Combining jazz and psychedelic rock may seem baffling and even impossible, but not to Plattsburgh’s Wickmoore Jazz Trio. Composed of brothers Nelson on drums and vocals and Eli on bass Moore accompanied by Vihan Wickramasinghe on piano— hence the trio’s name, a combination of Wickramasinghe and Moore— the Wickmoore Jazz Trio breathes life into the Plattsburgh music scene in a unique way.
Formed in the spring of 2018, the trio got its start on the SUNY Plattsburgh campus, specifically in the Myers Fine Arts building. All being SUNY Plattsburgh alumni, the Moore brothers and Wickramasinghe often spent time in the same spots on campus.
“We met Vihan here [in Myers],” Nelson said. “The three of us had been in Herm Matlock’s jazz combo. I heard this guy [Vihan] playing piano and was just blown away.”
The jazz combo, Mambo Combo, is a small band under the direction of Herm Matlock that specializes in the best of blues, jazz and Latin jazz. Having met while participating in the ensemble, it’s no wonder the trio chose to specialize in jazz.
The Mambo Combo heavily inspired the Wickmoore Trio.
“We just started doing jazz charts like we did in the combo, but with just three people,” Nelson said.
What makes the Wickmoore Jazz Trio exceptional is the fact that all of their music is original. According to Eli Moore, there is a difference between what the trio plays live and what they play on their album, Lounge Lizards.
“Starting off, at our gigs we had no original music,” Eli said. “Then we started adding our originals [into the sets] as we were writing stuff, and now we have our whole album.”
That’s not to say that the trio doesn’t still enjoy shaking things up at their live gigs. Rather than playing a standard set of songs, the trio changes up their set list based on their audience.
“It depends on the venue we play. For a more formal concert, we’ll play more originals, but for a bar or a restaurant, we’ll try to cater to the crowd.” Eli said.
This discussion raised an important question: does Wickmoore Jazz Trio only play jazz, or do they incorporate other genres into their sound?
“It depends,” Nelson said, “It’s a mixture of jazz stuff. I don’t think any of us really grew up on jazz. We just kind of got into it as we progressed.” Vihan and Eli nod in agreement, and Nelson was quick to add, “We’ll still throw in some Grateful Dead covers.”
The dynamic amongst the three men is warm and supportive. While talking with the trio, it is clear how proud they are of each other’s accomplishments— especially as musicians in an area like Plattsburgh, which Vihan said is “very difficult.”
“As an individual, you’re struggling to get a spot [amongst other musicians] however, if you have a trio you have three very talented people, and you find out together that you can come up with some nice stuff.” Vihan said.
Not willing to sit by and take all of the praise himself, Nelson points to Vihan and said, “I call a tune and this guy comes in with all of the harmonies of the horn parts. I didn’t even ask him to do that!”
“As you can see, we’re very complimentary of each other… and very self-deprecating of ourselves.” Eli laughs.
Aside from the trio’s wide variety of musical inspirations, something that sets them apart from other musical groups is the fact that they both record and produce their music on their own, along with the help of their friend and Eli’s roommate, Tyler Bosley. Bosley, a member of the trio’s other band, indie/psychedelic rock group Ursa and the Major Key, is credited as the producer on the trio’s debut album, Lounge Lizards, which was released in August 2020.
The “studio” in which the trio records is located in the basement of the house Eli and Bosley rent together. Known as “Cricket Studios” to the trio due to an “invasion of crickets” that were audible on most of the trio’s early demo tracks, the basement-turned-studio is where Wickmoore Jazz Trio produces their music.
“There were definitely some crickets that we had to deal with as humanly as possible… but it’s fine now!” Eli said. There are no longer any crickets residing in their studio.
While the crickets may have been a good audience at times, nothing quite compares to having a live audience of people watching you perform. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wickmoore Jazz Trio invested most of their time in live performances around the North Country. Going from regularly performing for a crowd to suddenly having no audience aside from each other was a difficult feat.
“The pandemic affected all of us mental health-wise differently,” Nelson says. “Eli was really like, ‘we need to keep busy!’ and, well, we made two albums, one with the trio and one with Ursa [and the Major Key]. We were also able to play a few gigs.”
One of the gigs in question was part of the “Curbside at Harborside” drive-in concert series located in downtown Plattsburgh, Nelson said. “As the weather got warmer and as COVID cases went down, we were able to get in a few gigs.”
The pandemic wasn’t completely negative to the Wickmoore Jazz Trio, though. Due to having an abundance of time that would have normally been spent at live gigs, the trio was able to dive into the world of audio and music production. Having been so used to playing live, the trio hadn’t been focused on recording their music.
“Now, we have an album that’s out, and we’re ready for COVID to be done.” Eli said.
The Wickmoore Jazz Trio’s debut album Lounge Lizard is available for streaming on Spotify and other major streaming platforms.