Victor Haskins’ musical evolution moves so fast that one can only hope to capture snapshots along the way.
Refinement is the term he uses to describe his continuous development to this point.
Haskins, instructor of trumpet and director of the Jazz Ensemble at William & Mary, will perform with his trio, Victor Haskins & Skein, as part of the Ewell Concert Series April 28 at 7 p.m. at Williamsburg Regional Library.
Continuing his vision for listeners to experience music as a story, picture or emotion that can’t be limited to being called jazz — or even music — Haskins is currently celebrating the 10th anniversary of his first album release, “The Truth.”
Following on their 2019 album, “Showing Up,” Skein released “Ikigai” in July of 2022 and is currently promoting it. Ikigai is a Japanese word that loosely translates into English as a reason for being or motivating force, or, in some interpretations, that which brings value and joy to life.
The members of the trio explore their individual and collective energy on recorded tracks that feature Haskins on cornet or electronic wind instrument with Randall Pharr on bass and Tony Martucci on drums.
“That first album with Skein, ‘Showing Up,’ came about as a result of realizing a certain level of mastery and expression with the tools that I have — especially the EWI — and this particular ensemble concept,” Haskins said. “Since that release, two things that have been valuable parts of my own growth are teaching others at various levels and my own practice in terms of teaching myself new ways of approaching both the familiar and the unfamiliar in novel ways.”
Practicing piano and dealing with melody from a broader harmonic standpoint, as opposed to a strictly linear standpoint, has influenced how he organizes his thoughts during composition.
“I’ve continued to become more refined in terms of saying exactly what I want in order to ensure the clarity of my message,” Haskins said. “That’s not to say that the execution of all my ideas is perfect; perfection is not the goal. …
“Being able to see the big picture from different perspectives grants me access to unique decisions. Ultimately, this leads to a wider range of possibilities of how we express our stories through performance.”
Skein’s live performances are heavy on the improvisation that Haskins leaves plenty of room for when writing music, so that no piece ever sounds exactly the same twice.
“It leaves a certain amount of openness to having new experiences occur in future iterations of performances of those tunes,” Haskins said. “This is the ideal — to be able to have a limitless amount of cohesive variations of how you might approach a performance of a tune.”
Haskins wrote half of the songs on “Ikigai” in the summer of 2021 after teaching himself to play the piano during the COVID-19 lockdown and embarking on an intense period of in-depth musical study.
“All the tunes sound very different from one another, yet at the same time there is a certain vibe that connects them all,” Haskins said. “Some of the compositions that appear on the album were written several years prior, but we never performed them live.
“With the new harmonic knowledge I gained from my recent piano practice, I was able to officially complete all the tunes so they could exist as a single body of work. The music on this album captures my development as a person and effectively communicates both the lived and aspirational aesthetics and philosophies I wish to put into the world.”
This includes executing his part playing the music, experiencing others’ performances within the group and observing how audiences respond. Also new to the experience of recording “Ikigai” was Haskins personally arranging equipment and facilitating recordings for all 10 tracks in live settings.
“It was a great learning experience in terms of producing the actual recordings, refining how I write music and how my band performs as a unit, and integrating different elements in rendering a performance that can emotionally move the audience,” Haskins said.
Different iterations of the pieces appear on the album and at each live show, so listeners can experience even a familiar tune in a completely different way each time it’s played.
“It’s exciting for us as musicians every time we perform these tunes,” Haskins said. “We all grow and encounter different things leading up to the point when we’re going to perform. The performance becomes this explosion of new energy, and we essentially meet each tune for the first time all over again. And to think we are having this experience as folks who know these compositions very intimately, so of course the audience is going to have an equally novel and exciting experience listening to us.
“You don’t have to know anything about our music in advance to get it. The way the tunes are written and rendered through performance leads you to want to know what happens next. Kind of like hearing a good story.”
Jennifer L. Williams, Communications Specialist