Born of a weekly Sunday jam session at the now-closed Joli Rouge in Asheville, North Carolina, the E. Normus Trio has been a project of Jay Sanders and Steve Alford since they met playing “Rhapsody in Blue” in 2007. Contrary to speculation, the group is not named for its exotic instrumentation and the ranges they provide, but is instead the pedigreed namesake of Alford’s sizeable leonberger, Norman E. Normus. As a puppy, Norman was a regular listener at those Sunday sessions.
Originally taking an almost whimsical approach to the bare bones horn/bass/drums jazz trio concept, the sound of the group began a major transformation with Sanders’ switch from acoustic bass to the N/S Stick, an 8-string multi-mode instrument that covers the ranges of both a bass and a guitar. At the heart of the huge sound generated by the group is Sanders’ ability to take on two roles at once, covering what would normally be played separately by both a bassist and guitar player. This “one brain controlling two voices,” as Alford calls it, creates an eerie effect in the sound, and results in a symbiosis that is simply unachievable with bass and guitar played individually. This nucleus paired with Alford’s vocalized and primal lead voice, six octaves of sweeping clarinet range, creates a sonic palette unlike any other trio out there. To this mix, add Michael W. Davis, who brings incredible jazz sensitivity coupled with huge power generated not by volume, but with an utterly superhuman control of the time.