We Three Friends
Yata, Sinz, and Orfield album offers acoustic gems
The debut album from Yata, Sinz, and Orfield is a folky, intimate affair, so perhaps it’s appropriate that the trio of veteran musicians squeezed into a cozy booth at Acoustic Café to discuss the new record during a recent lunch hour. Over sandwiches and soup in a venue where their tunes would be perfectly fitting, the musicians’ strong personal and musical rapport was on display as they talked about their album, Dancing in the Light.
The Chippewa Valley-based trio is composed of singer and guitarist Yata Peinovich, saxophonist Sue Orfield, and bassist Randy Sinz, and to say they have well-honed musical chops is an understatement. Among them, they’ve got more than a century of performing under their belts: Orfield fronts her own eponymous band, and performs with and tours the Midwest (and the world) with several others musical groups, including AcoustiHoo and the Tiptons Sax Quartet; Sinz lays down basslines for the Sue Orfield Band, AcoustiHoo, Rada Dada, and others; while Peinovich has been exploring folk, rock, blues, and beyond for decades as a solo artist and in numerous combos.
Peinovich and Orfield first played together about six years ago, and the latter helped the former on his 2012 record Nature Girl, which was produced by bass player Mark Healey of the classic rock band Badfinger. When Healey got busy with other projects, Peinovich and Orfield asked Sinz to join them on bass about three years ago.
“This particular group has been such a blessing,” Orfield explains. “There’s a great chemistry with us. There’s a mutual respect.”
“I actually like him,” Sinz chimes in dryly. Peinovich grins; the continuous, good-natured joking is part of the trio’s honesty with each other, he explains.
Orfield describes the album as a blend of folk and Americana informed by swing jazz. Peinovich was the album’s primary songwriter, although he got an assist on the lyrics from a quartet of famous poets – Robert Burns, Adrienne Rich, William Butler Yeats, and Langston Hughes – whose words he set to music. The album opens with a smoky, jazzy version of Burns’ ballad “A Red, Red Rose.” After that the songs weave between introspective (“Waking First”), humorous (“My Gal Sal”), and upbeat (“Rocker Makin’ Racket”), all without breaking a sweat. The vibe here is acoustic and mellow.
“When I bring a song to this group, I’m amazed how quickly they pick it up,” Peinovich says. Consider the song “C# or Bb” (for those who don’t understand musical notation, that’s pronounced “See Sharp or Be Flat”), which gets its title from a Muhammad Ali quip. “They just ran with it,” Peinovich says. “Randy had this little Motown riff. … Sue just finds this catchy melody that just hooks us in.”
Amid the musicianship, some cheeky humor stands out: Consider the sci-fi syncopation of “Atomic a Go-Go” (originally an Orfield instrumental) and the tuba-driven closing number, “Music in the Outhouse” (which Peinovich says was inspired by a real-life incident during which he contemplated taking shelter in an outhouse during a gig).
The album was primarily recorded at Orfield and Sinz’s home between April and November, with Sinz engineering and mixing. For acoustic reasons, the three musicians were often spread out around the house, unable to see each other. Despite this physical distance, the album exudes a notable warmth and intimacy – the kind you’ll find when three friends come in from the cold and crowd into a coffee shop booth.
Winter Solstice Party with Yata, Sinz, and Orfield • Wednesday, Dec. 21, 6:30-9pm • Unity Christ Center, 1808 Folsom St., Eau Claire • $10 at the door; get a couple for $10 off the $15 CD • ysoband.com