Monday, December 19, 2011

Last show of 2011: MINERVA at the Brooklyn Lyceum on Wednesday!

Wednesday December 21st at the Brooklyn Lyceum 8pm: Byph Ben Syversen - trumpet Yoni Kretzmer - saxophone Pascal Niggenkemper - bass Carlo Costa - drums 9:30pm: Minerva JP Schlegelmilch - piano Pascal Niggenkemper - bass Carlo Costa - drums $10 cover

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Beam Piano Marathon

Last week there was a very special event at the Gowanus performance space I Beam, a marathon concert of pianists from the NYC jazz and improvised music community to raise money to repair I Beam's piano. The concert went from 5 to 11pm and there were about 20 pianists performing solo, mostly improvised sets. It was a fascinating experience to see so many approaches to improvisation in a solo piano context. I played a few pieces by Bill Frisell, which I've been working on for an upcoming recording project. The only other pianist who didn't play a free improv set was Akiko Pavolka, who played and sang some of her original songs. Here are some clips:

Monday, November 28, 2011

Goodbye Paul Motian

The great jazz drummer Paul Motian passed away last week at age 80. He was such a special musician, it's hard to put into words exactly how I feel about it. I saw him play so many times over the years, most often at the Village Vanguard with Bill Frisell and Joe Lovano. That band has always been a personal favorite of mine, they always sounded great but if you caught them on a really inspired night it was otherworldly. I remember seeing them one night where they played a ballad that was so mesmerizing and beautiful that after the song ended there was a moment when the audience seemed to collect themselves, as though waking from a dream. People often talk about Paul Motian as a very abstract player, a kind of painter of sound at the drums. But he had such an incredible beat! When his trio with Frisell and Lovano would play a Monk tune like "Epistrophy" Paul would really dig into it, playing with such joy and near abandon and swinging like hell. There's a lot of Motian's music that I have yet to explore, thank goodness. The Vanguard won't be the same now without him.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"A Little Feast" of new media at Cameo Gallery

Last night I went to an event of multi-media performances at the Cameo Gallery in Williamsburg curated by Amy Koshbin. I was very excited to see Michael Clemow and Ben Simington's collaboration in a multi-media piece called "999", which was based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges. A short clip is below. Amy Koshbin performed a piece called "Practice" which was a very impressive one-woman show based on her family's history. Michael has some shows in the works as part of the Abbatoir Projects organization. Michael and I are collaborating for a performance at I Beam on January 7th which will feature electronically processed piano.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Minerva at I Beam with Jonathan Moritz Trio

Minerva is playing at I Beam tomorrow night on a double bill with saxophonist Jonathan Moritz's trio. In our rehearsals lately we've been taking a break from playing compositions and focusing on improvisational concepts. We'll be doing an all-improvised set tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Abby Payne's new video

Abby's new music video for "the Prophet" is now on YouTube, after being premiered at Brooklyn Fireproof last week. It's currently featured on the Deli Magazine's homepage! We all look pretty cool in the video, I must admit.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Off the page

Over the weekend I went to the Douglass St Music Collective in Gowanus to see my friends Patrick Breiner and Kenny Warren play. Kenny was playing with his quartet called But the Monster is Sick. Patrick has just moved back to the east coast after living in Madison, Wisconsin for a few years. He is a mean tenor player and was playing with a trio called Sons of Daughters with Aaron Darrell on bass/voice and Devin Drobka on drums. The band was kicking off a tour, and they already sounded like they had a lot of playing under their belts, rattling off their tunes by memory. For me, the thing that really announces that a jazz/improv group is a Band (with a capital B) is that NO ONE IS READING MUSIC ONSTAGE. This is something that's taken for granted in the rock world, and jazz musicians playing original music could stand to benefit from it. It totally transforms the performance when a Band plays from memory. It breaks down a barrier between the audience and the musicians. The music sounds freer and more natural, and the Band listens to each other better and blends better. It also takes on the appearance of a kind of folk music, where the musicians don't need to refer to the written note, they just call out the songs they want to play. Of course, in a musician's reality this is not always possible. A lot of people write music that is either too complex to memorize, or the charts themselves are necessary guides to performing the music in real time. (Although Steve Coleman's bands don't read music, and that stuff doesn't seem simple). I don't think that a group like the Claudia Quintet is any less of a "Band" for reading John Hollenbeck's labyrinth compositions onstage. It is also not always possible because at least in New York, everyone is quite busy playing with many different groups and trying to make a living that no one has a lot of time to rehearse. So seeing a "Band" playing their music by memory is indeed a rarity. I can only think of a few: Little Women, Kneebody, the Danny Fox Trio, the Bad Plus...umm... I've been fortunate enough to achieve no-reading status with two bands I play with, NOOK and Old Time Musketry. It's a beautiful thing. A long time ago when I was studying at Berklee College of Music, I saw my piano teacher's band play. They played some pretty involved fusion music, and when I saw my teacher at the next lesson he asked me what I thought. I told him that I enjoyed the concert, but that I found it distracting that the band was so engrossed in reading the music onstage. Such a naive comment! My teacher scoffed at it. But there is truth to it. When I work on classical pieces with my piano teacher Sofia Rosoff, she encourages me to memorize, which she calls "getting it off the page". Which makes sense considering that another thing she always says: "The music isn't on the page."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Matt Mitchell at Korzo

Last week I caught two great sets of music at Korzo featuring pianist Matt Mitchell. The first set was Matt playing solo and the second was a duo with drummer Ches Smith. They played a series of short and rhythmically complex pieces by Matt.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lou Harrison's "Varied Trio" at Midwood House Concert Series

Several years ago I made a pilgrimage to Bard college to hear Morton Feldman's "Rothko Chapel", a piece that I was really into at the time and was excited to hear live, as it is rarely performed. The concert was part of a festival of music by composers associated with the New Albion record label, which features "New Music from the 14th Century to the End Of Time."
A lot of the music on their catalog is devoted to contemporary music, much of it very meditative and beautiful. They champion a lot of west coast composers like Ingram Marshall, John Luther Adams, and Lou Harrison. It was on this program at Bard that I first heard Harrison's "Varied Trio", a short piece in 5 movements for Piano, Percussion and violin. I was really taken by the music, and when I heard the piece again in New York a few months later I resolved to get the score.
I was lucky enough to have two great musician friends who were up for working on the piece with me. Martin Urbach and Erika Kapin. After rehearsing on and off for many months we performed the piece in the intimate setting of a house concert series hosted by Mariel Berger and Dustin Carlson.
Here's the first movement of the piece, "Gending".

Mariel played later that evening in a trio with Dustin Carlson and Shannon Barnett. I think this is a song by Brad Shepik.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Monday Night Ramble at Branded Saloon

This Monday I played a set at Branded Saloon in Prospect Heights which is hosting a weekly music series curated by Martin Urbach and Zach Brock. I played my beloved Yamaha organ and sampler with Jonathan Goldberger on baritone guitar and Ryan Ferreira on guitar. Jonathan and Ryan have such a great command of the sonic possibilities of the guitar and electronics and they achieved a pretty dizzying array of textures.

Unfortunately Ryan is cut out from most of this clip...

We were sharing a bill with trumpeter and composer Josh Deutsch's group Pannonia. It was a great band, really cool writing and interesting instrumentation with Brian Drye on trombone, Zach Brock on violin, Gary Wang on bass and Ronen Itzik on percussion.

A short clip before my camera battery died!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Abby Payne in the NYC Blog-o-Sphere

Before and during our Arlene's Grocery show in July, Abby was interviewed and filmed for the Lower East Side blog The Neighborhood. The resulting film was beautifully produced by Dig for Fire and is presented by Audyssey.
Abby is playing at Rockwood Music Hall on August 15th, and then we're heading upstate for a short tour. Check Abby's website for more details.

The Neighborhood + Dig For Fire present Abby Payne from Dig For Fire on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

21st Century Rock and Roll Spectacle: Sufjan Stevens at Prospect Park

Last night I saw Sufjan Stevens perform at the Bandshell in Prospect Park as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn series. My mind was thoroughly blown. I was simply not prepared for the level of sensory stimulation at work in this concert. The large band (pairs of drummers, trombones, guitars, backup singers, dancers, keyboardists, flutists) were decked out in space-age neon garb and the stage props included giant angel wings worn by Sufjan.
Before I go on about the theatrical nature of the show, I should mention that the music was GREAT! They mostly played music from Sufjan's latest record, The Age of Adz, which is one of my favorite recent albums. The music is very epic with a futuristic electronic sound, and meticulously arranged.

Here's a trailer for the tour.

Sufjan Stevens Concert Trailer: Age of Adz / Prospect Park from Asthmatic Kitty on Vimeo.

The visual art element of the concert was very impressive. There was a lot of great video art synched up to the songs and much of it was breathtaking. I think Wagner would have approved, this was definitely a 21st century indie-rock equivalent of Gesamtkunstwerk, the total work of art, or synthesis of the arts. The show also reminded me of seeing the Flaming Lips for the first time, another group that makes very creative use of video art. Sufjan mentioned briefly that the album was inspired largely by the artist Royal Robertson, and the video art in the show incorporated a lot of his images. Here's a description of Robertson's work.

"The Age of Adz refers to the Apocalyptic art of Royal Robertson (1930 –1997), a black Louisiana-based sign-maker (and self-proclaimed prophet) who suffered from schizophrenia, and whose work depicts the artist’s vivid dreams and visions of space aliens, futuristic automobiles, eccentric monsters, and signs of the Last Judgment, all cloaked in a confusing psychobabble of biblical prophecy, numerology, Nordic mythology and comic book jargon. Portions of the album use Robertson’s work as a springboard into a cosmic consciousness in which basic instincts are transposed on a tableau of extraordinary scenes of divine wrath, environmental catastrophe, and personal loss. In Robertson’s imagination, guns, lasers, gargoyles, and warring battleships upend the sins of mankind with the pageantry of a Hollywood B-movie. (A selection of Robertson’s work adds extraordinary color to the album art as well). "

This is a video that Sufjan made using Robertson's art for the song "Get Real, Get Right."

Get Real, Get Right from Asthmatic Kitty on Vimeo.

New NOOK album in the works!

This past weekend I spent two days recording with NOOK at Motherbrain Studio in Brooklyn. We're all very excited about the music and about the sounds we were able to get at this great studio. We were also very fortunate to have Jon Anderson working with us as engineer. Stay tuned for updates about the new album!

Here's a little documentary video collage.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Upcoming Recording Projects

The next few weeks are going to be a little intense, as I am embarking on two recording projects with bands that I've been playing with for a while.
NOOK will be recording our long-awaited 2nd album following our debut CD in 2008, Captain Momentum (Himself). Much has changed with the band since our last record. We have two new members, Jeremy Viner on saxophone and clarinet, and Ben Gallina on electric bass. The sound of the band has also evolved but needless to say, we still ROCK. Here's a live clip of one of our new songs.

And then Old Time Musketry is recording our debut album! We've been playing for about two years and we've amassed quite a bit of material. This recording is being funded by the generous and saintly people who contributed to our Kickstarter project back in June. We're very excited to document this music that we've been working on for so long!
We're also playing this Sunday at the Local 269 on Houston St. at 9pm.

Here's a live clip of a song we'll be recording.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Two Of Anything Band and Niggenkemper/Takeishi/DiMeglio at I Beam

Here's some live clips from the aforementioned double bill at I Beam featuring the Two of Anything Band and DiMeglio/Niggenkemper/Takeishi.

This trio sounded great, playing compositions by each member of the group. There were some really nice 3-part chorale-type pieces with Satoshi Takeishi playing melodica. This was the first time I've ever seen Satoshi playing drum set, instead of his usual percussion set up.

You can see a few more Two of Anything clips here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kalashnikov : Jamie Saft and Mike Pride at Korzo

Until last Tuesday the only context I'd seen Jamie Saft in live was with John Zorn's Electric Masada, a large group that performs with Zorn conducting, leading the band through rapid stylistic changes like someone turning the dial on an FM radio.
It was great to see him playing acoustic piano in an intimate setting like Korzo, improvising with drummer Mike Pride. In addition to piano, Jamie played two Casio keyboards through effects and at very high volume. It was easily the loudest performance I'd seen at Korzo. Another notable feature of the performance was how Jamie kept a three note motif going for almost the entire set. It kept reappearing first in dramatic minor chords on the piano, later on the crazy Casio organ sounds, then again on the plucked strings of the piano. The music was also very grandiose and tonal, really reveling in the power and beauty of two chords and diatonic harmony. I always find this refreshing. The harmonic language of modern free improvisation and also in the compositions of improvisors is often too gray and atonal for my taste. It's nice to take a long bath in C major every now and then.
Here's a little clip, including the 3 note motif!

The Two of Anything Band at I Beam

A new-ish quartet project of mine will be returning to action this Thursday, July 14th at I Beam. Our set starts at 9:30pm. We'll be playing some new music that I wrote recently, as well as some classics that we played at a show at Barbes back in March. The compositions explore a non-linear approach to musical development. Especially in the newer pieces, I've been working towards a musical language that is more episodic and unpredictable. Using all different combinations of the instruments is also a priority, and the group ofter splinters into duos doing opposing things. In some ways this is inspired by the flow of modern dance pieces or film. The way that Tim Berne and Ellery Eskelin (especially his trio with Jim Black and Andrea Parkins) organize their music is also a major influence.

The Two of Anything Band

JP Schlegelmilch - Wurlitzer, Synth, Compositions
Jeremy Viner - Saxophone and Clarinet
Chris Tordini - Bass
Devin Gray - Drums and Glockenspiel

Playing before us at 8:30pm will be a trio of great improvisors!

Pascal Niggenkemper - Bass
Chris DiMeglio - Trumpet
Satoshi Takeishi - Percussion

Monday, July 4, 2011

Solo jazz piano tradition

A good article by Nate Chinen on the art and evolution of solo jazz piano. I really regret missing Craig Taborn's solo concert at the Rubin Museum, but I'm really looking forward to listening to his new solo CD, "Avenging Angel", which has been getting great reviews.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

American magic and dread...

I've been rereading Don Delillo's sprawling epic masterwork, Underworld. Everyday I come across a passage that just stops me in my tracks and I can only marvel that someone can write this well.

One of the characters is on an obsessive quest to find a baseball that was hit in the game-winning home run of a Brooklyn Dodgers vs. NY Giants game. He is confronted by a baseball memorabilia collector who tells him that his obsession to find the baseball has a poetic revenge to it. "The revenge of popular culture on those who take it too seriously."

"But then he thought, How can I not be serious? What's not to be serious about? What could I take more seriously than this? And what's the point of waking up in the morning if you don't try to match the enormousness of the known forces in the world with something powerful in your own life?"

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Minerva and Tim Berne at Korzo

Minerva, a collaborative trio I play in with Carlo Costa and Pascal Niggenkemper, were honored to share a bill with Tim Berne's trio last night at Korzo in Brooklyn. Tim was playing with Ches Smith and John Hebert, and they sounded fantastic. Ches and John have a great rapport that's evidenced in their work with Mary Halvorson's groups, and they really tore into Tim's music with utter fearlessness. Here's a little clip:

We had the good fortune to have our set recorded by Randy Thaler, who has been most generously taping shows at Korzo and giving them to the musicians. People like Randy are such an important part of the music community, and we are very thankful!
Here's a clip of us playing Pascal's composition "Let's Go...I Don't Know"

Let's Go...I Don't Know by JPSchlegelmilch

Monday, June 27, 2011

Between Two Mysteries - Mount Eerie at St. Cecilia's Church

A first live encounter with a band that you've only known on record is always an experience charged with possibility. Will they recreate the sound of their records, or take the music to a different place? Will they play my favorite song? Will I gain a deeper insight into the message of the music from hearing it from the source in real time?
I was pretty obsessed with Mount Eerie's last record, Wind's Poem. I had heard some of Phil Elverums' work with the Microphones, which was fascinating but I never spent as much time with that music as I did with Mount Eerie. Mr. Elverum is a lo-fi producer mastermind, and Wind's Poem has a very unique and stunning palette of sound. Supposedly inspired by black metal, there are crushing walls of electric guitar and blurry washes of drums, with everything filtered through a warm analog impressionistic lens.
Beneath all this are haunting and mysterious songs that hint at some kind of concept album. The lyrics consistently invoke images of nature; wind, stones, trees. I've always loved stuff like this. I like music that offers a kind of puzzle that you have to figure out, a landscape that you can read your own meanings into.
As I was listening to Wind's Poem for the first time, my ears pricked up when I came to the song "Between Two Mysteries", which references the theme music to Twin Peaks. He even name drops the David Lynch TV series in the lyrics to make it more explicit.

"The town rests in the valley beneath twin peaks, buried in space.
What goes up there in the night, in that dark, blurry place?"

There's definitely a spiritual affinity between the mysterious music on Wind's Poem and the surreal world of Twin Peaks. And both the band and the show are from Washington state.

But back to the concert. I had heard very mixed things about Phil Elverum's live shows. I'd heard that he sometimes arrived with just an acoustic guitar and improvised, or that he would invite people from the audience to come onstage and play instruments. I was relieved when he came onstage with an electric guitar backed by a synth player and they launched into songs from Wind's Poem. The setting of St. Celelia's Church in Greenpoint gave the music even more of an otherworldly, ethereal air.

Here's a clip of them performing a new song.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Triple Bill at I Beam

Last Friday was a really fun night of music at I Beam. First up was Vavatican, performing as a trio with Owen Stewart-Robinson, Nathaniel Morgan, and Weston Minisalli. I see this group as part of a continuum of composers/improvisors in Brooklyn that is starting to coalesce into a movement of sorts. The compositions incorporate free improvisation often using extended instrumental techniques, but in a very calculated, compositional way that reminds me of early AACM music. The thing that really makes this music a different kind of experience is the use of spoken texts in the pieces. The other bands who are working in this kind of area are Buckminster, and This Sporting Life, whose performances are part avant-chamber-improv and part surrealist theatre.

Next up was pianist/accordionist/composer Mariel Berger leading a new group playing all new compositions, featuring Martin Urbach, Will McEvoy, and Nathaniel Morgan. The music had a very ambitious scope, and all the pieces made a journey through diverse and complex musical material. But there was also a very organic development to the music, and Mariel told me after the performance that she had composed the music without writing anything down until she could hold the entire piece in her memory. Everyone in the band played great and showed a real commitment to realizing the music.

Then I played a set of solo piano, focusing on the music of guitarist and composer Bill Frisell. I've been exploring this repertoire for a few months now and I've really been enjoying the process of re-imagining this music for piano. Bill Frisell is one of my favorite musicians, and has been a big influence on my composing. I find playing solo to be a formidable challenge, but I feel like I've learned a lot in the few gigs that I've done. My head got cut off in this video, oops...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Minerva CD release concert at Cornelia St Cafe

Last Tuesday Minerva celebrated the release of our first CD, "Saturnismo" at Cornelia St Cafe. The whole concert is now up on YouTube, so you can check it out at your leisure. The music has evolved a lot since we recorded these pieces last summer!
Here's our performance of a composition of mine called "The Valenti", named after an ugly painting.
Saturnismo is available for purchase through Carlo's website.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

GOWK at I Beam

On Friday I caught a set of improvised music at I Beam by some musicians visiting from Belgium led by the drummer Teun Verbruggen. The band goes by the name GOWK. There were also some Brooklynites on hand sitting in, including Kenny Warren and Jacob Wick on trumpets, and Andrew D'Angelo playing alto sax and bass clarinet.
Everyone sounded great, and there was a lot of variety over the course of the evening's music. Many different combinations of instruments were utilized, which is essential to keeping a large group improv concert interesting, at least to my ears. Here are some samples.

Christian Mendoza on piano!

A nice chorale-type interlude with the horns....

Monday, May 9, 2011

Jesse Stacken and Kirk Knuffke at Cornelia St Cafe

On Sunday I heard pianist Jesse Stacken and cornetist Kirk Knuffke at Cornelia St, who were celebrating the release of their latest album of duets, "Orange was the Color." The new album focuses on the music of Charles Mingus, and they picked some great tunes from the vast body of work of a master composer. Indeed, they played some of my personal favorites, like "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love", and "Peggy's Blue Skylight."
The duo didn't exclusively play the Mingus songbook on the gig, and it was interesting to see the interconnectedness of their repertoire choices. There were two Steve Lacy pieces, who was also a great admirer of Mingus, and who also recorded some Mingus tunes in his duet albums with Mal Waldron. There was also "Such Sweet Thunder" by Duke Ellington, perhaps Mingus' greatest influence. This is from one of my favorite Duke records, also called "Such Sweet Thunder". I did an arrangement of a piece called "Sonnet for Caesar" from that record for Old Time Musketry, you can listen here.

Here's a short clip of Jesse and Kirk's rendition of "Such Sweet Thunder"

There were also pieces by Carla Bley, Misha Mengleberg, and Albert Ayler. Jesse and Kirk have a really deep rapport that can only come from years of playing together, and they kept a really nice rhythmic intensity on the swinging tunes which is not easy to do in a piano/horn duo setting! I also always enjoy seeing musicians taking on a repertoire project, hearing them interpret music that they connect with.

Banda de Los Muertos at Barbes

On Saturday night I caught a set of music by the Banda de Los Muertos, a new-ish group that plays arrangements of Mexican brass band music. The group was formed by trombonist Jacob Garchik and has quite the all-star line-up of Brooklyn improvisers. They sounded great, a real party atmosphere instantly filled the room as soon as they started playing, although the air conditioner was broken and the room was sweltering! Clarinetist Oscar Noriega said that the band will be starting a monthly residency at Barbes, adding yet another great brass band to the rotation that already includes Slavic Soul Party. How lucky we are in Brooklyn to have access to all this music!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Staring into the abyss of time...

I saw Werner Herzog's new film, "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" at the IFC this week. It was pretty mind-blowing. I've never seen a 3D film before, and the effect was really magical. The paintings in the cave were so beautiful and so skillful, it was truly hard to believe that they were done by our ancestors over 30,00 years ago. Throughout the film Herzog refers to "the artists" who made the paintings, and one of the themes of the film is that the impulse to create art, to communicate our subjective experience of reality is one of the fundamental things that makes us human. It's pretty awe-inspiring to see these works of art from so long ago, it's hard to fully appreciate what 30,000 years means. Herzog says at one point in the film, "we exist inside history, they did not."
Also, there is some incredibly beautiful music by cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger that perfectly evokes something primal and mysterious, and also a kind of spirituality and reverence. The cave also contains incredible stalagmites that give it the appearance of a cathedral. Herzog's films always awaken a sense of wonder about the world we live in.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Two of Anything Band at Barbes

At the end of March I played a set of new music at one of my favorite Brooklyn music haunts, Barbes in Park Slope. The show was part of the Palimpsestic Music series curated by saxophonist Oscar Noriega. I played with a new quartet called The Two of Anything Band with Jeremy Viner on saxophone and clarinet, Eivind Opsvik on bass and Flin Van Hemmen on drums.
I started writing music for the show when I got back from Bolivia in the beginning of March. The material came from recording myself improvising on wurlitzer electric piano and synthesizer, and transcribing parts that I liked. As I was listening back, I found myself more aware than usual of the connections to my various musical influences coming through the music. I decided to embrace this, and as I was developing the material into compositions, I gave each piece two dedications.

Here are a few tunes recorded live at Barbes:

"Research and Development" is dedicated to composer Lou Harrison and my teacher Paul Caputo. There's a part in the piece (not included in the recording) where I play a long line on both keyboards and it has a strange resonance that reminds me of Lou Harrison's gamelan-influenced music, and his keyboard music with different tunings. I developed the lines into a 3-part counterpoint section at the end, and I always think about my lessons with Paul when writing contrapuntal music.

Research and Development by JPSchlegelmilch

"Plant" is dedicated to Jim Black and Werner Herzog.

Plant by JPSchlegelmilch

"Slow Century" is dedicated to Phil Elverum from the bands The Microphones and Mount Eerie, and also to composer Carla Bley.

Slow Century by JPSchlegelmilch

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

David Byrne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve

This is a very amusing short lecture by David Byrne about how the venues where music is performed contribute to the evolution of musical art. After musing about his early career playing at clubs like CBGB's and going on to play in large fancy venues like Carnegie Hall, he questions if musicians have a specific venue in mind when they write music, and if that can be a model for creativity.
He concludes that music has always adapted to new venues and new technology, and that an inescapable reality is that the vessel for the art always exists first. This goes contrary to the romantic notion of the outpouring of passionate emotion coming first, and then taking shape into something. Byrne argues that the passion is still there, but the creation of the art is informed by the way that the art will be received.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bolivia Tour Documentary

Finally got around to looking through the footage I shot on my little Flip camera during the tour. The video material is mostly us exploring the cities, and behind the scenes antics. I have no idea if this will be interesting to someone who wasn't there, but here it is anyway.
The day after we arrived there was a massive transportation strike, protesting the price of gas and food. The preferred method of protest in Bolivia is to blockade the streets with cars and shut down the city until an agreement is reached. It was very interesting walking through the city with no cars moving on the streets, and people hanging out and setting off fireworks.
One of the most striking experiences for me was going to a market in Cochabamba. We saw all types of food, fruits, vegetables, spices, and meats that we were told not to eat if we didn't want to risk getting seriously ill. Most fascinating was the "witch market", where you could buy all your occult necessities. A big seller seemed to be llama fetuses. Our guide from the embassy explained that there is a custom in Bolivia when a new house is built, a sacrifice is made to the earth by burying a llama fetus in the yard. They were very scary looking, like little aliens! There were also fortune tellers who would read your future in coca leaves.
Also, a note of warning: there is some footage of a butcher shop. It gets very real. Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bolivia Tour Photo Essay

We are fortunate that the violinist in our band, Erika Kapin, is also a skilled photographer and took many wonderful photos on our tour. I also just got some pictures of some of the shows we played, taken by people from the Bolivian embassy.

This was a concert we played at the Portales Palace in Cochabamba. It was built by a "tin baron" in the early 1900's and is now a cultural center. It was pretty amazing playing in such a luxurious atmosphere.

These are from a concert we did at the Grand Hotel in Cochabamba. This was the biggest show we did, there were about 400 people there! The audiences at all these concerts were awesome. So attentive and appreciative.

Our fearless leader and Bolivian star-child Martin Urbach on drums.

Javier Moreno Sanchez, playing all manner of basses on this trip. He was also Kenny's Spanish tutor...

Erika Kapin on violin, who made it out of Bolivia with her vegetarianism intact!

Kenny Warren on trumpet, who was becoming impressively fluent in Spanish!


This is us playing at an orphanage in Santa Cruz. Definitely one of the most rewarding experiences of the trip.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Bad Plus "On Sacred Ground"

Now isn't this an exciting development! The Bad Plus are going to perform an arrangement of Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" at Duke University with an accompanying multi-media presentation by an architect and a filmmaker. I can only hope that a performance in New York will follow soon. My imagination is already going haywire.
Ethan Iverson talks about the project in this interview, and I was very taken by his response about why they chose the piece:

"Of all the modernist classical music, The Rite is the "hit." With most of our covers, we don't go for the deep tracks, but the obvious choices."

I love the idea of The Rite being a "hit." It also got me thinking how The Rite was the first piece of modernist classical music that I probably ever heard, along with many other unsuspecting children watching Disney's "Fantasia" for the first time. I clearly remember being terrified of the brutal prehistoric landscape during The Rite section of the film. I just watched it again on Youtube. Really awesome.

Home again.

Just got back to Brooklyn last night from an amazing tour in Bolivia with Martin Urbach's Quintet for World Peace. Martin got a grant from the US State Department to go to his home country of Bolivia and do a series of performances and masterclasses. It was an incredible experience, and my first time in South America. I took copious amounts of Flip camera footage, which I'll be sifting through and creating some sort of mini-documentary of the trip. Hopefully it'll be posted here soon!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Minerva's debut CD coming out on Between the Lines Records this spring!

Minerva is a trio I play in with Carlo Costa (drums) and Pascal Niggenkemper (bass). We're very excited that the music we recorded in August will be released on Between the Lines Records sometime this spring. Between the Lines has a very impressive roster of artists and we're thrilled to be in such good company.
The CD will feature original compositions by each member of the band, as well as several improvisations. You can hear some excerpts from the CD on Carlo's website.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Abby Payne featured in The Deli NYC Music Blog!

Abby had some nice words written about her music in the Deli's blog. She was rightfully described as " a whirlwind of talent", and they seem to really like the new EP, "Sasquatch". I'm playing with Abby tomorrow night at Spike Hill at 9pm.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Balancing act

I had a lesson with Sophia Rosoff this week. I've been studying with her off and on for about 4 years, and it had been a while since my last lesson. I don't always have time to work on classical repertoire, but I've been determined to get back into it, specifically to learn Stravinsky's "Serenade In A".
At the lesson we revisited something we did at one of our very first lessons, balancing an egg. I had heard about this Zen-like exercise from other pianists who had studied with Sophia, and it really blew my mind at the first lesson. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Sophia instructed me to balance an egg first on the carpet, which is pretty easy, and then on a porcelain dish, which is near-impossible. As I sat there moving the egg around, feeling it's weight, but failing to balance it, she finally said "the point is not to balance the egg, but can you feel how all of you is trying to balance the egg?".
I instantly realized that not only was my mind completely engrossed in the activity of balancing the egg, but I could also feel that not just my hands, but my arms and back, and basically my whole body was involved in the process, with the egg being the end point. This is how Sophia says you have to play the piano.
She turns 90 years old next week! As one of her students put it, "90 years of illuminating this world."

Music and dance at the Launch Pad

Last weekend Old Time Musketry played at a very cool event curated by my friend and colleague Kenny Warren at the Launch Pad in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The Launch Pad is a small community art center, and is a great place run by nice people. Two new Kenny Warren bands had their debut that night, the first was Laila and Smitty, a country-blues-jazz outfit with Kenny taking the role of the singer on the trumpet. Here's a video of them playing Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." Note especially Myk Freedman's awesome lap steel guitar solo!

There was also a dance performance choreographed by Sarah Zitnay, which I sadly didn't get video of, but it was great!
And then another new Kenny Warren group, Staunch Lad, with Dan Peck on tuba, Devin Gray on drums and Owen Stewart-Robinson on guitar.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."

Just watched Obama's incredibly moving and inspiring address in Tucson, Arizona. I was so depressed this week after reading about the shootings. Obama's remarks really uplifted me and made me proud that he's our president.
Here are some of the passages that struck me:

.."at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

"What we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."

"Sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thomas Ades' "Piano Concerto With Moving Image"

Last Thursday I saw a cool concert a Avery Fisher Hall, the NY Phil playing Mozart's G minor symphony, Mahler's "Kindertotenleider", and Thomas Ades' "Piano Concerto with Moving Image". The Ades piece was what brought me to the concert, I've been a fan of his music for a while, especially "Living Toys" and "Asyla".
I think it was one of the best music + visual art performances that I've ever seen. Apparently the composer and video artist collaborated very closely as the piece was composed. The concerto follows the story of Genesis in seven parts, for each day of creation. The images went so well with the music that at some points i felt like spontaneously applauding, or saying "yeah!" like at a jazz show. But you can't really do that at a classical concert, unfortunately.
The music was great, so colorful and inventive, and Ades was playing piano, looking completely at home in his creation.