fusing urban and jazz sensibilities into an unforgettable sound one won’t soon forget. Sinistrio’s band leader, Jon May, had always been interested in the texture created with an organ based trio. “I’ve always really liked the sound of organ,” admits May. “But in particular, there’s something about the left-hand bass. The tone that you can get out of it is lower than a regular bass, and it fills the space so much more.” Jon was excited when he met like-minded musicians in Steve and Jeff.

The group has been working together regularly in Western Canada since their inception in late 2006. They are pleased to announce being signed to the roster of Chronograph Records. Their debut album was released in early November 2007 to sold-out crowds. The Sinistrio performs a mixture of original compositions as well as arrangements of jazz standards and pop music all with a twist that only this group can deliver. The group will be touring jazz festivals across Canada and the Northern United States in 2008.

Drums - Jon May is a new face to the Canadian jazz scene. After moving from the Eastern US just a few years ago, he is already making a name for himself. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern Maine. There he studied with Les Harris Jr. of “The Ritz”, and with Nancy Smith. Jon has also studied with Yoron Israel at the Berklee College of Music. Jon has worked with jazz artists such as Bill Street, Super Sax, the Dave Wells Trio, Ben Street, Sharon Jones, Dan Cole, Simon Fisk, The Polyjesters, and others. Jon was a featured percussionist for the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Not only is Jon a talented composer and player, he has also taught at the University of New Hampshire’s Summer Youth Music School, and the Long lake Camp for the Arts in New York.

Organ - Steve Fletcher has always had a deep appreciation for jazz. He strives to push traditional boundaries to make instrumental jazz exciting and accessible. He was classically trained through the Royal Conservatory, and he completed his diploma in jazz performance at Mount Royal College. Since then, he has toured Canada over 10 years with various bands playing anything from funk to country. Recently, he has played on a number of original recording projects, notably with singer-songwriters Jay Crocker, Lorrie Matheson and post-rock instrumentalists Gunther.

Guitar - Jeff Drummond has spent the last 12 years performing all over Canada and the UK with artists such as Ground, Tariq, Cam Penner & Karl Roth. He is accomplished in many styles of music and has performed on national TV and radio shows for CBC, Mike Bullard, Canada AM and MuchMoreMusic. As a session guitarist, Jeff has appeared on many albums and has also been very active in the studio engineering, producing and playing on many albums. Many of his production credits also often see him adding his talent also with bass, singing, and engineering.

Notable Performances & Press:
-2008 JunoFest Showcase, Calgary, AB
-#1 on CKXU Jazz Charts, University of Lethbridge for 2 weeks (May 23 - 30, 2008)
-#1 on CHUO Jazz Charts, University of Ottawa (March 11, 2008)
-Charting across the country on: CJSR, CJSF, CFRU, CFUV, CFBX Jazz Charts
-Calgary Jazz Festival, 2007
-Beat Niq Jazz & Social Club, Calgary, AB
-Broken City, Calgary, AB
-Salt Lik, Banff AB
-HiFi Club, Calgary, AB
-Marquis Room, Calgary, AB
-McNally Robinson, Calgary, AB
-CBC Radio 2, Tonic Program (November 17, 2007)
-California 103.1 ’In Studio’ Interview & Performance (November 11, 2007)
-Music Feature, FFWD Weekly (November 8, 2007)
-CJSW Interview and airplay (November 7, 2007)
-Radio play on CKUA (November 7, 2007)
-C-Jazz News (November 2007)