During his band’s performance at the Bean Runner Café in Peekskill, Christopher James Talio often stared straight ahead at the back wall as if he were searching for something.
Indeed, Talio is the “Man on a Mission,” his latest single and creative video. The goal is to “liberate the human spirit through musical performance and visual creation,” he said.
Like many of his originals, the song’s laid-back, jazz-based, bass-driven groove is overlaid by talk-singing vocals with more than a big toe dipped in rap.
In the lyrics, the main mission is “to be free,” which means “having the freedom to make choices that are the most desirable to you” said Talio, 33. “As a musician, my vision had to do with originality and at the time I wrote it, the quest was to make a fulfilling living through music, but freedom looks different to everyone.”
He got the jazz bug growing up in Cortlandt and fraternizing with drummer Bob Meyer and guitarist John Abercrombie, who live in the area. After earning a degree in jazz bass studies at the Manhattan School of Music, he took a sojourn to teach music in India that helped shift his sonic focus.
Realizing how difficult it is to make a living playing instrumental music, Talio added a pop structure to his jazzy foundation, developed his vocalizing and took up a new instrument.
Most basses have four strings, but he kept adding more until he got to seven. “I realized that a guitar has six strings, so maybe I should try it,” he said. After learning the ropes, his concept crystallized.
At the Bean Runner, the band played latex-tight covers and originals. Keyboardist Matthieu Carvin dialed in the perfect organ sound during the chorus of “I Started a Joke” by the Bee Gees and played a deft, understated solo on “Fork in the Road,” a Talio original
In the beginning of “War Inside,” drummer Bryan Kopchak put down his drumsticks and grabbed a couple of felt-tipped mallets to provide a mellower sound that built toward the end as Steve Frieder’s soaring saxophone solo squeezed out ferocious squeals and squawks in the upper register.
Nathan Allen reveled in the funky, melodic upright bass part during “Mona Lisa.” He also threw down angular, muscular lines during the opening song, “26-2” by John Coltrane, whose singular style Frieder channeled all evening. After the elaborate ending, someone in the crowd said, “Wow.”
Talio and Frieder’s musical kinship dates back to high school. The saxophone wunderkind’s furious slurs and honking solos served as a hard-edged counterpart to Talio’s understated guitar improvisations, which impressed with unexpected, unorthodox note choices rather than flash.
Playing without a pick, Talio’s tone included just enough fuzz to add some bite and he sang high-pitched jazzy ad-libs to end several tunes.
Beyond music, Talio is also a video artist. He and partner Annie Woo coordinated a seven-camera shoot of the show and bathed the stage in videogenic lighting.
In addition, his visual art creations include collages and what he calls Blue Goo for You: fantastical, elaborate ballpoint pen drawings on canvas.
“They’re without form or structure, although there are staple shapes that I always use, including eyes, which are always the first thing I draw,” he said.
Though some of his song titles (“War Inside”; “Fork in the Road”) and phrases (“there’s a monster growing in our heads”) suggest that existential angst lurks within, Talio is upbeat.
“The lyrics are specific to me, but they’re also influenced by outward reflection,” he said. “I am medium-core philosophical in the way I live my life.”