Travis Wesley

Pianist, Recording Artist, Recording Engineer, Composer, Educator & Musicologist




On November 2015, Travis was interviewed by Heartland College’s marketing department on the heels of his trio’s success and his approach in the college classroom.  Travis teaches Jazz, Blues and Rock at Heartland College, Applied Piano and Music Appreciation.  The story is available on HCC’s website HERE.  A special thanks to the marketing department at Heartland Community College for showing an interest in in Central Illinois’ vibrant, yet often underrated arts community!



In October, 2015, Travis’ Trio conducted a masterclass and public performance at Eastern Illinois University’s Doudna Fine Arts Center.  Click HERE to read the press release included The Daily Eastern News Online.




The Jazz Network Worldwide is proud to introduce to the jazz community The Travis Wesley Trio “Cycle by Three” reveled as a promising and progressive contribution in jazz today.


Travis Wesley has established himself as an innovator of carving out new avenues for jazz in his new CD “Cycle by Three”.  His repertoire and original compositions open doors to experimentation through cohesive conversation that is endlessly leading forward with continuous exchanges that capture the melodic thought process of this igniting force.  “Wesley’s technique leaves the listener open to new musical horizons that not only astound his audiences but teaches them what real jazz is” says Jaijai Jackson, of The Jazz Network Worldwide.


From his sensitive style of improvisation and composition coupled with the musical imprint his group exudes “Cycle By Three” is most impressive as a whole. His trio consists of Toby Curtright on acoustic bass and Tom Marko on drums and together they have challenged the status quo creating a reputation as “a force to be reckoned with in jazz”.


Wesley was originally influenced with formal training, playing the likes of Chopin, Bach, Bartok and Mozart with much emphasis on the traditional piano repertoire.  Soon after, was introduced to swing, ragtime, boogie-woogie which led him into the exploration of other eras of jazz.


While attending Berklee College of Music he worked as a professional musician. Later relocated to Central Illinois where he led his own quartet while attending Eastern Illinois University.  He received the honor of a Bachelors degree in music and jazz studies and in 2005 completed his Masters degree. Travis is also in the process of completing his doctorate degree in jazz piano performance from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, with a minor in musicology and piano pedagogy.  Travis is currently a music instructor at Heartland Community College in Normal, IL, and an active clinician, musicologist and music journalist.


“By definition, this record falls somewhere between a song cycle and a concept album.  Each of the seven pieces that I contributed were composed with this album in mind.  Bassist, Toby Curtright contributed two pieces, For Us This Is The End Of All Stories and But He Himself Was Broken.  Prelude and Postlude serve as bookends and behave much like a theme and its variation. These two pieces utilize concepts that are explored by the trio throughout the album: the use of the bass as a melodic voice, creative use of the pedal point, through-composed material and counterpoint.  We attempted to evoke feeling and human emotion through our musical interpretations, and we feel there is a deep, contemplative tone to the set of compositions as a whole.” Travis Wesley


Wesley has worked in recent times with Kevin Hart, Matt Hughes, Frieda Lee, Jeff Helgesen, Darden Purcell, Shawn Purcell, Margaret Murphy, Ron Jones, Ben Wheeler,Tim Brickner, Chip McNeil, Jeff Magby, Cory Flanigan, Andy Crawford, Tom Marko, Jay Sawyer, Frank Parker and Carlos Vega. He has led trios for 15 years in addition to recording two, recent albums, Natural Diversion (2012) and most recently, Cycle By Three (2013).


Wesley is currently looking to bring his musical expertise to worldwide jazz stages, by seeking non-exclusive booking agents and to procure performance opportunities.  In addition, as most ‘new innovators of jazz artists’, seeks a seasoned management team to professionally guide his excellence in the worldwide marketplace of jazz performance as well as educational platforms that will effectively nurture the growth of jazz to the inquisitive young musical student.


“WhileTravis Wesley’s playing on 2012’s Natural Diversion showed his roots, CycleByThree displays his individuality and creativity. This colorful and inventive set points the way towards the piano trio of the future.” – Scott Yanow




The piano-bass-drums trio has been given new life in jazz in recent years by the Bad Plus, Brad Mehldau and the late Esbjorn Svensson in EST. While Travis Wesley’s previous CD Natural Diversion paid tribute to such pianists as Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Erroll Garner and Ahmad Jamal, Cycle By Three is a giant step forward. His playing is strikingly original and his interplay with bassist Toby Curtright and drummer Tom Marko during a program filled with colorful originals is consistently impressive.


“The music crosses over several genres,” says Wesley, “and I hope that it will be attractive not just to jazz enthusiasts but to many others. We wanted to modernize the sound of the piano trio, break some rules and display our own artistic voices. Drummer Tom Marko is very supportive, solid, and his musical comments are tasty and stylistically appropriate. Toby Curtright’s approach to the bass lies somewhere between the sounds of Scott LaFaro and Jaco Pastorius. His sound is perfect for this group’s concept.” Many of the selections have Wesley’s left hand and bassist Curtright stating the melodies together, giving the group an easily identifiable sound.


The pianist contributed six pieces to Cycle By Three. “Prelude” and “Postlude” bookend the set with identical themes (based off of Chopin’s “Prelude in E Minor #4”) that are interpreted in different ways. “Keeper Of Keys” has a melody line inspired by Bach, a floating quality and a backbeat that brings the piece to a climax. “Fading Friends” features the creative use of a hip hop groove that is soulful, joyful and a bit funky while still including a lot of improvisation. “Song For Madelynne” (dedicated to Wesley’s daughter) is the longest piece of the set. It has a catchy background and a creative drum solo by Marko. “Memoriam” is a hyper and inventive performance dedicated to Esbjorn Svensson and EST.


Bassist Toby Curtright brought in two songs that are also on Cycle By Three. Both works, “But He Himself Was Broken” and “For Us, This Is The End Of All Stories,” are instrumentals that have religious themes. The former uses Curtright’s bowed bass and repetitious figures from the piano very effectively while the latter is a ballad that is reminiscent of Pat Metheny in its harmonies. Also included on Cycle By Three is a lyrical, modernized and quietly emotional version of the Rodgers & Hart classic “Spring Is Here.”


Travis Wesley was born and raised in Bloomington, Illinois. He began taking piano lessons when he was ten and, although he was most interested in classic rock at the time, he soon discovered jazz through his piano teacher. “Jazz is where I come from. The commitment and artistry that it takes to be able to play it is a lifelong pursuit.  It is the deepest form of artistic expression that there is.”


Wesley attended the Berklee College of Music for a year, earned a Bachelors degree in music from Eastern Illinois University, completed his Masters in 2005 and recently earned his doctorate. Wesley worked with saxophonist Willie Akins in St. Louis during 2004-05, became a well respected educator and has led his own groups for years in addition to appearing with some of the top musicians of the Midwest.


While Travis Welsey’s playing on 2012’s Natural Diversion showed his roots, Cycle By Three displays his individuality and creativity. This colorful and inventive set points the way towards the piano trio of the future.




Travis Wesley’s new CD reveals all the wisdom of maturity and none of the stodginess. “Cycle By Three” shows pianist and composer Wesley, along with bassist Toby Curtwright and drummer Tom Marko, in an intriguing, meditative light. That’s not so say that this is a downbeat album –rather one that captivates the artists revealing their emotions. This contemplative tone is a constant and welcome companion. Wesley’s original “Prelude” is compelling, but also unsettling in a way that leads us onward to explore more. The tunes “Keeper of the Keys” and “Fading Friends” reveal an assured spirit within Wesley the composer and performer.


Bassist Toby Curtwright contributes two songs to “Cycle By Three.” Within “But He Himself Was Broken” are dark notes. And “For Us This is the End of Stories” is wonderfully pensive.  Marko’s performance is a standout as his playing entices us into quiet, restful shadows.  He’s no mere timekeeper, but an artist who shows us the lyricism in percussion.


“Postlude,” another original from Wesley is a thoughtful bookend to “Prelude.” The whole CD is marvelously produced, with a sustained reflective mood. There are moments of sweet melancholy tinged with the promise of optimism that’s just coming into reach.


On “Cycle By Three,” each track is a standout that holds tight to the thread that joins the songs together. The superb empathy between these players pulls you in from the start and will stay with you long after.




It’s been a bit of a wait for the new release from Travis Wesley – several years, in fact.  But the wily jazz man makes it worth the wait with his latest effort. Pianist Wesley has teamed with bassist Matt Hughes and drummer Tom Marko and the trio mesh seamlessly.


Straight out of the shoot the trio dazzles on an original by Wesley, “Natural Diversion.”  Putting this tune in the number one position demands your attention, telling the listener that Wesley has confidence in his composing chops. And well he should, because “Natural Diversion” is impressive. The song has a marvelous sense of forward motion that’s exhilarating. It brims with sharp optimism. This is strong, imaginative work.


“Teach Me Tonight” offers simple lines that build a respectful and thoughtful interpretation. The romantic lyricism of Lerner & Loews “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” is fully evident in this performance. Halting lines emphasize a breathless realization of real emotion. You can just hear Henry Higgins finally figuring it all out!  The bowing by bassist Hughes brings a wry wistfulness to this lovely performance.


Familiar songs take on new hues in the hands of musicians who have something to say, and the trio has much to offer on “Emily.”The song begins in a spare, haunting mode, then flirtatiously swings up the pace. There’stight interplay between Wesley, Hughes and Marko. The sophisticated swing on “My Shining Hour” is expansive and absorbing – and it doesn’t hurt that the guys sound like they’re having a great time playing! There’s an exciting solo from Marko that really showcases the drummers’ sterling chops.


“Slip Slidin’ Away” is powered by some savvy swing, as well as a feeling of regret just under the surface. The Paul Simon tune is well handled, indeed.”What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life” is a black tie affair to remember. When I was a kid, this is the kind of music I used to imagine grownups listened to at swanky cocktail parties. So nice to know music like this really does exist outside of my imagination! The CD winds up with the traditional tune “Billy Boy,” and it’s quite a jaunty ride. It’s charmingly audacious and proves these cats can swing with verve! The production values on this CD are first rate. Recorded at Pogo Studios in Champaign, IL by Mark Rubel, this is a companionable disc that is ultimately irresistible. Keep it close at hand!




After first hearing a working copy of Song For Madelynne late last year I knew this was going to be a record that was different.  Travis & Toby Curtright have written some wonderfully original music.  Together with Tom Marko, this trio is simply amazing.  Cycle By Three is a record that I continue to listen to over & over again.  I’m sure you will do the same.