Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ken Filiano and Baudolino’s Dilemma

Ken Filiano and Baudolino's Dilemma 
Local 269
Manhattan, NY

Ken Filiano/contrabass violin
Stephen Haynes/cornet
Warren Smith/vibraphone and percussion
Michael TA Thompson/drums and percussion

I recently joined Ken Filiano for the launch of a wonderful new ensemble, Baudolino's Dilemma.  Baudolino is a character from Umberto Eco's novel of the same name who, as Ken put it, has great difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy.  That notion was our point of departure. 

While we worked, a powerful storm unleashed record amounts of rain outside.  The water and the chatter from the regulars at this small neighborhood bar made for a singular atmosphere.  The ensemble that performed before us was a wonderful surprise and the audience was full of friends and other musicians: JD Parran, Steve Dalachinsky, Jason Hwang and Sara Bernstein, among others.

I would be remiss if I did not tip my hat to Brad Farberman, who organized the evening and presented a wonderful piece for strings and spoken text after our set.  As Brad put it "nobody makes any money with this, but it is an opportunity to work on new ideas and to share the work."  For more images and another view of the evening, visit Jason Crane's site, The Jazz Session.

images of Baudolino's Dilemma at Local 269 by Brigid Kennedy

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hommage à Bill Dixon

We Speak: Honoring Bill Dixon
The Festival of New Trumpet Music &
Jazz in the Himilayas
The Rubin Museum of Art
New York, NY

Stanton Davis, Stephen Haynes, Taylor Ho Bynum &
Wadada Leo Smith/trumpets and cornets 
William Parker/contrabass
Warren/drums and percussion

Early in June, we gathered in Manhattan to celebrate the spirit and work of Bill Dixon.  The work took place at the The Rubin Museum of Art.  Taylor and I arrived early and toured the large collection of Buddhist art.  The museum asks performing artists to connect with the collection and the raison d'être of the museum, linking it to the work they plan to present  Artists choose images from the permanent collection to be projected during their concerts.   As is true of Bill Dixon, the museum and it's work is singular.  Housed in a wonderful art deco brownstone, the original home of Barneys clothing store, the museum has a small, acoustically perfect theater with one caveat: no amplification.  I kept finding myself imagining Bill there with us.  He would have loved the place!

Stanton, Taylor and I brought music in for the ensemble.  We began the evening with the four brass players improvising collectively.  This was a sound particular to Bill's language for many years.  The night before, I had felt what is best described as a tugging feeling.  I filed the music I had written for the concert and pulled material from my folio of  Dixon music.  I selected a portion of a larger, through-composed work from the early seventies that Bill had shared with me at Bennington College.  Long, modal lines, narrative in quality. 

I arranged the music as a series of slow repeated readings of the lines, adding horns with each repetition, something I had often watched Bill do.  During the performance, things did not go as planned.  I restructured the music in process, pulling Wadada to the fore for an unplanned solo.  Leo rose to this, soon joined by Stanton and we stoked the fires underneath them.  William Parker ended the piece with an arco solo over a brass chorale drawn from the lines.  William played pure love, singing his heart out to Bill.  Remarkable.

In the end, I felt Bill had been there, pushing my shoulder and admonishing me to loosen up and trust what I know, what he taught me: to allow the work to unfold in the moment. 

images for The National Jazz Museum in Harlem by Richard Conde

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Parrhesia Redux

 Stephen Haynes and Parrhesia w/Joe Morris and Warren Smith
Vision Festival XVI
New York, NY
Real Art Ways
Hartford, CT

The New York City premier of my trio, Parrhesia, took place in June, a year after the release of our album on Engine Records.  We were invited to perform at the Vision Festival on opening night.  This was a double pleasure for me, as I have never worked the festival as a leader and rarely present my work in the city.  The music was a delight, as was the audience.  Peter Gannushkin captured a beautiful set of images of the work.  Read Bruce Gallanter's (Downtown Music Gallery) review here.

A week later, we performed at Real Art Ways here in Hartford.  This was a return of sorts, as the trio was conceived and developed at RAW during my year-long artist residency five years ago.  We encamped in a small gallery, with the ensemble surrounded on three sides by listeners - an intimate, acoustic environment.  The venue was/is ideal for direct contact with audience and I was happy to see/meet folks that have never heard my work, as well as long-time local listeners.  Read the local coverage here and here

On both evenings, the music unfolded with an air of controlled mystery, steeped in a ritual sensibility.  There is something powerful and essential about creating music with partners that are long-time friends as well as colleagues. 

Joe Morris and I sat down for a long conversation with Will K. Wilkins, Real Art Ways' Executive Director, several weeks after the concert.  We have agreed to begin a regular series of artist-curated events at RAW early in the fall. 

triptych of images of Parrhesia at Real Art Ways by Maurice Robertson
images of Parrhesia at the Vision Festival by Peter Gannushkin

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Brasstet Reflections

 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