Power of improvisation

The Clayton News-Star

P3 returns to packed Coffee Mill by popular demand

After the trio P3 played its first number to a packed house at The Coffee Mill in Clayton on Saturday, guitarist Paul Barton made the comment, “That first song was called… ‘We Just Made It Up.'”

Most of the songs in the group’s nearly two-hour set were made up. Barton joked that each song would be called “We Just Made It Up, Part 1, 2, 3, etc.”

P3 - bassist Paul Kollar, drummer Phil Wylie and guitarist Paul Barton (from left) played to a packed house at just the trio\'s second-ever show at The Coffee Mill on Saturday.

P3, or P-Cubed, as they sometimes like to call themselves, were back at the coffeehouse by popular demand. What began as a last-minute improptu jam could turn into a regualr gig, based on the crowd reaction from Saturday’s show.

Patrons tapped their feet, drank beverages and enjoyed desserts as Barton, bassist Paul Kollar and drummer Phil Wylie showed off their improvisational skills with amazing results. The show was recorded by Barton for possible future release on his Studio 415 label.

It was rock, jazz, blues and fusion all wrapped up in a not-so-neat, but great-sounding, package — as interesting as the events that led the group (each member’s name begins with P) to form just a month ago.

Kollar, originally from Cleveland, Ohio, was part of St. Elmo’s Fire, a progressive-rock outfit in the late 1970s and early 80s. The group only released one album, a live CD, in 1998, and one studio CD in 2001, of which Wylie played on.

The band was at times compared to King Crimson. Kollar and Wylie also played a later band, Brain Forrest, and released two CDs in the mid 90s.

Rick Mannis, a keyboard player who used to play in Brain Forrest, introduced Kollar to Barton a year ago.

“We kicked around the idea of forming a cover band,” Kollar said. “That didn’t jell, so we bagged it.”

About a month ago, Barton received a call from Coffee Mill co-owner Cliff Morgan asking him if he could come up with a show as a last-minute replacement. That call came three days before the actual show date.

“I agreed, and then I wondered, ‘I don’t have two hours of material on my own,'” said Barton, an accomplished musician and owner/producer at Studio 415. “So I started calling musicians. It was almost like a happy accident.”

Kollar and Phil Falco were the first two musicians Barton called. They rehearsed for a couple of days and then played the show to positive numbers and crowd response.

“The first time they played, I didn’t know what to expect,” Morgan said. “They blew me, and everyone else, away. That says a lot about these guys that they can just pick up instruments and jam because they are so good. I wanted to have them back.”

Because Falco had commitments with his band, No Dice, he couldn’t rehearse with the band for Saturday’s performance, so Barton contacted Wylie, a Charlotte native now living in Raleigh. Wylie, who has been involved in music since he was 11, has played jazz and blues and brings what he calls a “melodic textural approach” to the tunes.

“I am a big fan of melody,” said Wylie, whose fusion style has been influenced by John Bonham (Lez Zeppelin), Stewart Copeland (The Police) and Bill Bruford (Yes, King Crimson).

P3 in concert is literally a work in progress, mostly jazz/rock/fusion and mostly instrumental. They pretty much make it up as they go along.

“It’s 80 percent improvisation and 20 percent half-baked ideas,” Kollar said.

Wylie added, “It’s the spirit of exploration, which is why I like jazz so much. you just play and explore new territory, and hopefully, something cool will happen.”

Article and photo by Jim Green, Staff Writer