Stephen Haynes/Steve Swell Brasstet
University of the Streets
New York, NY
Last month, Steve Swell and I launched a new co-led brass quintet. We gathered on a sweltering hot day in Manhattan for a rehearsal at Steve's Union Square loft, followed by a long, sweaty stroll through Greenwich Village to The University of the Streets.
The ensemble consists of Steve and myself, along with Herb Robertson, Mark Taylor and Ben Stapp. Ben joined us to cover the charter tuba seat held by Joseph Daley. Each strand of this quintet carries a story or two. Steve and I share a deep love of orchestra playing. We first met twenty-five years ago working with Makanda Ken McIntyre's orchestra. While we have worked together in a range of orchestra projects over the years, this is the first time that we have collaborated on a project. Herb is a long-time favorite on trumpet and cornet who I have rarely worked with but have always carried an abiding affection for. It is great to work alongside a trumpeter who loves (and carries and uses joyfully) mutes as much as I do! Mark and I have been dancing around the notion of building a project together for some time. I love his dark sound and consistently focused conception.
Ben was the wild card for me. We first met at the rehearsal, and it was easy to see why folks remark on his ability. He has an easygoing manner and plays the tuba as if he was born to it. Folks who have followed my work will understand that this was a treat for me, as I have an abiding affection for the tuba.
Bill Dixon was on my mind throughout the evening, as he had conducted orchestra rehearsals and concerts at The University of the Streets many years ago. I believe he would have gotten a kick out of our gathering, and likely would have joined in, coaching us on what path best to follow in the music.
Adding to the delight of the experience was an audience stocked with some of my favorite listeners. Jeff Schlanger, known to many as musicWitness, was with us. He created a lovely window into the work. Click on the image below for a larger view.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the presence of Will Connell. Another lover of the large ensemble, Will worked with Steve and me in the orchestras of Bill Dixon and Cecil Taylor. Stalwart recordist Robert O'Haire was on hand capturing the goings on, and shared these photos of the ensemble in action. We look forward to more time spent together in the very near future!
images of the Brasstet by Robert O'Haire