Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Looking Back: Paradigm Shift: A New Brass Notion

Paradigm Shift: The RAW Field Recordings
Tautology 010

"The best of contemporary music is informed by the contingent nature of existence.  The ethos of improvisation seems especially suited to our era of accelerated change.  Yet the very notion of change, while it implies a sense of rupture, also requires a connection with the past."

- Will K Wilkins in the liner notes to The RAW Field Recordings

Paradigm Shift was a notion birthed as a result of my dear friend and long-time colleague Bill Lowe sending a young Taylor Ho Bynum, a student with Lowe at Wesleyan University, up to Hartford to see me 'for some pointers.'  Taylor did not need a great deal of help and lessons soon transitioned into making music together.  Taylor, Bill and I opened for Sam Rivers and his trio at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA.  In the audience was Syd Smart, who made it clear to us that he really belonged in this new aggregation.

Sometime later, I was asked to take part in a benefit concert for Thomas Chapin.  This was the first full version of the ensemble.  We added Joseph Daley and Pheeroan akLaff.  Other concerts followed, here and at Tonic in Manhattan. The RAW Field Recordings were recorded, outdoors, in 1998 at Real Art Ways in the Parkville neighborhood of Hartford, CT.  Bill Lowe was recovering from an accident and Aaron Johnson joined us to cover the bass trombone/tuba seat.  We also invited Salim Washington, who was teaching at Trinity College, to perform.  Two drummers graced the stage: Syd Smart and Pheeroan akLaff and Taylor and I completed the recipe.

The resulting music, replete with the ambient sounds of an Amtrak train flying past, turned out to be a great document of our evolution up to that point.  We were fortunate to have the support of David Gross, who issued the music on his Tautology label.

After this date, Pheeroan left the ensemble, to be replaced by Warren Smith.  That sextet lineup (Haynes, Bynum, Lowe, Daley, Smart, Smith) remained constant for the next several years.  Other guest artists joined us: poet Patricia Smith, JD Parran and, for two memorable concerts, Howard Johnson.  

Lately, we have been talking about a Paradigm Shift reunion.  With the impending celebration of Warren Smith's 80th birthday, the time may just be right.  Stay tuned for details!

CD cover image by John Groo

Images of Paradigm Shift and Nancy Ostrovsky
Autumn Uprising
Institute of Contemporary Art
Boston, MA

Monday, December 02, 2013

Dancing With a Shaman: Tatsuya Nakatani in Hartford

 Improvisations With Tatsuya Nakatani
Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

Stephen Haynes/cornet and flugelhorn
Joe Morris/guitar
Tatsuya Nakatani/gong, drums and percussion

Tatsuya Nakatani is unlike anyone that I have ever met. 

A traveler, Tatsuya has a quintessentially DIY sensibility, evidenced in his response to the scene (moving away from the locus if the city); his musical methodology ('I study with myself') and his way of touring (in a custom-fitted, sleep-in Mercedes van with a galley kitchen).  Almost everywhere he goes, Tatsuya swims at the local YMCA  There is much to learn from Tatsuya and his routine.

And then there is the music.

Tatsuya opened the evening with a solo concert.  His improvisation centered upon the gong, and his technique here was deep and well-developed.  He bowed, and touched the gong in a wide range of ways, producing a pure, orchestral sound.  This is something that you must hear, preferably live, to begin to understand.  Tatsuya has a similarly individualistic approach to the drums, employing singing bowls, a range of altered cymbals, smaller gongs and more to summon up a swirling cloud of organic sound.

Bill Dixon often spoke of the improvisor as orchestra, telling each of us that we should think and function as an independent orchestra and, in the ensemble, that we should think orchestrally.   Tatsuya Nakatani embodifies that sensibility. 

Tatsuya plans a return to Real Art Ways to conduct a gong orchestra in the early months of 2014.  Stay tuned for details.

Image of the trio in the doorway of Tatsuya's van by Matt Chilton
Concert images by Rob Miller

Monday, August 05, 2013

Sonic Mandala by Go: Organic Orchestra

Sonic Mandala
Adam Rudolph and Go: Organic Orchestra
Meta Records 017

Six years into our evolution as an ensemble, Adam Rudolph called all of us in to Bill Laswell's studio for an intensive two days of recording work.  Just over a year later, the fruits of our labor are ready to be shared.  Sonic Mandala, like the orchestra itself, is something special for a range of reasons.  Take a listen for yourself here, to see/hear a portion of the work interpreted by artist Moses Hacmon.

We are working with Rock, Paper Scissors to get the word out on the album and the touring we plan to undertake this fall.  Look here for more details about Go and what we are up to.

Image of Go: Organic Orchestra at ShapeShifter Lab by Hisao Kishimoto

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Looking Back, Moving Forward: Improvisations at Real Art Ways

Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

Joe Morris and I have been working to gather together a group of artists for our third year of Improvisations at Real Art Ways.  Part of that work has involved taking stock of what we have already accomplished here in Hartford.  Since 2011, thirty-three artists have performed across eighteen concerts.  More and more, we find the work bringing to mind family.  There is real community present and growing between audience, artists and our partners at Real Art Ways.  And that's a good thing: it informs the music.

Season II / 2012-13
Nine concerts featuring eleven guest artists

Mark Dresser, Marco Eneidi, Ramón López
Jean Carla Rodea and Gerald Cleaver, Allan Chase
Tyshawn Sorey, Pascal Niggenkemper and Charles Downs
Matt Maneri, William Parker

Season I / 2011-2012
Nine concerts featuring twenty-two artists

Alex Ward and Dominic Lash
Noah Kaplan and Ben Hall, Yasmine Azaiez and Ben Stapp
Ken Filiano, Charlie Waters and Andrew Barker
Sara Schonbeck and Michael Evans
Jim Hobbs, Petr Cancura and Luther Gray
Chris Cretella and Nigel Taylor, Kyoko Kitamura and Rick Rozie
Jason Kao Hwang and Nathan Bontrager
JD Parran and Dean Bowman

Season III begins September 15 with Tatsuya Nakatani.  Nate Wooley and Ken Vandermark will join us in October followed by Fay Victor in November.  Much more is motion, and we are excited to be back for a third year.  The Improvisations series is built upon an authentic and deep collaboration between local artists - Joe Morris, Stephen Haynes - and a vital contemporary arts organization with deep roots in the region - Real Art Ways.  This relationship is a singular one, reflective of the unique and powerful work that is shared with listeners every season through the concert experience.

Images of Stephen Haynes and Joe Morris by Rob Miller

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Echoes of a Friend: Recalling Borah Bergman

Borah Bergman Memorial
Saint Peter's Church
New York, NY

This past April a number of us - musicians, writers, producers, relatives, friends and listeners - gathered together for an evening dedicated to a recently departed friend, Borah Bergman.  So many musicians spent time with Borah - often at his home studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan - playing, talking, listening to Borah talk.  Often these relationships flew under the radar of the so-called scene.  Take a moment to dig amongst creative musicians, and you will find Borah connected with many of us in unforgettable ways.

Unforgettable, too, was his music.  For me, his definitive work was his solo ouevre.  But Borah Bergman knew how to bring out the best in other musicians.  During the years that I worked with Borah, we worked together on setting up duos, concerts and recordings.  I produced a series of evenings at The New Music Cafe during my tenure there, Sunday evenings pairing Borah with Andrew Cyrille, Herb Robertson and Paul Smoker and others; a concert with Perry Robinson and JD Parran; a duo with Warren Smith and more.  At a point, I joined him on stage for a concert at the Knitting Factory with Thomas Chapin and Gerry Hemingway.  

I also introduced Borah to Bill Dixon.  Let's just say that it took a while for this connection to flower.  There is a wonderful recording of the music Dixon made on a FONT concert that needs to be heard someday.

Jason Kao Hwang organized the evening.  I met and then played with Mat Maneri along with Lou Grassi and my long-time colleague Steve Swell.  Hear what we created, and the entire evening's program here, thanks to Robert O'Haire.

I miss Borah Bergman.  I think that I always will.  He was kind to me, generous with his time and knowledge, a real friend. 

Concert images by Scott Friedlander
Memorial poster by Stephen Haynes

Go: Organic Orchestra at ShapeShifter Lab

Adam Rudolph and Go: Organic Orchestra
Spring Concert Residency
ShapeShifter Lab
Brooklyn, NY

Go: Organic Orchestra just completed our annual Spring Concert Residency at a new (for us) venue, ShapeShifter Lab in Brooklyn.  Having the opportunity to settle into such a warm, welcoming environment with plenty of physical space and amenities for the ensemble and our listeners was a singular experience.  ShapeShifter Lab just celebrated a one-year anniversary, and we hope they will enjoy many more years of presenting the music. 

Speaking of anniversaries, it is worth noting the the New York-based iteration of Go: Organic Orchestra has been in existence since 2006.  As a longtime lover of the large ensemble, I can tell you that having the opportunity to work directly with a composer in the development of new music, not to mention the development of a distinctive approach to improvising orchestra, is rare.  Adam Rudolph has opened a doorway for us to grow and move together.  The work really is quite special.  Hear some of the music here.  

I love the ensemble, particularly the brass section.  Standing alongside my friends Graham Haynes and Peter Zummo has afforded me some deep fellowship, and you can hear this in the music.  A year ago, we went into Bill Laswell's studio for two days of intensive recording.  The fruit of this will see release by this fall.  Meanwhile we plan our first regional tour, no small thing for an orchestra.  We hope to make a stop here in Hartford, a prospect that excites me very much.  I have so many local listeners that I'd like to share the work with!  Stay tuned for details.

Images of Go: Organic Orchestra at ShapeShifter Lab by Hisao Kishimoto

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Pomegranate: Chapter Three

Pomegranate: New Music for Bill Dixon
Concert and Recording Session at Firehouse 12
New Haven, CT

Stephen Haynes/cornet
Joe Morris/guitar
Ben Stapp/tuba
William Parker/contrabass violin
Warren Smith/drums and percussion

In March of this year we brought the music for Pomegranate to Firehouse 12 in New Haven.  This is my favorite place to do this sort of work, and the venue feels like/is home.  I recorded my first (unissued) album, Bugaboo, here and Firehouse 12 was where we conducted the Bill Dixon Recording Residency Project that was documented in Dixon's Tapestries for Small Orchestra on Firehouse 12 Records.  

I am always happy when Nick Lloyd is recording my work.  Nick used one of Bill Dixon's personal microphones to record my voice, a wonderful/thoughtful surprise.  Friday night, we performed two sets of music to a full house.  Both sets were recorded.  The next morning, we recorded more music: trio, quartet and quintet settings.  William brought along his sintir and shakuhachi and we had a marimba in the studio for Warren.  We were fortunate to have Rob Miller join us to create a photographic record of the work.  Over the next few weeks,  we will return to the studio to sequence, mix and master the music for Pomegranate.  

All I can tell you know is that the spirits were in the room when we recorded, particularly during the second set on Friday night.   I look forward to sharing this new work with all of you in the very near future.  Thanks - again and again - to the community of listeners who contributed to this project through our Indiegogo campaign.  This project has changed the way that I think about getting my work documented.

Images of Pomegranate: New Music for Bill Dixon at Firehouse 12 by Rob Miller

Monday, February 18, 2013

Pomegranate: Chapter Two

Pomegranate: New Music for Bill Dixon
The Stone
New York, NY

Stephen Haynes/trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn
Joe Morris/guitar
Ben Stapp/tuba
William Parker/contrabass violin
Warren Smith/drums and percussion

For two weeks during the month of January, Joe Morris curated a remarkable series of concerts at The Stone.  Each of the fourteen night featured two sets of music, and each set featured a different ensemble/grouping of musicians.  Many, but not all, of the concerts included Joe.  Elsewhere, with another musician, this would be an indicator of redundancy, but with Joe Morris we were afforded a rare and sustained window into the remarkable range of his work.  Read more about the series here.

I was invited to join the series for two evenings, each a week apart.  The first concert was a new grouping of Kyoko Kitamura, Joe Morris, Micheal Evans and myself.  The music was a delight.  Listen to/view video of the music here. 

The second concert allowed me to continue the work on my Pomegranate project, a dedication to my teacher Bill Dixon.  What had been conceived of as a two-bass quartet had changed since the Hartford premier of the project.  Joe Morris had moved to the guitar and I invited Ben Stapp to join us on tuba. 

The weather was quite cold, but we were warmed by the audience.  Great to look out and see so many friends, old and new, wrapped up in the music.  The ensemble shows great promise and there were moments of sustained beauty.  We were graced by the presence/presents of photographer/friend Enid Farber who made the pre-show hang in The Stone's basement and stayed on after Ivo Perelman's set to photograph our work.  Her images, like her vision/sensibility, are special.  Enid is one of the great photographers of/in this music.

In March, this ensemble will open the Spring concert series at Firehouse 12 in New Haven.  The concert will be recorded.  The next day, we plan to spend time in the studio at Firehouse 12 doing more recording.  I plan to draw at least one album of music for commercial release from these recordings.

Images of Stephen Haynes and Pomegranate at The Stone by Enid Farber

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Improvisations at Real Art Ways

Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

I have been remiss as regards writing about the work Joe Morris and I have been/are engaged in with/at Real Art Ways.  Since I last posted, we have moved into/are mid-way through a second year of presenting.  The list of guest artists since last May is Jason Kao Hwang w/Nathan Bontrager, JD Parran w/Dean Bowman, Mark Dresser, Marco Eneidi, Ramón López, Jean Carla Rodea w/Gerald Cleaver, and Alan Chase.  

This afternoon Joe and I will work together with Tyshawn Sorey, who plans to play trombone and melodica along with the expected drums and percussion. The balance of the season will include visits by Pascal Niggenkemper w/Charles Downes and a trio with the wonderful Mat Maneri.  In May, we will launch the first installment of an annual festival of new music at Real Art Ways.  As part of that effort, we hope to convene a small chamber orchestra.

iPhone image of Stephen Haynes, Ramón López and Joe Morris by Paul Mercado

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Pomegranate: New Music for Bill Dixon

Pomegranate: New Music for Bill Dixon
2012 Pork Pie Hat Jazz Series
Hartford, CT

Stephen Haynes/trumpet
Joe Morris/guitar
Pat Kuehn, Dorsey Bass, Jesse Heasly/contrabass violins
Warren Smith/drums and percussion

I was recently invited to present new work here in Hartford.  Andres Chaparro curates the Pork Pie Hat Jazz Series for the Marketing, Events and Cultural Affairs (MECA) Division at the City of Hartford.  Andres founded this series long before the creation of MECA and has been a steady advocate for the arts in Hartford.  Andres is a friend and also a wonderful painter.  Check out his work here.

The notion for this ensemble has been in my mind for some time, attached to an invitation to record from a small label.  I wanted to record a two-bass quartet, something I avoided doing while Bill Dixon was alive.  Bill loved the sound of two basses together and used the instrumentation on many of his small group recordings.  I planned to have Joe Morris and William Parker work in tandem on contrabass violin.  William had last-minute scheduling problems, and could not join us for the Hartford premier of this project.  When I called Joe Morris looking for help with covering William's position, Joe ticked off a short list of great bass players in New York and then said,  "But I have these three students at NEC (New England Conservatory, where Joe is a faculty member) who are killing the bass!  I could bring all three of them down to play with us."

This impromptu bass choir consisted of Pat Kuehn, Dorsey Bass and Jesse Heasly and they made a glorious sound together.  Joe moved from bass to guitar, the position he holds in my trio Parrhesia.  We had a delightful time together on and off stage.  During dinner downstairs before the concert, Warren Smith regaled us with stories of his work with Janis Joplin (Gil Evans told Joplin to hire him to write/arrange for her) and his recent activity with the Ebony Hillbillies, a black bluegrass group that he plays washboard with in the NYC subways. 

Images of Stephen Haynes and Pomegranate by Rob Miller (b&w) and Byron Dean

The Tinder Trio

Stephen Haynes and the Tinder Trio
New York, NY

Stephen Haynes/cornet, trumpet, flugelhorn
JD Parran/contrabass clarinet, flutes, mbira, percussion
Adam Rudolph/handrumset (kongos, djembe, tarija, zabumba), sintir, percussion

This past December, guitarist Evans Wohlforth (friends from student days at Bennington College with Bill Dixon) called and asked if I would consider sharing an evening with him in the city.  I so rarely bring my music to New York, for a range of reasons.  This call caught me as I was thinking on gently/briefly breaking this rule, so I said yes.  For some time, I had been speaking with Adam Rudolph and JD Parran about playing together in a trio setting.  Fortunately, the timing was good for everyone.

While the evening proved to be less optimal than it might have been, an imprint has been made.  I look forward to returning to/opening this notion and exploring the connections between myself and these two dear friends.

Images of The Tinder Trio by John Rogers

Monday, January 21, 2013

Looking Back II: Jeanne Lee and Gunter Hampel

Gunter Hampel New York Orchestra
New York, NY

This is the second in a series of posts that will look back at a number of important periods/events in my development as an artist.  To read the first installment in the series, look here.

During the summer of 1982, I moved from North Bennington, Vermont to Manhattan.  A few years later, I was working as a majordomo, managing the Park Avenue household of Norman and Francis Lear.  I wore three-piece suits during the day and did music at night and during the times when the Lears were not at home.  I lived in a small room behind the kitchen and paid no rent.

I learned of a concert of Gunter Hampel's music at Columbia University.  I headed uptown with my horns in a taxi.  Jeanne Lee was in the ensemble, and I wanted to reconnect with her.  Bill Dixon had brought Jeanne to Bennington College while I was there, during the late '70s.  I first met Jeanne, nursing her newborn child, in David Ware's apartment at 501 Canal Street in New York during the fall of 1974.  But that's another story.

When I arrived at Columbia University, Gunter was conducting a rehearsal.  The band included Marion Brown and Leo Smith.  Leo had not arrived yet.  On a break I spoke with Jeanne and told her I would be happy to cover the trumpet seat for Gunter until Leo arrived.  Jeanne introduced me to Gunter and I got to work.  I ended up staying on stage for the rest of the evening, playing the concert alongside Leo.  I'll never forget that evening, and Gunter changed the band book to include two trumpets going ahead.

Some time later, I heard from Gunter that he wanted to start a New York - based orchestra.  He asked if I would I be interested in working with him on the project. That began a fruitful relationship that lasted a few years, during which I played in the ensemble, handled much of the contracting and, occasionally, helped pay the band (no rent - remember?).  For the rhythm section, I brought in a range of folks: Marvin 'Smitty' Smith and Thurman Barker and Billy Hart; Bill Frisell, Jerome Harris and Allan Jaffe; Bob Stewart.  Curtis Fowlkes, Perry Robinson, Mark Whitecage were some of our steady members.  Trumpeter Barbara Donald spent a memorable run with us at a small theater.  Subs included Stanton Davis, Dick Griffin, Joseph Daley, Warren Smith and a young Don Byron (suggested by Perry in glowing terms that cannot be repeated here).  Up front singing were, always, Jeanne Lee and Art Jenkins, who you may know through his association with Sun Ra.

During the early nineties, I invited Jeanne to join my first quintet.  She agreed and, as she always did, gave generously of her time, teaching me gently along the way.  The band included David Tronzo, Brad Jones and Warren Smith.  Somewhere there is a recording of this work.  I talked alot with Jeanne about her music, her family, especially her mother and her ideas about teaching.  At the time, I was teaching in Brooklyn at PS 399 and at Harlem School for the Arts.

I miss Jeanne Lee, her warm and generous spirit, her work.  For me, she set the standard for living a compassionate life as an artist.  The image below is how Jeanne looked when we last worked together.  Those eyes and that wonderful smile!

Image of Gunter Hampel and Jeanne Lee, photographer unknown
Image of Jeanne Lee by Amir Bey

Maïkotron Unit and Stephen Haynes

Maïkotron Unit and Stephen Haynes
Festival de Jazz de Québec
Québec City, Québec

This past October, I was invited to return to Québec to perform in the 2012 Festival de Jazz de Québec.  My friends Michel and Isabelle Côté laid a path of hospitality and love for me and my stay in Québec City was a real delight.  Isabelle hosted many late night gatherings, replete with gourmet cheese plates and bowls of Italian olives.  The conversations with fellow musicians were far-ranging and animated, fueled by wonderful French red wine.

We encamped at Largo, a wonderful club in the Old City.  This was the second time last year that I made music with Michel and the wonderful
Maïkotron Unit.  The audience was welcoming and attentive, and I made some new friends that night.  The music was full of fire and nuance, and I hope we have the opportunity to share some of it with you.

Sojourns like this remind me about what matters most in music - friendship and relationships - and how very fortunate I am to be alive. 

Images of Maïkotron Unit and Stephen Haynes by Renaud Phillipe

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Joe Morris Curates at The Stone

The Stone
New York, NY
January 16-23, 2013

Joe Morris has gathered together a wonderful assortment of musicians, lovingly scattered across a two-week run at The Stone.  The range of the music is a testament to the community that Joe gathers and knits through his work.  I am happy to say that I will participate in two of these evenings.  More about that shortly.

The schedule is too long and well-populated to include here.  See the listings at The Stone's website for details.  There will be two sets every night, at 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM.  All proceeds go directly to the performers.

Image of Joe Morris at The Stone by Peter Gannushkin