Usually, when Chris Brubeck writes a piece of music, he does so in a vacuum. He writes what he thinks works best from a compositional perspective, regardless of who might be playing the music.

But when Brubeck set about writing “Travels in Time for Three,” he did so with a specific group of players in mind. Time for Three, a trio of string musicians, joins the Portland Symphony Orchestra on Sunday to perform the concerto that Brubeck wrote for them. The PSO was among a handful of orchestras that joined together to commission the work.

“When I wrote it, I conceived of myself as a tailor. The concerto should be a suit for those guys to wear. You have to take their measure,” said Brubeck, son of jazz musician Dave Brubeck.

“What are their strengths? What gets their rocks off? What do they want to do that hasn’t been done before, from their point of view in the literature?”

On a cold winter day two years ago, Brubeck took the train from his home in Connecticut and traveled to Philadelphia to meet with Time for Three. He hung out with the guys for two or three days, taking stock of their sensibilities, talents and desires.

While waiting for the train, Brubeck wrote melody in his head, which he used to tie the piece together.

The work reflects Time for Three’s myriad influences and tastes. It incorporates themes of swing, pop, jazz, funk, gospel, classical Irish, Latin and up-tempo jive.

PSO music director Robert Moody programmed other pieces to complement “Travels in Time for Three” that similarly integrate myriad musical styles: “Symphonic Metamorphoses” by Paul Hindemith and “Symphonic Dances” from “West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein.

Time for Three is an usual trio in that it includes a broad range of influences in its musical repertoire. Its members — Zachary De Pue and Nicolas Kendall on violin and Ranaan Meyer on double bass — value improvisation .

“They are phenomenal and really engaging. They are virtuosos in the true sense of the word,” said Brubeck. “They have a very intense stage presence, and it really works for them. They are having a ball playing this. They really enjoy playing it, and you can tell that simply by watching them.”

In addition to Sunday’s concert at Merrill, during its time in Portland, Time for Three will perform for students at King Middle School and lead sessions at the Portland Conservatory of Music. 

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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