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