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.