The music of electric guitarist Adrian Belew is tough to pin down, and he prefers it that way: “I don’t like to put titles on any of these brands of music,” he says. “For the people making the music, it’s better not to have them.” The people listening to the music can weigh in on Wednesday, Dec. 3, when The Adrian Belew Power Trio performs at New Mountain.
A rundown of some of the musician’s better-known credits involves touring and/or recording with Frank Zappa, The Bears, Talking Heads, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Tom Club and David Bowie. And for many years (1981-84 and 1994-2008) he played guitar, sang and composed in King Crimson. Alongside all of those projects, the Nashville-based guitarist has maintained a solo career and has nearly two dozen album releases under his own name.
Since 2006 Belew has led his eponymous Power Trio. The current lineup includes drummer Tobias Ralph and Julie Slick on bass. Belew first learned of Slick while he was teaching a seminar at The School of Rock. “Julie was a graduate of the school,” Belew says. “Paul Green, the founder of the school, said, ‘You’ve got to hear these two students of mine.’ So Julie and her brother Eric played together. And that was enough for me!” The siblings rounded out Belew’s new trio; Eric eventually left to join Dr. Dog and was replaced by Ralph.
Julie Slick’s muscular, inventive playing has earned her critical plaudits. She came to the widespread notice of King Crimson fans when she toured (with Belew and Ralph) as part of Two of a Perfect Trio, a six-person, three-act concert that eventually became what the King Crimson organization calls a “ProjeKct,” a side project involving one or more members of Crimson. The TOAPT concert at the Diana Wortham Theatre was a highlight of the 2011 Moogfest.
King Crimson — with more than 20 musicians having passed through its ranks — recently concluded a new tour of its own. Members come, go and sometimes return, depending on what founder Robert Fripp has in mind at any given time. Presumably the door is left open for former members to return to the active lineup. “I think that is the way Robert Fripp views it,” says Belew. “I’m not sure it’s the way I view it. I don’t know if there is any future for me in King Crimson. Now that I’ve been sort of outside the band and watched it walk by, I’m a lot less interested.”
With his Power Trio, the man dubbed the Twang Bar King (also the title of his 1983 album) has plenty to hold his interest. Each night on the current tour, the three musicians build their pieces based on a new Belew concept he calls FLUX. “It’s the first time we’ve tried this,” he says. “We’re doing things in a different format: sometimes we don’t play the complete songs. We play a portion of them, and they’re interrupted by something, and then we go to the next song. So in our evening of music, we can play something like 30 different pieces.” Belew describes this approach as a “really good way to move the pace of the show, and to give the listener and viewer a look at my whole career.”
This month, following a successful crowdfunding campaign, the FLUX concept debuted as a mobile app. Belew will regularly add new music into it. The idea with the interactive FLUX app — and, by extension, the live music of The Adrian Belew Power Trio — is that “music is never the same thing twice.” Belew adds, “I think that because people process things so much quicker now, the world is ready for this.”
WHO: The Adrian Belew Power Trio, with Asian Teacher Factory
WHERE: New Mountain, newmtnavl.com
WHEN: Wednesday, Dec. 3, 8 p.m. $24 advance / $28 day of show