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Playing at WORP Speed

An eclectic trio that’s easy to hear, but hard to pin down

Aaron Winters, Jim Rankin and Hans Ottsen (right to left) — WORP Trio, at a recent gig. Photo by James Scolari

It’s a scene familiar to most who step out into the nightlife – people scattered about tables, eating and drinking, others perched on barstools, doing the same, servers and bartenders working the room. Anticipation is in the air as a knot of musicians finish preparations in a space designated for performance, surrounded by an array of snaky cords, boxy devices and, central to their intention, an assortment of instruments.

The only uncertain variable in the scenario is also most central to its dynamic — the music that’s about to be played. In Ventura, as with most eclectic burgs, that could mean almost anything from rock to metal to blues and beyond.

While it generally takes only a few bars of a first song to define that variable, if the scene in question is set this Friday night at J’s Tapas, it could take considerably more than a few bars – or even a few songs – to fully decide what to expect.  The band in question is WORP Trio and they offer a style that spans from John Coltrane to Van Morrison to Pink Floyd – an enormous swath of musical real estate that might cause less ambitious acts to blanch.

WORP Trio is the creative product of Aaron Winters, Hans Ottsen and Jim Rankin; drums, guitar and bass, respectively. Winters, who hails from Ventura, is an Amgen scientist and spiritual pilgrim; Ottsen brings a deeply musical heritage to the project, both in upbringing and background (having studied music at USC and the Manhattan School of Music), and has taught piano and guitar for nearly two decades. Rankin, who hails from Goleta, has played bass for twenty-five years and is also a music instructor, teaching bass and guitar in Santa Barbara and Ventura.

Totally Local VC recently saw a WORP Trio gig, and caught up with the players afterward to talk it over:

TLVC: A great place to start is with the name: WORP Trio?

HO: Winters, Ottsen and Rankin Project; it’s just our last names. The “P” thing’s a little redundant, “project trio,” but I guess we could always add a horn and become “quartet…”

JR: I like it as a verb, because it also explains what we do to songs.

TLVC: “Warp,” exactly; that’s where I went with it. It never occurred to me it’s an acronym. To me it simply explained the eclectic playlist.

HO: Until you see it spelled it makes perfect sense, then it’s like, ‘did these guys go to high school?”

TLVC: One of the things that’s most fun about your sets is having no idea – in the audience – where you guys are going to go next.

AW: I think it’s a fusion of all the different styles of music in our backgrounds: Hans comes from a jazz background, and Jim here knows just about every rock tune that anyone’s ever written.

JR: I’ve been called the “human jukebox” – well, for classic rock. Hans is the jazz jukebox-

HO: We all like a bit of everything. I got into playing guitar because I wanted to be BB King, then I went to the Manhattan School in New York and just became a total jazz nerd.

TLVC: It’s funny that you use the word “fusion” to describe the project; it seems to be the one form you actually don’t play.

HO: Yes, that’s on purpose.

AW: We do like to perform for people, after all, and have them come in, rather than walk out- (laughs)

JR: Fusion alienates…

HO: More than even Jazz! You say you play jazz to many people and automatically you can see their eyes kind of glaze over-

JR: Fusion alienates ME. Even I don’t get fusion.

TLVC: So you end up with Pink Floyd, Van Morrison and John Coltrane in the same playlist.

AW: That’s the beauty of this band- we’re just saying, “What’s going to be fun to play? What grooves, what’s got some pace to it?”

JR: It also depends on the gig we’re playing. We’ve been doing this thing at J’s Tapas — I think we all made a conscious decision to do more danceable stuff that people can relate to, and we can “warp” it away from how you might have heard it on the radio.

HO: I think Jim’s been great about keeping our center listenable, because Aaron and I definitely love the jazz thing.

AW: Yes, we both both go pretty deep in that world.

HO: (to Jim) I mean, you’d been playing jazz before, but as far as Coltrane tunes, were you doing that kind of stuff before?

JR: I played in college, but not be-bop; you guys brought me into that world. It’s been a challenge, but so rewarding when I hear it back, and it’s like “wow, I almost sound like I know what I’m doing…”

TLVC: If you’re faking it, it’s working.

HO: I could say the exact same thing about the Bill Withers or Stevie Wonder material; I hadn’t played that at all, until Jim suggested it. Now I’m loving it, but that’s where I’m like “man, I gotta practice.”

AW: What’s interesting about it, for me — with each gig we play, there’s new material on that set list. We recycle some stuff and play certain tunes that we love…

HO: I don’t think we’ve ever followed a set list.

AW: We just kind of match it to what’s going on. J’s Tapas has been a great venue for us, downtown, because we can be so eclectic. We’re going to play a wedding soon, and that’ll be a very different thing, too.

JR: We just want to work; whatever the gig calls for. I just love playing with these guys, in whatever capacity. It’s always educational, and inspirational.

TLVC: You touch on an idea there –  we started a group on Facebook, the Totally Local VC MusicScene: it’s meant to bring everybody who’s working in the local MusicScene  to common ground. One of the things being expressed there is from musicians saying “We just want a place where we can play. We want a venue that supports us, that doesn’t think we can be replaced by an iPod.”

HO: If you’re going to work I think you’re going to have to be versatile. Whenever people ask me what WORP is, I say we try to be as versatile as we can. From classic rock to blues, we don’t want to be pinned down-

JR:  We’re interested in finding what people will best react to, what actually works onstage. Like we just came across this Pink Floyd thing that you mentioned, and we loved it right off — but I had no idea how it was going to go over. People seem to get it, though, and it’s pretty cool.

AW: The venue thing IS challenging. Historically, bars want people to drink, and if the music gets people dancing, they’re going to drink. That’s the equation that businesses seem to like. Does that mean we sacrifice the artistic side for the commercial side? Jazz is not always going to motivate people onto the dance floor, while a DJ might. So it ends up being a challenge to find a place that will appreciate both the art of the music as well as the commercial aspects.

TLVC: That’s what we’re talking about; the marriage of art and commerce. The venue can support the art  only if they can make money doing so; the artists plug into that by making sure they leave the crowd satisfied.

AW:  I think the venues end up taking a lot of heat for that dynamic, but ultimately it’s the fans; what do they want? I think Jazz fans represent about four percent of the music market; in Ventura it might be point-four percent. So for the style we love we’ve got a huge hurdle to say “hey, let’s appeal to the masses.”

HO: We have to “Worp” the jazz.

AW: We do, we have to make it more accessible.

TLVC: There are a lot of ways to get to that place — just like there are a lot of ways to get into a Pink Floyd song; the first time I heard you guys transition into that blew my mind.

JR: Yep, we “jazz” the rock a little, too. I like to think we pull people to the jazz side without them even knowing it.

HO: There’s a lot of jazz in that arrangement.

JR: Yes, there are jazz elements all over the place in it.

HO: You’re totally right about that, though — a lot of venues seem to say “We’re a blues venue, or we’re a rock venue;” you guys don’t fit.”

AW: That’s the cool thing about this band, too. We all want to work, but we’re also not going to pander. This band is not going to just play blues all night just to get a gig.

JR: Unless we get paid a lot of money. (all laugh)

HO: As Jim says, we’re not going to “shoehorn” anything.

AW: To a certain extent. Got a lot of money? Let’s talk. (laughs)

HO: Flexibility is important, but also it’s important for all three of us to be true to our musical integrity. We’re not going to cross that line; we have to be creative. We all operate from kind of a “right brain” level, and that’s not going to change no matter what tune we play, no matter what genre we approach.


WORP Trio plays this Friday night, July 1, at J’s Tapas, 208 East Main Street, Ventura, 8pm, no cover. Find WORP Trio on Facebook, and at

Are you dedicated to promoting or are participating in the music scene? Look for the Totally Local VC MusicScene on Facebook.


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Learn more about author James Scolari

James Scolari

About the author

James Scolari is a writer and photographer. Though his seedling sprouted in other soil, after transplanting to the Gold Coast it has flourished and bears fruit in Ventura throughout the seasons. Late of local print journalism, Scolari edits TLVC content for publication and offers odds and ends from his own pen. He's also a staffer and advocate for Ventura's Rubicon Theatre, and teaches his own brand of image-making in the ongoing Mind's Eye photo workshops. Check out his website at


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  1. I LOVE the WORP Trio!!!!

    • Great article, letting the musicians reflect and really answer with their own insights. What professional and passionate musicians you have there. Do they have any CD’s itunes, website, etc?

  2. aside from wanting to hear them, this article provoked some thought around “its just our last names” and if people dance, they drink – my refrain from commenting on either of those is my comment . . .

  3. WHIPPIN’ POST !!!!

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