innova 249


Improvisational Piano Trio:

Carei Thomas, piano

Gary Schulte, violin

Michelle Kinney, cello


1:         Pertaining to Mesopotamia – Gary/Triadė       3:56

2:         Bird Stuff – Carei/Triadė         1:06

3:         Ghetto Pastorality – Carei/Triadė        5:18 - 

4:                     Slavic Ponderance in the Brief Face of Dixie –
            Michelle/Triadė           6:18

5:         Baroqueing – Gary/ Triadė      6:20

6:         Add-end (Coda) – Carei/ Triadė          0:59

7:                     Madame Chantel DeLillie Brown of Savannah,
            Georgia – Michelle/ Triadė      2:28

8:         With Joan Miró in Mind (Paul and Carla, Too) – Carei          9:43

9:         An Early Fragrance: Symphaasium/Choose Choice -
                                    Carei    8:02

10:       Noir in Purple – Carei 11:24

11:       Poignant Fruits of Memory – Gary/Triadė      10:51

12:       Kwitchurbeliakin (Cartoon VI) – Carei           2:31



The three of us met onstage in concert with no rehearsal or prior preparation whatever as a trio. Carei and Gary had been playing together since 1979 in various jazz and avant-garde ensembles, and with Ancestor Energy Poetry Jazz. The two frequently played duo, sharing a remarkable musical language like brothers. In spring 1986 they were to do a duo concert at Andrew-Riverside Church's TOAD HALL, but as usual for Carei, he had invited a guest, a young cellist named Michelle Kinney. Soon after the first pieces, Michelle joined in. Up till then, the duo had mostly done the usual jazz thing, taking Carei's haunting, iconoclastic tunes and polytonal harmonies and improvising on them. But when the three of us started to play, suddenly we were in another realm, where our own synergy generated the composition, and Carei's tunes became quotable quotes within this otherwise purely spontaneously generated material and composition. Some of our best work was done, and fortunately recorded, in that first concert. Performance poet Louis Alemayehu also joined us, rounding out the evening.

This improvised piano trio would not have happened without Carei pulling us together, and without his completely fresh musical ideas and powerful expression. At the same time, we each contributed our musical ideas spontaneously to create these compositions. Some came out of material specifically written by Carei, but many were not written in any usual sense but rather created by all three of us in performance.

As Carei remembers: "The evening was bespeckled with a compositional concept I call 'Brief Realities'. They are gifts to the audience, the environment, and the unseen spirit/energy that connects us to the past, present and future. Brief Realities became a foundational concept of much that has followed in Triadė’s existence. They are an ever-changing series of purely invented music often spiced with cells or fragments of written material acting as connective tissue. I feel this improvisational concept gives performers a structure that defines and focuses content while offering a broad choice of source material. Within this tonal order, invention/improvisation ignites the developmental process that creates the true composition and allows it to remain everychangingly fresh."

Even as Triadė is a collaborative effort, Carei always has an overarching vision, and many of our concerts were premieres of his compositional events which, one way or another, he stage managed and directed. In 1987, we performed at Macalester College’s Janet Wallace Auditorium – accompanied by musicians in the rafters and balconies – and at Walker Community Church. Between 1988 and 1990, we did "TRYPTICH: Three Brief Realities", at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; performed in a show called IN THE AIR as part of the American Composer Forum’s Concert Series; premiered Carei's "CARTOON VI: Kwitchurbeliakin", on Minnesota Public Radio; and presented “The Reconstruction of Light”, with poet John Minczeski, at Town Square Park in downtown St. Paul.

In 1993, Michelle moved to New York and Anna Vasquez began rehearsing with us. Carei became ill with Guillain-Barré syndrome that fall and never did have the opportunity to perform with Anna. Triadė next came together in 2003 with cellist Jacqueline Ultan at Intermedia Arts Center as part of Carei's "AWE IN THE FAMILY: Interpretations in Space of Time", Gift Shop event. By 2007, Michelle had returned from New York and we reassembled the original Triadė group for the opening of Carei's Hennepin County Medical Center Art Exhibit entitled "MUSIC AND CONVERSATIONS IN VISUAL FORM". We are excited to be back together.


People don't realize that we created these well-defined compositions spontaneously in the moment of performance, three players completing each other's musical sentences.  And this is not rebellious music, but lyrical, flowing effortlessly from Ravel or Scriabin-like ideas to Eastern European folk idiom, jazz and blues, all in the space of a few minutes.  Playing in Triade for us has been truly a once-in-many-lifetimes experience.  I defy anyone to find anything like it anywhere.  — Gary Schulte, violinist, Triade.


There are so many things in Carei Thomas’s CD, “Visits,” that I want to talk about. I want to talk about the boundary between composition and improvisation that is so thin that the two worlds merge, and I don’t care which side of that fence I end up on. I want to talk about the coherent pitch language, not quite tonal, not atonal, that has a consistency that makes sense to my ear and makes me care about pitches. I could talk about his style, part Monk, part Ligeti, part Miles Davis (if he had studied with Stravinsky). But when it comes down to it, it’s just about the music. Thomas has chosen to write for piano trio (violin, cello, piano), the quintessential classical and intellectual genre. Knowing this, I am already primed to listen for pitches, rhythms, phrases and articulations, even before I hear the first notes. Although each movement has been given a poetic title, the music is essentially abstract. Thomas toys with our preconceptions about musical styles. Is he a jazz composer working in the world of classical music? Is he a classical composer working with some jazz content. It’s not that simple. And there is certainly no crass attempt at “fusion.” Rather Thomas is a musical alchemist searching for a way to make gold out of the basic elements of music. — Jeffrey Brooks, composer


Carei F. Thomas:

Carei Thomas has been associated for a number of years with the music, literary, visual arts, dance, recovery, neighborhood and Buddhist communities of the Twin Cities. He is known throughout the arts community for his spiritual energy, interdisciplinary vision and creativity. In the words of Carleton Macy, Emeritus Professor of Music, Macalester College: “Carei brings with him an infectious sense of community and unity of purpose which is likewise communicated in his music.” Carei’s awards include grants and commissions from The Bush Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Meet the Composer, Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, American Composers Forum, St. Paul’s Leadership in Neighborhoods, VSA Arts in Minnesota, and Minnesota State Arts Board. He is co-founder of Ancestor Energy Poetry-Jazz with Louis Alemayehu and David Wright III, as well as MotherChild Poetry-Music Ensemble with John Minczeski, and has been commissioned by Zeitgeist New Music Ensemble and maintains an ongoing collaborative connection with them. Carei published a book entitled “Compositions and Concepts” and is on the Board of the High School for Recording Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. He continues to seek venues of varying size and design to explore experimental music performances which he calls “Unusual Designs, Atypical Settings – UDAS” to build up avenues of familiarization that allow for historic connections to happen through music involvement.


Gary Schulte:

A veteran of A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION, Gary Schulte is a violinist and performance composer to whom Stephane Grappelli gave his most sincere blessing. Schulte is considered a master of improvisation in all genres, and has done everything from classical improvisation with harpsichord virtuoso Layton James to the avant-garde with David Byrne, and extensive collaborative work with groups such as Ancestor Energy poetry-jazz with Louis Alemayehu, Ballet of the Dolls, and Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Sought after as a jazz violinist, he has gigged with some of the greatest artists of the Gypsy Jazz genre, including guitarist legend Dorado Schmitt. He is also known for his work in the Black Gospel tradition, and for his unaccompanied solo violin performances in which he takes a story or image and creates a spontaneous composition in front of a live audience. Of his recent performances with Klezmerica, Ed Huyck of CITY PAGES wrote: “Special mention goes to violinist Gary Schulte, whose playing threatened to raise the roof right off Park Square.” A performance graduate of Indiana University School of Music, he studied with Paganini master Rugierro Ricci, and Josef Gingold.


Michelle Kinney:

A passionate and genre-hopping cellista, Michelle has always pursued non-traditional contexts for the cello. As Musician in Residence at the U of MN’s Dance Program, accompanying class with her cello, Michelle’s daily work with dance mines improvisational impulse, gesture and gut response, rhythm and wave energy. Also an active participant in the current Twin Cities music scene, Michelle performs her own compositions with the cello/drum quartet Jelloslave, the Pipa, Veena and Cello trio Butterfly, and the new large improvising ensemble Cherry Spoon Collective. Michelle also enjoys guesting as a player in several musical collaborations with various projects including the spoken word free improvising band Coloring Time, and with her husband, composer and guitarist Chris Cunningham in his “micro orchestra” Mississippi Peace. Being entrenched in the new-music scene in Minneapolis in the 1980s with bands like IMP ORK, The Aphid Bloodbath Consort and Carei Thomas’ Triadė, helped set the stage for Michelle’s 13 years spent in the downtown NYC music scene from 1989 – 2002, performing with some of the most respected innovators in new music, including the unforgettable Butch Morris, Henry Threadgill, Jason Kao Hwang, Brandon Ross, Stomu Takeishi, Bun Ching Lam & Shi-Zheng Chen.


Also by Carei Thomas: SoundWindow(s) V: Pinnacles (innova 632)


Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation.

Philip Blackburn, director, design

Chris Campbell, operations manager

Steve McPherson, publicist