Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Notes on 1/28/07 rehearsal...

My work is highly dependent upon the musicians I collaborate with. Over time I’ve developed close friendships with musicians whose musical language really can’t be notated. That said, I don’t create works of pure improvisation. Generally speaking, what I do is a hybrid of compositional techniques that include jazz, rock and non-Western musical concepts – especially ritualistic and sacred music.

For the upcoming March residency, I have put together a trio that includes me on laptop computer running Ableton Live, my good friend Lynn Wright on electric guitar and Lewis ‘Flip’ Barnes on trumpet. Lynn and I have been making music ever since we met in New Orleans over 13 years ago. Over the past year we’ve been creating music combining the capabilities of Ableton Live with the electric guitar. I met Lewis ‘Flip’ Barnes on a gig where I arranged a song by J.C. Hopkins for his big band with Norah Jones on vocals. I liked Flip as a player and person immediately, and the more I found out about his musical background and experience the more I listened. Last year, Flip contributed some pretty wild trumpet to three tracks I created for ESPN effects boxes that I found out he used on rock gigs including performances with Greg Tate’s improvisational ensemble Burnt Sugar. I invited him to be on the March gig and he agreed.

Excerpted from my (hand written) journal. 1/29/07:

“First rehearsal with Lynn and Flip was a lot of fun. This was the first time we had played as a trio – and I was pleased that after an hour or so we seemed to have a nice balance of sound and a rich ensemble texture. I gave Flip very little if any initial direction when we first began. We started with a piece that simply begins as quietly as possible – I’m playing kalimba, Lynn is creating some prepared guitar effects - and then gradually builds up layer by layer until a drum groove kicks in. Then the texture is deconstructed, layer by layer until we return to the quiet acoustic sounds. Flip got it immediately. There’s no need to over explain this stuff – I try to work with people who are going to get what I’m trying to do immediately. We can then start to develop our playing compositionally.”

“From the top I’m calling up and playing sounds that I recorded and edited in advance – it’s not like I’m doing free improvising. I’m anticipating certain reactions with the combinations of sounds I create. But of course, no musician does exactly what you expect – and actually, I try to keep my mind open from the start. After we played through Flip and Lynn would ask me a question or two, and I’d try to answer as honestly as possible.”

A John Zorn quote that I can relate to, he’s talking about the pool of musicians he works with and composes for: You've got to remain flexible to live in this world, and when you work with people, there are a lot of question marks. You can ask someone to do something that maybe they can't do. Or, they'll do it differently than how you would have done it, but you've got to learn to accept their spin. That's the secret of a Duke Ellington concept, where you give something to someone and they transform it through their personal filter. And when you find someone whose filter interacts with yours in a very creative, helpful way, then you've got a member of the group.”

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