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...