As its name seems to imply, the Italy-based jazz trio Hobby Horse enjoys a sense of playfulness and adventure in creating and performing its music.
In just six years together, the busy ensemble — which features Racine native Dan Kinzelman (woodwinds), Joe Rehmer (bass) and Don Karate (drums) — produced five records, exploring a range of musical languages from slam poetry to techno, to psychedelic bossanova, prog rock, hip hop and chamber music.
And when they perform here in Racine on Thursday, Feb. 1, at George’s Tavern, they will be debuting music from their latest recording, “Helm,” which Kinzelman said is partially inspired by “reflections on the ever-expanding role of technology, social media and artificial intelligence in our lives.”
Kinzelman, 35, said his generation is probably the last to remember what life was like before computers became a commonplace item in our homes. While they have embraced the latest technologies, he and his bandmates are also attracted to dystopian ideas and find themselves thinking about what the future may look like, particularly in terms of artificial intelligence, he said.
We don’t really know what consequences will come from our use of some conveniences we enjoy today, such as free email, as companies constantly gather information about us, Kinzelman explained.
From somber to silly
Their reflections on such thoughts can be heard in the music of “Helm,” which Kinzelman said has a somewhat somber atmosphere. Most of the recording is original works, created collaboratively by the trio in the studio. There are also a couple covers — Robert Wyatt’s “Born Again Cretin,” and John Cooper Clarke’s “Evidently Chickentown” — which Kinzelman described as pretty dark and brooding.
But there are also some “really silly things” on “Helm,” he said. The record moves pretty quickly, with its sound changing from song to song in a way that Kinzelman said reminds him of the way Internet browsing works, with new advertisements constantly leading us in different directions.
Listeners will also hear a variety of instruments, as all three musicians have been expanding their skills in learning to play different instruments. And while some of their previous recordings incorporated the use of non-traditional instruments, this one focuses more on the use of their own voices, as well as their traditional instruments and electronic sounds, he said.
In addition to its CD version, “Helm” will also be released on vinyl, with that edition due out sometime in February.
“We are really excited to be able to hear our music on vinyl,” Kinzelman said.
Second U.S. tour
Hobby Horse’s Racine show is part of a U.S. tour that will begin Jan. 27 in Miami — where Kinzelman and Rehmer met while studying music at the University of Miami — and also include a show in Kenosha, at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, at Fusion, 5014 Seventh Ave. ($7 cover charge).
This is their second time touring the states (they last played here in 2013), and this time around they will also be conducting workshops with students, including those at Walden, Horlick High School and The Prairie School. Teaching is something the trio has been doing more of lately, said Kinzelman, a Walden graduate.
“It’s fun and it’s a beautiful way to share the discovery of music,” he said.
Hobby Horse — which is just as comfortable playing in underground rock venues and dance clubs as it is in its place in the new Italian jazz scene — has also toured throughout Europe and North America, to critical acclaim.
Neri Pollastri, of AllAboutJazz.com, described the trio as “Extremely original and unpredictable, sophisticated and powerfully visceral … one of the most intriguing and unusual groups on the Italian Scene.” And Roberto Pavlaglianiti, of “Strategie Oblique” said they are “Energetic and overpowering, an uninterrupted collective flow.”
Their Feb. 1 show at George’s Tavern, 1201 N. Main St., begins at 8 p.m. Cover charge is $10 for adults and $7 for students, accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.