Drummer Trent Renshaw and his trio jazz up the local music scene
As percussionist for the national touring act the Hello Strangers from 2013 to 2016, Trent Renshaw performed to a lot of big crowds.
“We definitely did some things that were really exciting and really fulfilling, playing some large stages and big festivals and that kind of stuff,” he recalled during a telephone interview from his Hagerstown home.
Still, the 1995 graduate of North Hagerstown High School hasn’t forgotten about playing to his hometown crowd, as he does each month when the Trent Renshaw Trio performs at Warehouse Tap Room in Hagerstown. Their next show is at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24.
“As a person who has grown up in Hagerstown and spent a lot of time here, I guess I’m really inspired to be able to give something back to my local community, I think it’s important to be a part of that. So I think while I enjoyed playing really huge festivals like Philadelphia Folk Festival, or South by Southwest, I also enjoy playing places like Warehouse Tap Room that seats 75 people and some people I know, some people that I’ve never met before,” he said.
The trio, which also includes Ken Bussey on guitar and Matthew Lewis on bass, has been performing together since 2001.
“We do a mix of standard jazz and original takes on modern songs, jazz interpretations of popular music, things by groups like Bob Marley, Nirvana, and The Cure. We sort of dabble in a lot of areas, things that inspire us,” Renshaw said.
Renshaw started taking drum lessons at the age of 10, but his percussionist roots go much further back.
“When I would go to my grandparents’ house, there would always be instruments and a drum set, set up in the basement or garage or that sort of thing, so even before 10 years old I was kind of messing around with it,” he said.
Renshaw said he honed his skills at North High.
“We had a very successful music program that afforded us to not only travel and see a lot of things, but also experience music in a lot of different ways. But I never really saw music as a career. I thought of it as I thing that I enjoyed, a hobby,” he said.
After graduation, Renshaw went in a different direction, attending college for a year-and-a-half before taking some time off to rethink his career aspirations. He worked with Keith MacMichael who was an adjunct professor at then-Shepherd College.
“I studied privately and started to build up a name for myself in the local area, and then I started to teach and try to support myself in that way, and it sort of just snowballed from there,” Renshaw recalled.
Besides performing, teaching percussion is a big part of Renshaw’s livelihood. For him, teaching came as a natural progression from helping out with North High’s drumline after graduation, to filling in for friends to moving into a full-time position at a music store.
Today he teaches in his home studio as well as at area Music & Arts stores and online via Skype. Renshaw said the music he creates with his trio differs from his solo work.
“The solo work that I do is definitely based on, I think, just the way I interpret my environment. It is very, very personal. It is very much what only inspires me and it’s really just based on, I think about what I do rhythmically in a solo way, I don’t play a melody instrument, so rhythmically in a solo way, I think about what I do as sort of the patterns I hear around me in life,” he said.
Working with the trio is more like talking amongst friends for him.
“Playing with the trio is very much a conversation. We certainly have material that we perform almost every time we play together, there are a handful of songs that we perform almost every time, but every time is also a little different because it is very conversational. We are having that communicative moment between the three of us in that moment, and that aspect is what’s really unique about that performance,” he said.
Besides the gig at Warehouse Tap Room, Renshaw’s trio performs each month at B Street 104 in Greencastle, Pa., and Renshaw hosts Jazz Night on Thursdays at The Broad Axe in downtown Hagerstown, although he is off Thursday, Nov. 22, for Thanksgiving.
Renshaw also has another specialized group with which he performs.
“We call ourselves the Derailleurs, we do sort of, I guess it would be called, French jazz from the 1930s or 1940s, based on the music of Django Rinehardt, he’s a guitar player. So that band is all acoustic, and I play a really small drumset with that one,” he said.
While he is a jazz artist at the core, Renshaw is no stranger to other types of music.
“I definitely have played in a lot of different genres of music, my training has all been in jazz, that’s what I focused on since I started taking lessons and studying drumset at age 19. It has all been jazz related. More recently, I did a lot of studying with Cuban and Brazilian music as well. So while I’ve played in a pop rock or a jam rock kind of band, I never really studied that style of music, so I definitely have done a lot of different kind of things, I played in a blues group, and a couple of different rock-oriented groups, and then a few jazz groups around the area,” he said.
Top photo: Members of the Trent Renshaw Trio include, from left, bass player Matthew Lewis, drummer Trent Renshaw, and guitarist Ken Bussey. The group will perform from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Warehouse Tap Room in Hagerstown. (Submitted photo)