For the Paul Schmeling Trio, which started out as a duo with bassist Michael Barth and saxophonist Paul Schmeling about eight years ago, the choice to expand its arrangement is quickly garnering a local following.
Ashlanders may recognize Schmeling as their friendly bartender at Martino's. He also reprises his role as "head noodle" annually in representing macaroni in the Fourth of July parade.
With a growing list of regular gigs, the trio has added jazz guitarist Tim Church and singer Danielle Kelly as lead vocalist, which has reinvigorated the jazz trio.
The Paul Schmeling Trio with Danielle Kelly will play at 8 p.m. Monday, at Martino's, 58 E. Main St. For the Tidings Cafe, the band performed the song "Love for Sale" by Cole Porter.
Since Kelly took the place of young Ashland singer Calysta who was singing with the trio before she left for college, the group has expanded its playlist and added more gigs to its schedule. The ensemble appears every third Thursday at Thai Pepper, every Monday at Martino's and frequently at Alex's, Standing Stone and the Avalon Bar and Grill in Talent. Previously playing mostly jazz standards, the group now includes more contemporary jazz artists such as Melody Gardot and Madeleine Peyroux.
"We've even done Bill Withers, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Tom Waits, so we've got jazzed-up pop songs," Kelly said. "We have a lot of contemporary jazz. We do a lot of standards. I love the standards."
While the trio was performing with Calysta regularly at Chateaulin, Kelly was working in the restaurant and bottle shop as a waitress. The group played every Tuesday, calling the gig "Jazz and Bubbles."
"It was a big champagne night. I was the cocktail waitress," Kelly said. "Calysta was singing a lot of the songs I had done in high school, so I told him (Schmeling) if he ever needed a backup I could do it."
Kelly has been singing with the trio for 18 months with no hint of stopping anytime soon.
"We'll never do anything else," said Schmeling of their present arrangement.
Church, Schmeling and Barth say the love of performing is what keeps them motivated to keep gigging.
"I get a high from doing it," Kelly said. "But also the excuse to buy new shoes and dresses. To dress up doesn't hurt either. I love to dress up."
Barth, a musician who has played locally for the past 30 years, said he recently asked his wife, "Why am I doing this?" His wife replied, "Because it's what you do."
Hearing the band play, it's clear that each of the members are enjoying themselves. For Kelly, who studied theater at Southern Oregon University, but didn't end up with much stage time, singing with the trio has been an opportunity to perform.
"I care about what people think," she said. "I've started to hear marks of my progress and improvement, so I like to show myself and improve myself."
Collectively, the ensemble is influenced by the work of Dexter Gordon, Gene Ammons, Ray Brown, Thelonius Monk and Myles Davis.
"There's the old saying that jazz is an ocean you swim around in, but you never get to the other side," Church said.
From performing in Ashland during the winter, the group has formed a local following. During the summer, the trio is popular with visiting tourists, as well.
"I was asked all last summer by tourists if we had a CD to sell," Kelly said. "People want a token of their experience in Ashland. So we're discussing the logistics of getting into a studio to get 10 or so of our songs down."
The three men that make up the Schmeling Trio have deep roots in Ashland and intend to stay local. For Kelly, who is just getting her start in the music scene, the sky is the limit.
"I think the three of us, probably are likely to remain local and don't have much interest in going (on tour)," Barth said. "But Danielle, you're young enough if you got an offer you couldn't refuse you would have to go take it and go do that."
"I don't think I'll be here forever, but right now I feel like I'm in the middle of a really great education and opportunity to be working and growing," Kelly said.
"It's a good town for it, too," Church added.
The trio and Kelly already have started booking wedding gigs for the summer and want it to be known that they are a band for hire. "I'd like to see us at wineries," Kelly said.
Overall, the group is making the best of the local support that they have as they continue to do what they love.
"We just hope the audience is having a good time," Barth said.
Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.