Within the last month, the string trio Time for Three has had the unusual distinction of being covered by the Today Show, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, The Strad and yes, WQXR. The reason? Violinists Zachary De Pue and Nicolas Kendall were told they couldn’t take their violins inside the cabin on a US Airways flight from North Carolina to Arkansas.
It was at that point that De Pue began playing J.S. Bach's Partita No. 3 on the tarmac while Kendall, recording the incident on his phone, shows the pair being ignored by various US Airways personnel. The musicians’ video of the incident was posted on YouTube, which quickly set off a social media storm. (US Airways later described it as a misunderstanding of carry-on rules between its employees and the musicians.)
Even as Time For Three came on a wider public's radar (and its Facebook feeds) with the incident, the trio has been active for over a decade, appearing everywhere from symphony halls to jazz clubs to football games and even the Indianapolis 500 auto race. The musicians first met and began jamming together in 1999 while classmates at the Curtis Institute of Music. They got their first formal gig in 2001 and soon the sideline became a more serious pursuit.
“Our common ground is classical music and each one of us brought a different genre to the table,” Double bassist Ranaan Meyer said in an interview with WQXR host Naomi Lewin. Kendall’s interests included gypsy jazz, hip-hop and R&B; De Pue specialized in Texas fiddling and folk music; Meyer played jazz. “What was really unique was we were able to teach each other some of the influences from those other genres, respectively.”
Listen to the full interview:
In the WQXR Café, the group played two selections for their new, self-titled album on Universal Classics, starting with "Roundabouts," an intimate piece by Kendall that features a round structure.
Since 2009, Time for Three has been in residency with the Indianapolis Symphony, where De Pue is the concertmaster. The trio's next song, “Banjo Love,” by Meyer, gives a hint of the American fiddling tradition that has become a part of its musical DNA. It also pays homage to the noted banjo player Béla Fleck, who is a musical hero of the group.
The trio’s final song in the café is a cover version of Coldplay’s "UFO." While it attests to the strong pop influences on Time for Three, the musicians are quick to call attention to their classical credits. Along with appearing at Carnegie Hall and other major venues, they have commissioned high-profile composers including Jennifer Higdon, William Bolcom and Chris Brubeck to write works for the group and are currently developing a new piece with the Portland, OR-based composer Kenji Bunch.
“When people ask us what we are we have no idea,” noted Meyer, laughing. “We're a marketing nightmare for most record companies. The fact that we're actually signed with Universal is a major pat on the back for us. When we're getting together, frankly it's not a purist thing."
Video: Amy Pearl; Audio: Edward Haber; Text & Production: Brian Wise; Interview: Naomi Lewin