Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I was down for the count the last couple days, almost sick, not quite well, in that limbo in between...

The Denman Maroney Quintet conquered Baltimore this weekend! Thanks to Bernard and the crew from An Die Musik for treating us so well. I had a blast playing on Denman's evil charts, as usual. Ned drove which was as luxurious for me and it was fun to get into some iPod shuffle-play blindfold testing. Ned stumped me yet again with a Jaki Byard quartet date, and I got him with Alan Shorter's "Orgasm."

This friday we hit Real Art Ways in Hartford, and The Flynn in Burlington, and then it's back to Brooklyn to bring Denman's new thing to CIM on Douglass St. http://www.schoolforimprov.org/ Check it out...

Before I go I'm playing Goodbye Blue Monday in Bushwick with World on A String (Wednesday) and Thursday I'm at the Tea Lounge with Laura Cromwell's Queen Moonracer. Busy week!

Speaking of "revived," I'm doing a rare performance of my trio music on Nov 24th at the Jalopy Theater in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Details to follow, but we'll be playing the hits from "Intersections," with Matt Moran on vibes, and Matt Bauder on clarinets.

Another revival coming up soon is the Nate Wooley Quartet, hitting it at CIM on the 25th. Color me psyched!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Same old Surprises

A few weeks ago was the 25th anniversary of the first gig I did with the first serious band I ever played in. We were only together for a little over three years I think, but in my memory it was a lot longer. We were incredibly prolific, writing hundreds of songs together and recording constantly. That band got me started playing bass, got me started improvising, and trained me well for the grassroots tours and organizing I do to this day. I was the baby of the group, a high school dropout, and serious as cancer. At the time I really had no idea what a kid I was. I look at teenagers now and think "I was THAT?" Thank you Dan Kozak, Pete Levine, and Sam Imhof. I'm forever in your debt.

I just got back a couple weeks ago from a long tour in Spain, Portugal, and France with Madrid improviser extraordinaire, Wade Matthews, and something happened that should not have surprised me, but did just the same. For the last 25 years it's been pretty much a constant that the town I wasn't expecting much from turns out to be the sweetest gig. Every tour I forget this. Every tour I'm surprised. It never fails.

Hospitalet is a suburb of Barcelona. People I met in Barca said not to expect much from Hospitalet. They described it as a dull place, a conservative place. They couldn't be bothered to go there, and were surprised that we were. Wade had never even been there. Well, sure enough, after basking in the touristy lameness of Nice we drove an eternity and arrived in Hospitalet, expecting nothing, and what we got was something like a heroes' welcome. People cheered for us, gave me gifts, the room sounded great, and the vibe reminded me a little of Brooklyn. The audience was full of visual artists. I love artists. They always seem to meet the music in a very special way. I had a beautiful evening there, and though I shouldn't have been surprised, I was.

Now I'm in upstate New York, crashing for the evening at Art OMI (www.artomi.org) after an enjoyable afternoon concert with the Flexible Orchestra. Tomorrow I play a solo bass gig in Boston and then Thursday I fly to Seattle for a couple gigs in the Earshot Festival, one with Wally Shoup, and one with Jane Rigler. Really looking forward to it. I haven't been to Seattle for a couple years...

Then when I get back from that I go into daily rehearsals with composer/pianist Denman Maroney for his upcoming tour with a quintet including myself, Ned Rothenberg, Dave Ballou, and Mike Sarin. I can hardly believe my good fortune. Then a handful of New York gigs with good friends, and I go on the road for a week with brilliant young players Jacob Wick (trumpet) and Andrew Greenwald (percussion). I'm a lucky man.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Both my solo shows this weekend got writeups.

One from David R. Adler in the Philadelphia Inquirer at http://www.philly.com/inquirer/magazine/20070716_Abstract_sounds__lots_of_rhythm.html and a far more interesting and enthusiastic account of the Balto gig from composer/engineer Devin Hurd.

I am really torn when reading reviews like Adler's. On the one hand it's great to see a journalist from a daily newspaper show up for such a grass-roots gig, stay for the whole show, and try to describe it. On the other hand, his writing comes off like that of an uninformed, prim, school marm who conspicuously leaves out any judgment of quality or mention of historical reference, resulting in a passively snotty tone that makes it seem like he may or may not have an underlying contempt for experimental music, or assumes that his readers do. Nevertheless, I'm opportunistic and practical enough to lift a half-sentence quote from it for my website, ("One of New York's top avant garde improvisers.") and I really hope Adler continues to come out to Bowerbird events in Philly. They are presenting an amazing array of great experimental music.

Friday, July 13, 2007

a blurb and big news

I'm playing solo in Philly tonight at the Rotunda, and on Saturday in Baltimore. For tonight's show I got a nice advance blurb by Shaun Brady in the Philadelphia City Paper: http://www.citypaper.net/articles/2007/07/12/reuben-radding

I was really glad he wrote about the 12 In 2007 project. I've been at it for 5 months and word is still just getting out.

Meanwhile, for the last 4 years one of my favorite ongoing (though all too occasional) projects has been the trio Crackleknob with my dear friends Mary Halvorson (guitar) and Nate Wooley (trumpet). Very few people have heard us, as we've tended to gig about 2 or 3 times a year. Well, I'm incredibly delighted that that is about to change, thanks to one of my favorite record labels ever: Hat Art. Aside from my excitement about Crackleknob finally getting a chance to be documented, I'm also just personally excited to be associated with the label. I'm a huge fan of Werner Uehlinger's work. To me, Hat Art really sets the standard for record labels as far as quality goes. There are other great labels, but as I look at my shelves I have more Hat releases than almost anything, and so many are my favorites, like Braxton Quartet releases from the early 90's, the incredible Giuffre 3 live recordings, Guillermo Gregorio, Steve Lacy, Joe Maneri, and recent faves like Christan Weber... I am really honored, and so glad for us as a band. I've known this was happening for a little while, but I wanted to wait till the contract was signed and sent off to Switzerland to make any public announcement.

For you New Yorkers, Crackleknob is playing on August 9th at Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint.
And, like everyone else, we have a Myspace page at http://www.myspace.com/crackleknob

Monday, July 2, 2007

Slight Return

Going to Germany/Austria always brings up complex stuff for me. Inevitable...blurry. Everything is in an existential jumble. I've tried my whole life to escape my semitic heritage (can't), but facing the Germanic collective guilt is a puzzle, every time. How long do these things go on? Painful sometimes, watching them reduce us to stereotypes in order to praise us, instead of attack. Is it better? It's alienating. My Virginia childhood was spent passing for cracker. In Europe that's hard to do. Everyone is more aware of each others' origins, and they think it's important. Hard to explain assimilation to them. Anyway, I had an amazing hang with Brave Old World accordionist Alan Bern, my new long lost brother, that covered a lot of moral ground, Dr. Seuss, the Twilight Zone, gender issues, Willie Wonka, and yes a lot about Jewishness. Thanks Alan. You really got me charged up for the gig!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Heading Out

I'm heading off to Vienna in a few hours to play a quick gig in the Klez-More festival at Klub OST. For all of you film nuts, my hotel is supposedly about a 15 minute walk tot he Prater, where the big old ferris wheel from THE THIRD MAN still resides. I rode it 11 summers ago with Anthony Coleman on the now-infamous Myth Science tour. Those were the days. Ironically, especially since I haven't been to Vienna since then, I am playing this gig with the same drummer from that tour in '96, Aaron Alexander.

I have a day off there so I'm going to try to hit some things I did last time, like the ferris wheel, but also Oswald & Kalb (slammin' Austrian food) and Cafe Alt Wien accross the street, where I spent about a zillion hours last time. 11 years ago it was a great hang. Let's see what happens...

When I get back I'm recording a duo set with Robert Dick, and engineering a new record for composer/trumpeter Jacob Wick, and then in mid-July I do a little solo tour. A crazy summer, no doubt.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Quo Vadimus?

When I first discovered the community of free improvisers about 15 years ago I was shocked to find how divided they were into little camps. There seemed to be about a dozen distinct attitudes or approaches among free players in New York. Some of these methodologies were conciously decided on by the musicians, while others simply seemed to naturally find their place without much overt dogma attached. I was a young man of 25, burning with enthusiasm, and wanting to try everything. Being a bass player, it was relatively easy for me to mix in with nearly every clique. Somebody always needs a bass player. To me all of it was interesting, and I didn't want to choose a direction. I saw a useful purpose in pursuing everything that free improvisation offered. The divisions struck me as being largely about function. Whether to preserve old roles of line and accompaniment, comping and soloing, time or implied pulse, or no pulse at all? My own preference is to be involved in a music where everything is available. I don't want to be forced to play traditional bass function, nor do I want it to be dogmatically prohibited. I want the group music to lead me, and to use my taste and cooperation to decide what kindof contribution to make.

Models used to be very easy for me to come by. I obsessed on the bass playing of Mark Dresser, William Parker, Barry Guy, Joelle Leandre, Peter Kowald, Barre Phillips,and dozens of others. Nowadays though I don't see models for the way I want to play. I hear in my head, and feel in my imagination a way of playing, and a world of sounds that I don't hear anyone making on the bass. I get pretty close to it sometimes in my own playing, closer all the time, but I'm not there yet. I still have my heroes, to be sure, but what I want to do is no longer represented by their output. This realization has been frightening and lonely to me, while at the same time I feel like it's a good sign that I am moving towards making my own contribution, which really is the goal, right?

I would like to mention though how much I am enjoying checking out the many projects of Swiss bassist Christian Weber. I discovered him when I went to Downtown Music Gallery looking for some recordings by saxophonist Bertrand Denzler, who I had met and spent time hanging out with in Seattle. All I found that time was the fine Momentum 3 recording on Leo, and the group included Christian Weber, and his amazing percussionist friend Christian Wolfarth. Their playing on that CD was a real eye opener for me, and I thought about it a lot as I got ready to record my quartet record, FUGITIVE PIECES. I feel a real kinship with Weber, although we have never met. We have several mutual friends, and operate in a similar blend of projects, from idiomatic free jazz to minimalist sound improv, and I am in love with his sound. Recently I had some credit to spend at DMG, so I picked up several recordings of Christian's including his HatArt recording, "3 Suits & A Violin," and the Mersault CD on Quakebasket, and they're both completely brilliant. Meanwhile, I continue to re-examine my own work and try to answer the question: "where are we going?"

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Addlimb Interview

Very cool new website addlimb from Serbia just published this interview with me:


Also interviews with other great improvisers like Greg Kelley, Christian Weber, Andrew Drury, Michel Doneda, Sharif Sehnaoui, Tomas Korber, Bertrand Denzler, and many more....

Conduction Junction

Last Wednesday I had the chance, yet again, to work with Butch Morris in one of his conductions. This one was the most enjoyable experience I've had with Butch. It was a very small ensemble for conduction: clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, and two double basses, curated by trumpeter Kirk Knuffke. Both the rehearsal and gig were remarkably focused and the aesthetic and sound of the ensemble was a real departure from the previous ensembles I'd been in to play with Butch's system. Everyone, whether they'd worked with Butch or not, were totally into it, and really "got" it.

Another thing that really added to the fun for me was that I have learned (the hard way) that the quality of Butch's system depends entirely on the players giving themselves to it FULLY. If you give anything less the music will suck, and the experience will suck right along with it. But if everyone gives 100% of their creativity, and devotes themselves to trying to be the ultimate cog in Butch's machine, amazing music can follow, and then it becomes great fun. I really hope we do more sometime... Check out Butch's music. He's been at it a long time, and he's really quite amazing.



Critical Participation

I was so inspired by Chris DeLaurenti's new CD, Favorite Intermissions, that I wrote a quick review of it for bagatellen.com, an excellent site about creative music and related arts and gossip. Read it here:


Thursday, May 24, 2007


Wherever you think you stand on the current hot-button issue of immigration in the USA, I'd ask you to consider this: why is this happening now? What specific event brought this issue to the public arena in this time? Prior to the run-up to last year's midterm elections this issue wasn't particularly visible, and certainly wasn't generating the widespread public discussion we see currently. The next time you get into a conversation on the street or in your homes about illegal immigration ask yourself 'why is this important right now?'

I'd like to address a few misnomers and irritating misconseptions that are bandied about a lot in this time period. One of them being the idea that mass quantities of foriegn people "sneak" into this country. This is an image many Americans accept, largely because of what's reported in the media, and the inescapable characterizations made by political figures.

Last year, just one day after CNN polls showed that most Americans believed that more border patrol agents were a better choice than building a 700-mile fence across the US/Mexican border, the "Secure Fence Act" passed both houses of Congress with a sizeable majority (283 to 138 in the House, and 80 to 19 in the Senate a couple weeks later). Down payment on the fence project was 1.2 billion dollars and thanks to Michael Chertoff's September 2005 complete and total waiving of the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Coastal Zone Management Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Historic Preservation Act, construction of the fence is not subject to any laws. Americans voices were ignored. The midterm elections were only weeks away.

Much of the rhetoric surrounding this whole thing focused on issues of security, with frequent allusions included that gave rise to the idea that not only were foriegners "sneaking" into the US to work in our resturaunts and construction sites, but that the evil doers who would wish us harm can also expoit our weak borders. Fear, fear, and more fear. Now with the current run-up to the presidential primaries, and the ongoing attetmpt to create "comprehensive" legislation on a new immigration policy the discussion has shifted strongly away from issues of security and towards issues of control; of numbers, of cost, etc. Meanwhile, the numbers don't support the assumptions about, well...anything related to this discussion. For example, it's a well-known fact among thse who study immigration, and the govenment officials whose job it is to understand and analyze what is going on, that the vast majority of illegal aliens in this country enter the US legally, and then overstay their visas. It's a simple fact. Between October 2003 and May 2004, 660,390 people were reported detained by the US Border Patrol for trying to cross illegally. That seems like a staggering number, but they were caught. But what could be seen as a success story of the Border Patrol is painted instead as a cause for alarm. Meanwhile, the cause for alarm is that there's no incentive for these people to stay in their native countries, not that there aren't sufficient deterrants against entering the US. The reward vs. risk is remarkable. They come for the same reasons many Americans' families came to this country, to escape oppression, poverty, failing economies, or worse.

Clearly, we've seen that laws don't stop people from coming here. Stricter laws will only make matters worse by making it harder for those who would like to immigrate legally to do so, giving them incentive to break the law. It's no different from one of the other great failed American policies, the Drug War. Laws don't stop ANYONE from doing drugs. Someone fleeing poverty and agricultural ruin in the 3rd world doesn't give a damn whether the fine for overstaying their visa is $2000 or $5000. The punishment is not much more than the costs of getting a green card for most. If you are of the opinion that we need to stop these people from coming here (have you guessed by now that that's not my position?) then perhaps you ought to think about what might be done to improve the situation in Mexico, in El Salvador, in Columbia, in Afganistan, in China. Bring us your tired, your huddled masses, but they'd beter not be poor.

Again, think about this: nothing has HAPPENED. The terrorists of 9/11 didn't sneak into San Diego through the desert in the dark of night. Meanwhile, my musical and personal life in New York has been hugely enhanced by my friends from Canada, Israel, Japan, Germany, to name only a few, and I can only imagine what goes through their heads during idiotic times like these. Fortunately, the current immigration bill on the table is stalled. Not that its proposals were anything new, just a reiteration and slightly more strict version of what we already have today: laws that mean little to the ones they would punish, and mean everything to those who would like to manipulate law and public opinion for their own gain.