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: