Power trio


Intimate and dangerous: Mark Sexton, Aaron Chiazza and Alex Korostinsky of Whatitdo.

Intimate and dangerous: Mark Sexton, Aaron Chiazza and Alex Korostinsky of Whatitdo.

Photo/Brad Bynum

Whatitdo.'s record release party is March 13 at the Holland Project, 140 Vesta St., with Yelsa and Bazooka Zoo. 7:30 p.m. $5.

“The band name is Whatitdo., just one word with a period at the end for an important reason,” says bassist Alex Korostinsky. “Whatitdo. is a statement, not a question.”

Though Whatitdo. has been around since 2008, it has kept a fairly low profile as far as promotion and social media, especially when compared to some of the band members other projects. Korostinsky and guitarist Mark Sexton both play in the Mark Sexton Band, and of the bigger and busier bands of the local scene, and drummer Aaron Chiazza played in the metal band Beard the Lion and is the current Ringo in the long-running Beatles tribute act Rain.

Whatitdo. morphs, surges and pulses among the three points of its flux capacitor: funk, rock and jazz. The all-instrumental trio vacillates from jazz-funk to jazz-rock to funk-rock. They lay into funk grooves, and rip solos that rock, with enough instrumental virtuosity to appeal to jazz heads.

“When we first created this band, we wanted to create music that was beyond our playing ability,” says Sexton. “This band has forced me and Aaron and Alex to become better players because we’re writing stuff that’s beyond what we can do.”

“Some of these songs, if this was Guitar Hero, would be on the difficult level—for me at least,” says Korostinsky. “Some players would be like, ’Oh, that’s nothing.’”

Chiazza says that the trio format forces the musicians to really hone their skills—“especially when there’s no vocals so it’s even more stripped down, and understanding how to and not to fill up space when everyone is so exposed.”

“That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned in this band, not being scared and just digging in,” says Sexton. “I apply it everywhere I play now.”

The three musicians also back singer-songwriter-guitarist John White in his band, the John Whites. But Korostinsky describes Whatitdo. as a “musician outlet,” a place for the musicians to explore musical possibilities and flex their chops. And though they improvise their solos, the songs are not endless groves but are carefully written, with recognizable structures, memorable melodies and often with compositional humor.

“We like to trick people,” says Sexton, referring to the tunes’ musical fake-outs and misdirections. But Whatitido. isn’t a joke band. It’s a serious band with a good sense of humor. And that expressive musical chicanery requires real musicianship.

The song titles are sometimes left-field pop culture references, like “Hatchi Ju Hatchi,” a line from the SNL sketch when Chris Farley appeared on a Japanese game show. Korostinsky describes the hard-edged funk tune “Machete Man” as “a song that sounds like a guy with a machete just chopping down a path.”

But, despite the set structures, the musicians say that the songs are different every time they play them.

“We still change songs we wrote in 2008,” says Chiazza.

Given that ever-changing approach, perhaps it’s not surprising that the group’s new debut album, Live at St. James Infirmary, is, as the name implies, a live recording at the Reno bar. They will perform even newer versions of the songs at the Holland Project on March 13.