Story and photos by Keiko Kimoto
MSUM mass communications major
|The Simon Rowe Organ Trio, featuring trumpeter Tom Strait, plays at Studio 222 earlier this spring.|
Every Friday night The Simon Rowe Trio or The Simon Rowe Organ Trio brings live jazz to downtown Fargo. The show starts with an introduction of the members by Simon Rowe, who plays the piano and organ. Starting at 8 p.m., they bring the audience at Studio 222 two hours of live jazz.
Located at 222 Broadway in Fargo, Studio 222 is managed by the Spider and Company and can hold a maximum of 75 people comfortably seated at tables. It is located next to Atomic Coffee, which provides drinks at a bar in the back corner inside of the studio during the show.
The show costs $10 for adults and $5 for students. People who have dinner at The HoDo Restaurant, at 101 Broadway in Fargo, with a glass of wine or beer can get into the studio at half the price.
|Studio 222 is at 222 Broadway in Fargo, next to Atomic Coffee.|
The Simon Rowe Trio and The Simon Rowe Organ Trio
At the moment, The Simon Rowe Trio consists of four members: Allen Carter (drums), Bill Law (bass), Nick Fryer (guitar) and Simon Rowe (piano and organ). They play as The Simon Rowe Trio — bass, drums and piano — and as The Simon Rowe Organ Trio — guitar, drums and organ. Each member is on the faculty at Minnesota State University Moorhead or North Dakota State University.
Simon Rowe, founder of the trios, has rich experiences in the music field. He is originally from Sydney, Australia, where he became involved with music.
“From the first moment I heard jazz, I was electrified,” Rowe said. “I felt ‘this is for me.’ I had no choice. I thought, ‘That’s what I’m doing.’ ”
|Simon Rowe plays the organ in The Simon Rowe Organ Trio.|
At 16, Rowe had a chance to study trumpet, which is his first instrument, at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Huston, Texas. After high school, he went to Northwestern University in Chicago for a year and then returned to Australia and continued his education and playing trumpet professionally.
In his mid-20s, Rowe was back in the United States. He began studying trumpet with a well-known trumpet teacher. At the same time he started to play the piano. Eastern Illinois University offered him a scholarship to study piano, he took it and received an undergraduate degree there. He then moved to St. Louis and attained a master’s degree at Southern Illinois University.
“The real training at St. Louis was playing with a great saxophonist by the name of Willie Akins,” Rowe said.
After playing as one of the members of Akins’s group, Rowe founded his record label Catalyst Production. Although his label had five national releases starting with Akins’s record by the end of ’90s, it folded because the music industry was struggling at the time.
|The Simon Rowe Organ Trio: Simon Rowe (organ), Allen Carter (drums) and Nick Fryer (guitar).|
Rowe took a teaching job at EIU, and while there he formed The Simon Rowe Trio and played mainly in Indianapolis. In 2004 he took the position of assistant professor of music at MSUM and moved to Fargo. One year later, he started up the trio again and started playing downtown Fargo. They have played at The Hotel Donaldson for three years and moved their venue to Studio 222 in 2008. Now Rowe plays in two groups: The Simon Rowe Trio and The Simon Rowe Organ Trio.
Joseph Wallevand, one of the audience members, has been to the show many times. He said he loves the trios, especially when they feature local musicians of saxophone or trumpet.
“They are very plain musicians,” Wallevand said. “As far as the music is concerned, whatever they want to play I am going to enjoy it.”
|The Simon Rowe Organ Trio plays on April 2 with Tom Strait (trumpet) and Russ Peterson (saxophone).|
What’s the pull to downtown?
“I love to play,” Rowe said with a smile. “It’s a great fun. You can probably see that (when you come to the show.)”
He also said it’s vital for him as a musician to practice playing; that practicing keeps him growing and tests him to push himself to play better.
When Rowe came to Fargo, he could see the city was growing and thought growth would be a good opportunity to create and do what he does because it is a very receptive environment. Rowe believes live jazz is great for high school or college students because there aren’t many places younger people can come to hear live music.
“We try to involve students as much as we can,” Rowe said. “What we’re trying to do is create a little … jazz scene and do that by having people all ages and all different instruments.”
|Simon Rowe introduces each song the trio plays.|
With his jazz expertise, Rowe hopes he can provide people in the Fargo-Moorhead area a chance to listen to the kind of jazz that’s usually played in bigger cities.
“I want (live jazz) to help to make the activity in downtown Fargo really sophisticated and worthwhile,” Rowe said. “I want to help bring it here because it’s special. It would be special in Minneapolis, New York or Chicago, too, but it’s more special here because it’s the only venue. I feel very responsible for bringing that.”
Visit Studio 222 for more information.