Katie Thiroux Quartet (KTQ)
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Katie Thiroux Quartet (KTQ)

Long Beach, California, United States

Long Beach, California, United States
Band Jazz Acoustic



The best kept secret in music


"The Music Is What Matters, And It Waits For Nothing And No One"

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Like most kids I started singing in the choir at church, then I joined the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus. Through this choir I got the opportunity to perform in the LA Opera, a production of Fantastic Mr. Fox. My brother Dominic also sang and I would tag along to his voice lessons. I think just because I was sitting there and looked a little bored, his teachers would work with me for a few minutes after his lessons were over. After a few of these “lessons,” my mom thought I should take some of my own. When I was twelve I got to work with vocal coach Seth Riggs, who pretty much taught me the dichotomy of the voice. I was listening to Ella recordings and learned a lot of her scat solos, so Riggs turned me on to Tierney Sutton. I started studying with Sutton, albeit she was skeptical to teach jazz voice to a twelve year old. But she was pretty happy that I played bass and that I had an understanding of harmony. Tierney gave me the idea through improvisation lessons to play the root of the chord on the bass and sing the rest of the chord over it. That opened up a whole new world for me to explore. Singing while playing took its natural course after that revelation.
Daniels: What’s the hardest thing about your career? (finding gigs, working w/ musicians you don’t know?) Thiroux:
I am fortunate to live in Southern California where work is pretty plentiful, if you go out and look for it, and there are a lot of great musicians to work with. Networking with other musicians is important, as well as club and restaurant owners. It is great when club owners and restaurants want to bring jazz in, especially in this economy. But you need to be confident that you are the right fit for them and that you can help bring them business. As far as making a living I have found that you can work every night and still not pay your bills, or you need to work constantly to pay your bills. I am grateful for all the work and opportunities that I have, it is not always easy to make a living, and that’s why I seek out opportunities. For example, my drummer Matt Witek and I had a three-month residency at Utopia Restaurant in Long Beach. We sought it out because they have an ideal atmosphere, good clientele, a baby grand piano and I could play totally acoustic bass. We played every Friday night and we really got to play! For two months we were playing with a gifted pianist and a peer, Konrad Paszkudzki. For the last month we had the pleasure of playing with the phenomenal talents of Llew Matthews, John Campbell, Dave Witham and another young pianist, Jordan Siegal. We had a symbiotic relationship with the restaurant managers. If a club or a restaurant wants to make an effort, then that makes you work harder to maintain a good professional relationship so that they continue to want to have music and also pave the way for other musicians to come in. Often times when you are the leader you end up making little or no money. But because you are the leader you get to choose to play with great people, so you want it to be musically worthwhile. I have also been lucky to meet people who want to help me. Specifically, Dave Damiani of No Vacancy Entertainment, who is constantly scouting out new playing opportunities and he does it because he loves the music and the musicians. I also have to thank Ozzie Cadena for hiring me to play at the Lighthouse when I was still in high school. Bassist and Jazz America teacher Richard Simon called me very last minute to fill in for him at the Lighthouse. After that night Ozzie kept calling me to play and he never questioned my age or gender, and neither did I. Ozzie's wife Gloria is doing a beautiful thing by keeping the music alive at the Lighthouse, she's always looking out for jazz musicians.
Daniels: What gives you the most pleasure as a musician?

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1. My job first and foremost is to serve the music and I do that best with a good audience. There’s like performing for an audience that makes you feel good and wants to listen to what you have to say. Jazz is a “live” art form after-all, and there needs to be more butts in the seats!2. Playing with musicians who are much better than me who take me to school on a gig. Most of the time there is an encouraging undertone to the musically butt-kicking lesson.3. Making new musical connections and exploring where they can take you. I naturally get to have so much fun playing with other people when the connection is good, and it is impossible to play without a smile on. This always happens to me when I play with guitarist Barry Zweig. He stills finds new things to play and challenges me to always discover more, more, more!
Daniels What are you looking forward to in the near future? Thiroux:
I am planning on doing some recording soon, more as a time stamp of where my progress is now and to go through the discipline of doing it. I want the challenge of picking a set a tunes and living with it for a while. I have a few performances coming up that I am looking forward to. I have the honor of performing with John Pisano and Barry Zweig at the infamous Guitar Night on July 17, which is now at Lucy's 51 in Toluca Lake. My brother Dominic and I are teaming up to perform a bass duo concert at The Blue Whale soon. And Barry Zweig has put a trio together with Matt Witek and myself, we'll be playing every Friday night in July at the Del Monte Speakeasy in Venice from 8-10pm. I'm looking forward to hearing what we will develop by playing consistently. I am also a decided disciple of the trio format i.e. Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown. I take it seriously and want to master it and perpetuate the jazz trio as an art form. The jazz trio format is organically perfect, yet it can be difficult to achieve balance of interplay, counterpoint and making it look easy. It may seem that there would be limitations by having only three instruments, but within the limited structure there is challenge and creative excitement in exploring and discovering what are actually limitless possibilities. Think of the great trios of the past, Oscar Peterson, Ray Brown and Bill Evans to name just a few. Only three people, but an immense amount of musicality and exploration came from each trio. There are obviously many great trios around and some are in LA, I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel! So to answer this question, I want to put a trio together and investigate my own potential as a leader.
Daniels: Is L.A. where you want to be, or do you dream about living and working in another place? Thiroux:
Well, I grew up in Chatsworth then went to Berklee College of Music in Boston. I gigged in town and I would also go to New York City and try out the scene while I was there. After school I lived and taught at a Berklee sister school in Ecuador for one year. After all of my experiences, I feel that Los Angeles has the people I want to play with and also good playing opportunities. Nowadays, I don’t think it’s so crazy to hop on a plane for a gig if someone really wants to hire you. And plus, it is much easier to get my bass around in Southern California instead of wheeling it around in the snow!
Daniels: If you could form one, describe your own dream band? Thiroux:
If this band could consist of deceased musicians, then I would choose Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis and Ed Thigpen mainly so I could experience what it was like to be in Ray Brown’s shoes. For my living dream

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band it would have to be Jeff Hamilton and Benny Green. Another dream band would be a bass trio with John Clayton and Christian McBride.
Daniels: What do you do to relax, to get away from music, your personal worries? Thiroux:
I love cooking, especially for other people. I’m not bashful when I say my food is good, that’s why I like to share it! I like to have friends over for music listening sessions and I’ll feed everyone between tracks. I enjoy walking too because I’m always standing in one spot when I’m playing. I don’t indulge in any harmful vices, but my boyfriend Matt and I will drive anywhere for a good taco or Vietnamese food. I don’t worry about much, and I never lose sight of my goals. I make sure that rent is covered through gigs and as long as I’m working hard and I get to play music everyday, I am happy.
Daniels: If you could have any other job in the world, what would it be? Thiroux:
I would like to be a chef where I could create a new menu for every day. Of course the restaurant I worked in would have live music, too.
Daniels: Do you think that female musicians have to sacrifice more, or work harder to be successful? What would make things better or easier for female musicians? Thiroux:
This is a tricky question, because I don’t carry that around with me. I don’t have the time to worry about what other people are missing out on. The music is what matters, and it waits for nothing and no one. From my own point of view I can’t hear color, gender or age. I was extremely fortunate to play a concert with Dr. Billy Taylor, who was a wonderful advocate for women in jazz and disproved the stigma of “the female musician.” Things would be better if you just make the assumption that when you go on the bandstand that we are all equal, man, woman, black, white, green, young or old. Then you create a universe that you can live and work in without prejudices. I have found that everyone is not always going to be your friend, but you always need to remember that you are there to serve the music…my motto is just swing hard and play! - Myrna Daniels, Los Angeles Jazz Scene

"Jazz Bassist Now A Leading Player"

Readers of this byline may recall a feature on the jazz at Glendale's Neat Bar in the Glendale News-Press in March 2012. While the bar itself and the band were worthy enough subjects, the big discovery that night was young bassist Katie Thiroux and her boyfriend, drummer Matt Witek. Their musicality, swinging drive, and attention to detail were values seldom heard in players of their age group. In addition to her playing, her singing was natural, unforced and harmonically delightful. The promise that Thiroux portended that night is being played out steadily.

Though only 26, she's long been part of the pool of working local jazz musicians and is now leading her own band. That hard-swinging group, with tenor saxophonist Roger Neumann, plays at Descanso Gardens' Music on the Main series Thursday night.

Thiroux is a Chatsworth native and daughter of accomplished musicians. "It was an unspoken rule," she says from her Long Beach home, "and a process in my family that we'd all play the violin for four years. I didn't like it but my mother said: 'You'll make more money as a bass player; if you can play in tune, have good time and you know songs, you'll always work.'"

Her bass mentor, John Clayton observes: "I met Katie when she was a high school student. If I asked her to bring in exercises on A, B and C, she'd come in with D, E and F too." He also appreciates her commitment to effective ensemble playing. "She understands how important it is to connect with the other players — not just the drummers. I insist that my students be able to sing while they play. She has the talent to sing apart from playing."

The petite Thiroux has the conceivable potential to be a star performer on the order of an Esperanza Spalding but concentrates instead on being an ensemble player — even when she leads. "She's a good singer but she has to be coaxed into doing it a little," says the protean drummer Paul Kreibich. "That's actually refreshing. Everyone who hears her is impressed, but rather than try to be a rock star and an extroverted featured player, Katie's more interested in making the band sound good."

A big part of that selflessness centers on her musical romance with Witek's drumming.

"We're both very interested in the what the rhythm section players' roles are on the bandstand. It's a lot like baseball — you read each other's signs," she says. "You can anticipate things coming up that you want to do and most of the time we just have to give a quick look at each other to get it going. Matt's such a musical drummer, he knows it's not just about soloing. His use of dynamics is so subtle that when he plays it's like a voice."

Drummer Jeff Hamilton, who co-leads the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra with John Clayton, is Witek's longtime teacher. "I've stressed to my students," he points out, "to find a bassist you can communicate with and count on. Katie and Matt have that quarter-note relationship that's essential. I think they've grown together and they have even more potential."

Tenor saxophonist Roger Neumann clearly delights in the fact that his former student Katie now calls him for jobs. "Her endurance amazes me," he says, from his Santa Clarita home. "We'll play some of these fast tunes that go on for a long time and she's relentless — she really digs into the music!"

Thiroux, who is currently shopping her debut album to labels, is succinct on her musical goals. "I want to play straight-ahead jazz that swings and that's ready for whatever happens in the moment. I look forward to the challenges every night." - Kirk Silsbee, DownBeat

"A Tale of Two Trios"

The Larry Fuller Trio: The very next night, NYC pianist Larry Fuller dropped into the Pacific Beach venue with an entirely different aesthetic. Years of experience in the bebop ethos (the 49-year-old Fuller was the last pianist in bass-legend Ray Brown’s band) and a repertoire heavy on standards and jazz classics led to a night of heavy, ebullient swing.

Fronting a crack unit comprised of bassist Katie Thiroux and drummer Matt Witek, Fuller came out swinging for the fences on Cole Porter’s “At Long Last Love.” Over Thiroux’s thick, grounding pulse and the feather-dusting brushes of Witek, the pianist unleashed long bluesy phrases with startling velocity. Witek’s hands-on-skins percussion under languid arco primed Fuller for blues-rococo and deft block-chord ornamentation, and Thiroux kept her solo real with raw, primal chunks of meaty fundamentals delivered in synch with her own voice.

In a genius change of pace, Fuller’s long, two-chord improvisation began with swaths of Duke Ellington’s “Reflection in D,” and traversed into a neatly reimagined look into Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” which showcased his rather voluptuous sense of harmony. Then it was back to the races with Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud,” at a tempo somewhat shy of the speed-of-light but faster than one can legally travel on the Autobahn. The trio locked into a wicked 4/4 with gobs of unison accents as Fuller quoted “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” before yielding to Witek’s stick-ignited fireworks.

Two nights, two piano trios, two different worlds – equally viable – that’s kinda the beauty of jazz. - Robert Bush, NBC San Diego


Still working on that hot first release.



Currently at a loss for words...

Band Members