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Catch Taylor Ho Bynum on his Acoustic Bicycle Tour!

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(photo by Peter Gannushkin)

by Samuel Weinberg

There never seems to be a dull moment on the calendar of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum. He makes numerous records with the diverse projects he’s involved in; serves as the director of the Tri-Centric Foundation (an organization built in service of iconoclast Anthony Braxton’s work); and has recently embarked upon his second Acoustic Bicycle Tour—a truly grassroots endeavor—in which Bynum, cornet on his back, bikes hundreds of miles to play various gigs, often in venues which are slightly off-the-beaten path. Having already successfully completed an ABT through New England four years ago, Bynum is at it again, this time with the ambitious itinerary…

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Catch Taylor Ho Bynum on his Acoustic...
(photo by Peter Gannushkin) by Samuel Weinberg There never seems to be a dull moment on the calendar of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum. He makes numerous records with the diverse projects he’s involved in; serves as the director of the Tri-Centric Foundation (an organization built in service of iconoclast Anthony Braxton’s work); and has recently embarked upon his second Acoustic Bicycle Tour—a truly grassroots endeavor—in which Bynum, cornet on his back, bikes hundreds of miles to play various gigs, often in venues which are slightly off-the-beaten path. Having already successfully completed an ABT through New England four years ago, Bynum is at it again, this time with the ambitious itinerary of biking down the length of the West Coast: beginning in Canada, ending in Mexico, and playing with some of the West Coast’s finest improvisers along the way. I had the great pleasure of chatting with Bynum about this endeavor, and three of his most recent releases: Navigation (Firehouse 12), Through Foundation, and Continuum (Relative Pitch).  Along with some great embedded videos, I’ve also attached the remainder of his ABT dates at the bottom of this interview.  ——- Do you want to talk a little bit about this new duo record with Tomas? You guys have made a bunch of records together and have known each other for years, but you recorded this one in your basement so maybe you could talk about those circumstances. Yeah, Tomas and I met when I was 17 and he was 15, because we went to neighboring high schools. We met through a mutual friend and started playing together, and then we reconnected when I went to The New School for one semester in college, while he was there for his whole time in school, so we reconnected there. At that point we really reconnected and kept a band together all through college. Then we played all through our twenties and thirties, but it was slightly suspended while he was touring with STOMP. But even then, when he was in town, we would get together and do some gigs. So this has been a relationship that has been happening for over twenty years. So about 10 , we started actively working as a duo—he’s in a couple of my groups, we were in a couple of collective things together, but we sort of wanted to break it down and have it be a core ensemble. There’s kind of a nice tradition of drum/trumpet or drum/cornet duos: the Don Cherry & Ed Blackwell stuff, Philip Wilson and Lester Bowie…I think there’s that tradition in place because there’s a nice connectivity between those two instruments –the physicality of both of them and the primal nature of both of them. They’re both so immediately related to ritualistic musics from all over the world that involve something you bang on and something you blow through [laughs]! So it’s always been a particular part of our repertoire that we’ve kept up. We had done two duo records and we wanted to make a third one and we sort of made the choice that, rather than shopping it around to a label or making it in a studio, that we would really celebrate the personal nature of this project and the history behind it, and we decided to just do it ourselves, from top to bottom. So rather than doing it in a recording studio, Tomas came over to my house, stayed with me for three days, and my friend Nick Lloyd set up a portable recording setup in my basement, and we just recorded there! We would spend a couple of hours recording, then go out on the porch for a while and drink some iced-tea, have a sandwich, then go back down and record for a few more hours. So we really wanted to play up the relaxed, communal and social nature of this project and trying to get that to come across in the vibrations of the music. And similarly, once we finished the record, we decided that rather than shopping it around, that we would release it as a very personal and limited release, where we only did a small vinyl run. It was a friend of Tomas’ who did the design—a really beautiful painting and she also printed some colored vinyl which matched the color of the painting. So this was all as a way to celebrate twenty years of playing together. So how many vinyl were pressed? 249 [laughs]. That’s a 250 vinyl order, and one of them must have gotten broken in the order or something! It’s kind of an odd number but I like it. Of course, we’re also making it available digitally. I mean, it’s great because I’ve been doing more and more stuff on vinyl and it just sounds good, it feels good, I think the audio is better. It’s an experiential thing, too. Exactly, it’s an experiential thing and it puts the material object to the moment, and I think that there’s something about that that makes you listen to it in a different way, because it’s not wholly ephemeral or digital. Well it’s funny because I remember when I was a student, and I was studying with Braxton, he told me that I had to go check out some Albert and Donald Ayler. So I thought, “Well, Professor Braxton told me to check this out, so I better do it”. So this is back in the days of record stores, in Middletown, CT where there weren’t any good record stores, so I had to really search and find this Ayler stuff. So I finally found this Albert Ayler record, which cost $15, and I hated it [laughs]. This is utterly terrifying! I had checked out Ornette and other things of that era, but Ayler totally terrified me. So I put it away for a while. But it was sitting there, and I had had to travel to Boston to get it and I had paid 15 bucks for it, so I listened to it again and again, and I finally realized that it was changing my life. I think that having been forced to go out, really search for this record and having to pay money for it, and then having a physical object staring at me from my shelf, made it give it the couple of extra listens that I needed to get into it. Like, I’ll tell a student to check out someone and they’ll come back the next week and say, “I watched five minutes on YouTube and it wasn’t really my thing”, and they’re done with it from that point on. So that’s a totally different thing. And there’s something to this notion of having to struggle through something that, once you get it, you’ll give more of a chance to. So we figure that we’ll make an expensive piece of vinyl so that people will hate our music for a little while before they dig it [laughs]! So to segue a little: you pressed Navigation on vinyl too, right? Yeah, I got even weirder with Navigation: it’s a four album set, but it’s one piece of music, but it’s a very modular and shifting piece of music. What I really wanted to represent was the process of the composition, and not just one finished product of the composition, if that makes sense. So I wanted the listener to have the same experience as the musicians who made the music; where we’re making different choices with the music and that it doesn’t come across the same way any time. It seemed antithetical to the concept of the composition to present one singular, fixed version of it. So it was very important to me to present it in multiple versions and with multiple recordings. We did two live sets with the sextet—both at Firehouse 12—and then one day in the studio version where we did it as a septet, adding the great Chad Taylor as a guest. I ended up really liking them all, and so the idea was to put them all out, but then I really wanted to play with form, and make people think about it in a different manifestation each time. So rather than do a 4-CD set, or 4-LP set, I decided to do two of the sets on CD only and two of the sets on LP only, but if you buy either of the sets, you get the other free, as a digital download. It confuses people a lot that the LPs and the CDs are actually different material. With the same cover! Right. And you can’t get the CD stuff of LP or the LP stuff on CD, but you can get it all digitally. So I tried to confuse and isolate my small niche audience as much as I possibly could. It’s all part of my grand strategy to minimize sales. But I kind of like the idea of it, because I want everyone to think about all four of the albums as a set, but really differentiate between the sextet and septet, the live and the studio, etc. But the listener is really entering into the same space as the musicians, because we have a fixed set of materials that we’re playing with, yet how we’re interpreting them, and what choices we’re making in the moment, are totally different from performance to performance. And really the whole point of that composition is leaving much of it up to the musicians to figure out what tune we’re going to play, or what arrangement we’re going to take. I’ve given the macro-structure, and the core-materials to be utilized, but the whole purpose is to leave it up to the musicians to what path we would take. I thought it was the closest way for the audience to experience what we the musicians were feeling when performing the composition. The LP and CD look similar, but once you listen, you notice all of the many differences. Can you talk about what the score looks like for Navigation? Or what the macro-structure is? Yeah, the piece is based around 6 movements which are interlinked in this sort of web, where each piece has two potential entry-doors from other compositions, and two potential exit doors to two other compositions. So it’s kind of a choose your own adventure book: you get into a piece and you can go over here, or go over there! The idea is that each composition has two musicians that are responsible for cueing it in, and each musician has two pieces which they responsible for. So it’s a web or possibility and responsibility which creates this constantly changing map or agenda for us to follow. So that’s the macro-structure, and if you look at the cover art, those are the interlinked boxes converging. Within the movements, these pieces have their own identity—some are graphic scores, some are more traditionally scored, some are somewhere in-between. I said to them that the primary way we can think about it is that, for example, the alto saxophone would be playing the melody, and the cornet and and trombone would be in the background, while the rhythm section would be playing the changes. But we could come to it sometime, and the bass could play the melody solo, and the drums could play the backgrounds, for example. Or we could just take the bridge or two-measure cycles and just repeat them. We have these primary identities of the composition, but now that we’ve performed the piece many many times, we can really refract it, abstract it and fit it into what the moment calls for. So it’s very much never been the same. I have to say that it’s been very gratifying for me, because I love all of the musicians in that band—they’re some of my favorite people in the world and they’re people I’ve played with for 10, 15, 20 years across the board. How much fun they’ve had with it, and the sorts of amazing and extraordinary choices that they’ve made in the moment, makes me endlessly happy. That was really the concept of the piece. I tend to write in sort of extended suites most of the time, and the last thing that I had written with this sextet, was this piece “Apparent Distance”, which I still love and am proud of, but it’s really a fixed roadmap. It was getting to the point where I realized that these musicians were just eating this up and it wasn’t giving them the challenge that they needed, and that I wasn’t giving them as much material as I wish I could’ve. I wanted to give someone like Jim Hobbs more latitude than going from section A to section B. If he was taking it to Z, I wanted to let him do that, and to structure a composition where we could really respond to the music, while still maintaing a larger structure, because composition remains really important.I didn’t want it to be a free-improvising ensemble and I wanted us to have material to prod and to play with, but I wanted it to have the flexibility and possibility to go beyond a fixed system.   It’s fascinating because it really strikes me that it’s a near perfect hybrid between composed and freely-improvised music, in a certain sense. And clearly that’s something that has stemmed out of my work with Braxton because he does that on such a brilliant and high level. But I wanted to make sure that I did it with music that sounds very different than Anthony’s. One of the credits that I give to Anthony is that he doesn’t want clones: he provides ideas which, those of us who work with him, can manifest in different ways. (stopped around 19) Maybe we can switch gears a bit and talk about Firehouse 12 Records. You had a hand in starting that, right? Are you still involved with the operations of it? I’m not necessarily involved directly with the day to day operations of it anymore, now I’m more like a floating consultant [laughs]. Carl Testa is now the operations and manager and Nick Lloyd is sort of the chief producer and mastermind behind the whole of Firehouse 12. This is kind of an amazing story: the space that became Firehouse 12 was one of these abandoned buildings that the city was taking open bids on. I think that the call-for-proposals request wanted it to be a multi-use space which could help revitalize the neighborhood. So Nick came up with this plan which was a bar, a concert space, a recording studio. The city accepted it and he built up the space over a couple of years and it really has revitalized that neighborhood and has been a cultural hub for New Haven, and really for the larger region. It’s an extraordinary recording studio, and he’s an incredible engineer, so the sound of the records are always fantastic. Then he has a concert series up there which has been great. The original format that he had was that there was the recording studio, the concert series, the bar and it just so happened that I had recorded an album there which I had been shopping around, and I wasn’t particularly happy with any of the offers that I was receiving, so I was thinking of releasing it myself. I was telling Nick this, and he told me that he was thinking of starting a record label, too, so we were like, “Hey! Let’s work together on this”. And so that’s how the label started. This was back in 2005 or 6. And our first release was, of course, this 9 CD/1 DVD box set of Anthony Braxton’s 12+1tet Live at Iridium. And so we decided to start the label off completely insanely! But I have to say that it’s been one of our most consistent sellers; it’s been the top back-catalogue seller for us, actually. But that became the model for us: sort of trying mix projects of elder statesmen with mid-career artists and emerging artists, all the while keeping a consistent aesthetic. Nick’s wife, Megan Craig, is a fantastic visual artist, so she’s done all of the design for all of the records. It goes back to what we’re saying about making an LP—we wanted the label to have a consistent presence and aesthetic and to have weight as an object. The Braxton Iridium set or the Bill Dixon Tapestries set, these are guys who are my heroes, and who have done so much important work, but all-too-often, their releases really fly under the radar because of these fly-by-night labels, or people bootlegging older material or whatever the case may be. But we wanted to be able to present these things with critical essays and documentaries and to put it in context with the music. So it’s been really rewarding. In the past few years, especially once we brought Carl on as operations manager, I’ve really pulled back from my work there. I still record for the label, I still help out with certain releases, but I’m not as actively engaged in it. It got to a certain point where I was working with Firehouse 12, I was working with the Festival of New Trumpet Music, I was working with the Tri-Centric Foundation and I just got so overextended that I kept thinking to myself, “What is this piece of metal? Do I even play it?!” So I kind of made a conscious choice a couple years ago to pull back from Firehouse 12, and I got more deeply involved in the Tri-Centric Foundation, which is my main day job, such as it is. Braxton has a few things coming out on Firehouse 12, right? Yeah! We’re going to be doing this larger group called Echo Echo Mirror House and that’ll be amazing. This is a seven piece band, in which every member also has an iPod constantly on shuffle, going through Anthony’s entire recorded discography. It’s just this completely insane and immersive wall of sound. That’s one of the things that I love about Braxton—he’s this dude, who’s 30 years older than me, who has changed the face of music six times over, and he’s still coming up with crazy new shit. And presenting us as his sidemen with that musical context is amazing, because improvising in that context is unlike improvising in any other context I’ve ever played in, and that is so exciting. To still have him offering us these sorts of challenges, as his musicians, is so inspiring and it’s why we all stay with him—to be continually challenged to try something different, and try something other than what we’re comfortable with, and to do more than what we thought we were capable of. And Anthony always wants to do different things, for instance we just made a record that will come out next with Nels Cline and Greg Saunier from Deerhoof. It was just one of those things: we met Nels and Greg at this festival and everyone hit it off and Anthony immediately knew that we had to record this, and we recorded 4 hours worth of music. So let’s talk about the bike tour. You’ve done one before? Yeah, in 2010 I did a bike tour in New England, and did at least one concert in every state in New England. I did about a two week trip around Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, etc. That one was completely grassroots and it was incredibly rewarding and was a transformative experience. So I decided that I wanted to expand and refine the idea, and I was wondering whether I should go cross-country or down the West Coast, and when I looked I realized that there aren’t many gigs from Chicago to Denver [laughs]! So there were a couple of really long, discouraging stretches so I decided to nix that. So I was just thinking about that the West Coast has turned out perfectly with a lot of people going to teach at UC schools and that there are really vibrant scenes in Vancouver and Los Angeles. I figured that there are a lot of musicians that I’d like to play with out there, not to mention it’s really bike friendly and beautiful. It seemed like a good option.Originally, I think I was planning on going from Vancouver to San Diego, but then I was talking to my sister and she encouraged me to finish in Mexico, since I started in Canada. I’m going to play a sunrise concert on the US side of the border, and then a sunset concert on the Mexican side of the border and that’ll be my final day. I was able to get this incredible grant from Creative Capitol which really made this trip possible in a lot of ways. Since I had some funding, I could really put some time in to plan a good itinerary and find some good gigs. The mistake I made with the New England tour was that I played a gig every night, which was insane, because I would bike 120 miles, and then play with a pickup quartet in Maine, and be totally exhausted! It also kind of robbed some of the spontaneity from the trip. So this time, there will be longer stretches without gigs. In that time, I’ll certainly be playing, but I want to hangout in a state park and just play or hang out by the beach and just play, but not having advertised gigs. But then also spending a couple of days immersing myself in San Francisco or Los Angeles playing with a bunch of local musicians there. I think that that is a positive development from the New England. Do you travel with your pocket cornet? I did the New England one with my pocket cornet, but this one I’m traveling with my real cornet. The pocket is fun, but at a certain point it’s a little limited. The full-sized is a little heavier, but I think worth it to bring my regular horn. Can we talk about the Book of Three record, Continuum? This is you with Gerald Cleaver and John Hebert? I mean, those guys are just such amazing musicians. It’s kind of my most just playing records, if you know what I mean. This is our second record, we did one in 2010. And this trio record was kind of an accident: it was originally going to be a quartet record, but through a series of tragically comic mishaps, he never made it, after we had rehearsed a bunch with a this saxophonist who will remain unnamed! So that saxophonist never made the session, so John, Gerald and I just decided to do another trio record! It was totally accidental, but it was one of those things that was just really happening. It was completely spontaneous. We were all really relaxed and it was just a great hang. It truly was just a chance to play. With so many of the other projects I do, I’m either the leader or am contributing compositions, but this project is really just a nice way to connect with an absolutely killing bass player and drummer, and make music in the tradition, which I think is why we ended up with Continuum as the title, and one of the reasons that we played a Bobby Bradford tune, because he’s one of my heros as a cornet player, as a composer, and so I was just connecting with making music in the tradition, whatever that tradition is!  The remaining dates on THB’s Acoustic Bicycle Tour: 09/03/2014 SEATTLE, WA Quartet with Cuong Vu (trumpet), Carmen Rothwell (bass), and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). The Royal Room, 5000 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA. 09/07/2014 PORTLAND, OR The Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble, 12-piece ensemble led by Douglas Detrick (trumpet). Central Hotel, 8608 N Lombard St, Portland, OR. Co-sponsored by the Creative Music Guild. 09/12/2014 ARCATA, CA Duo with Gregg Moore (tuba), Arcata, CA. House concert, rsvp required. 09/16/2014 BERKELEY, CA OrcheSperry, 14-piece ensemble led by Phillip Greenlief (tenor saxophone). Berkeley Arts, 2133 University Ave, Berkeley, CA. Including Ela Polak (violin), Shanna Sordahl (cello), Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), John Shiurba (guitar), Pete Fitzpatrick (guitar), Rachel Condry (clarinet), Cory Wright (bass clarinet), Jon Raskin (baritone saxophone), Clifford Childers (trombone), Gino Robair (percussion), and Tim Perkis (electronics). Also featuring the Goggle Saxophone Quartet (Chris Jonas, Randy McKean, Cory Wright, Dan Plonsey). 09/17/2014 OAKLAND, CA Quartet with James Fei (saxophone), Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), and Jordan Glenn (drums), performing the ‘70s quartet music of Anthony Braxton. Duende, 468 19th St, Oakland, CA. 09/19/2014 SAN FRANCISCO, CA Duos with Myra Melford (piano). Center for New Music, 55 Taylor St, San Francisco, CA. 09/20/2014 PALO ALTO, CA 1pm afternoon duo with Ben Goldberg (clarinet). Lytton Plaza, corner of University Avenue and Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA. 09/27/2014 LOS ANGELES, CA Anthony Braxton Trio, with Braxton (saxophones, electronics) and Kyoko Kitamura (voice). Angel City Jazz Festival, Zipper Hall, 200 South Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA. 09/28/2014 LOS ANGELES, CA 7-tette with Nicole Mitchell (flute), Michael Dessen (trombone), Jeff Gauthier (violin), Jeff Parker (guitar), Mark Dresser (bass), and Alex Cline (drums). Angel City Jazz Festival, Barnsdall Art Park Gallery Theater, 4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 09/29/2014 MISSION VIEJO, CA Duo with Mark Dresser (bass). Saddleback College, 28000 Marguerite Pkwy, Mission Viejo, CA. 09/30/2014 SAN DIEGO, CA Sunset solo at Border Field State Park, San Diego, CA. 10/01/2014 TIJUANA, MEXICO Sunrise solo, Playas de Tijuana, Mexico.
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GO TONIGHT! Captain's Log at Manhattan Inn
Drummer Tony Falco and guitarist Mike Gamble have been making music together for the better part of 16 years. For the past four, they have released four records under the name Captain’s Log. With a history that runs back to their college years, it’s no surprise that their music is as loose and free of boundaries as it is. <a href=”http://captainslog.bandcamp.com/album/no-return” data-mce-href=”http://captainslog.bandcamp.com/album/no-return”>No Return by Captain’s Log</a> Tonight, Falco and Gamble will play at Greenpoint’s Manhattan Inn at 10PM, which is the first of four dates on a mini-tour. (I have posted their other dates below). You can find out more on Captain’s Log bandcamp and a subsection of Falco’s website. CAPTAIN’S LOG MINI-TOUR: Wed 8/20 Manhattan Inn, Brooklyn NY 10pm  FREE  w/ Special guest pianist Tony Kieraldo http://www.tonykieraldo.com/ Thurs 8/21 Spotty Dog Books & Ale, Hudson NY 8pm- $5 with Tony Kieraldo’s Buffalo Trio http://www.tonykieraldo.com Fri 8/22 Bread & Bottle, Red Hook NY 7-10pm FREE Sat 8/23 Radio Bean, Burlington, VT 9-10:30 pm FREE Sun 8/24 Dottie’s Coffee Lounge, Pittsfield MA11 AM- 1PM FREE
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"In This Case, One Is Greater Than Four", An...
by Samuel Weinberg Tenor saxophonist Travis Laplante has the uncanny ability to make his solo saxophone sound like many, as he evidenced on his remarkable record Heart Protector (Skirl). With a host of extended techniques and a distinctive approach to phrasing and improvisation, Laplante fashioned a wholly unique sonic universe with his solo saxophone performances,which was unlike anything I’d ever heard. That alone made me so thrilled to hear of the formation of his new group, Battle Trance, which is comprised of four tenor saxophonists—Patrick Breiner, Jeremy Viner, and Matt Nelson—all playing a through-composed piece of Laplante’s entitled “Palace of Wind”, which is likewise the title of the record which will be released at the end of this month.  Throughout “Palace of Wind” the four saxophones meld into one, in a stunning display of the limits of circular breathing and the extreme limits of physicality that a saxophonist can muster. But beyond that, and more meaningfully, is a striking unity of sound that the four conjure, where the individual personalities are blurred for the sake of the collective. “Palace of Wind” moves through weighty, dense movements, but just as quickly moves into ethereal and light moments, where the sounds seem simply to float. As Laplante says below, this is largely the result of intense and tireless rehearsal that the four musicians put into realizing and actualizing Laplante’s vision. Having seen this band live—and experiencing this music live—I can attest to the fact that the album is as good a representation of the sensations I experienced that night as one can get on record. This is powerful and necessary music that all ought to listen to. Battle Trance will be touring extensively this fall and I’ve posted their tour dates at the bottom of the interview, along with samples of their music.I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with the Laplante about this project over email, and you can read our correspondence below. ————— In the description of Palace of Wind that I read, it spoke of how Battle Trance essentially came from something like a vision that you had in which you knew that Battle Trance needed to be not just four tenors, but Matt Nelson, Patrick Breiner, Jeremy Viner and yourself. Perhaps most surprisingly, it says you didn’t know their music, nor them personally. Can you talk about that vision in some more depth, if possible? These sorts of things seem to elude reason, but if you could provide some, I’d be interested to hear it. Sure, It was pretty simple. I was at my job at the time and had a thought “I should email Patrick Breiner, Matt Nelson, and Jeremy Viner and start a band.”  I know this sounds completely unremarkable, but there were a few things that made this thought quite out of the ordinary; first of all I knew very little about them on a personal level, but the more unusual thing was that I wasn’t familiar with their playing!  It’s not like I had heard them play and thought that we should do something together or that I had this great idea to start a band of four tenor saxophonists and just needed to find the right guys who could play my charts.  In fact the idea of starting an ensemble of four tenor saxophones was something that had never crossed my mind before.   Of course I have my fair share of “random” thoughts and I could have easily tacked this thought up as one such thought that had little true meaning and gone about my day…BUT there was a feeling that lied beneath the thought, something in the heart that I couldn’t run away from.  This is where my words run out and I find myself in a deep mystery.    Within minutes of having this feeling, I went ahead and tracked down their contacts and wrote them asking them if they wanted to start a band.  They all responded very quickly saying Yes and that was it. What I value about my experience of starting this band is that I didn’t hesitate and let fear or doubt stop me from doing something that I could have easily viewed as impulsive or insane.  I’m trying to get better at taking chances in life and not being so afraid of making mistakes and this is an instance where I just followed something without asking questions. Battle Trance Promo Video from Travis Laplante on Vimeo.    Can you speak about the compositional process for this piece? How did the parts come together? Did you have any sort of notion for the whole of this when you began its writing? Writing Palace of Wind was the most effortless compositional process that I’ve experienced in life so far. I was in a state where my ego was quiet.  I wasn’t doubting myself or comparing what I was writing to other music.  The music seemed to just come if I allowed myself to stay out of the way.  It seems like that’s often the challenge for me, allowing for something to happen rather than making something happen.  During the period of writing Palace of Wind it was easy for me to stay out of the way. The fact that it was such an effortless process still creates challenges, because now I find myself sometimes wanting to get back to that state from which I wrote Palace of Wind, but the fact is that I didn’t want anything while I was writing Palace of Wind so to get back into a similar state I can’t want it.  The second I start wanting, I’m no longer in the correct state to be an instrument of something that is beyond my mind.   I also have to remember that the compositional process is alive and always changing and I don’t want to spend my time trying to replicate something that took place during a time that is no longer the present.   It can’t always be spring.  However, spring comes, then summer, then autumn, then winter, then spring.    We rehearsed the piece as it was written.  It couldn’t have happened any other way.  We were, and still are living inside of it.  I find with material of this sonic nature, it’s necessary to hear the timbre with my own ears before I know if the sound is true.  I’m not good enough yet to hear a sound in my imagination and know that the translation into the physical world will be completely accurate.  For instance I can write something down that sounds incredible on the piano and I imagine it sounding even better with four tenor saxophones, but the second we try playing it I immediately know it is not right.  Being able to rehearse as the piece is coming in is like an instant check point for the sound, making sure it’s not getting off of it’s path and being compromised by me trying to be clever.  For the most part rehearsing the piece while it was being written had the opposite effect.  Everything sounded so fresh and the instrumentation made all of the raw material I was working with come alive in a way that was more powerful than I could have imagined.  It was really easy!?!     I didn’t have the whole picture of the piece beforehand.  The parts were given one at a time, not always in sequence, for instance I was given the beginning and ending before the material in the middle of the piece had taken form.  Being in close contact with the band during this time surely helped to guide the writing both on a conscious and subconscious level. Since you didn’t notate any of the music, you had to orally transmit the piece. Can you speak about how those rehearsal went?  Rehearsals were a lot like marital arts or dance training where we repeated specific techniques over and over until our bodies developed the proper endurance, as much of the piece is quite physically demanding.  We rehearsed a lot.  Probably two or three times a week for five months.  Once we had the physical side of things together we could focus on the collective sound.    Since a deeper, unspoken understanding was there before the music itself, we didn’t need to talk about the music much.  We all know if we played something that wasn’t connected, we know when we messed up.  As we rehearsed and continue to rehearse we are becoming more sensitive to each other and to the group’s sound so even less needs to be spoken about since we’re all naturally tuning in on a deeper level.   Perhaps related: there’s a striking unity of the sound, where individual voices are rarely detected. Was that unity organic and self-generating? There must be a degree to which that unity is necessitous for the piece to succeed. I believe that the unity of Battle Trance’s sound is due to the extremely high level of musicianship that everyone in the band comes to the table with, the relationship that the four of us have cultivated with each other, as well as the composition itself.   We work on balance a lot, not only dynamic balance, but also timbral balance, physical balance, balance with the room where we’re playing, and purposeful imbalance in both subtle and blatant ways. What this comes down to is awareness and awakening the senses.   The piece highlights all of the player’s abilities to dissolve their individual sounds into the collective by working with unison.  When speaking of unison I’m not only referring only to literal unison, but also intentional imperfect unison where there is a melding of our individual sounds into one instrument, rather than four instruments playing together at the same time. Given the fact that we all play the tenor saxophone, the ability for us to act as one instrument in unity has come naturally.  Sometimes it actually is confusing because we think that a certain sound is coming out of our own horn, but it’s actually coming from someone else’s!  We’re not used to working in this way so it’s disorienting to our ears.  As tenor saxophonists we’ve all been bred to “have our own sound” and to set ourselves apart from each other.  Part of the learning for all of us in Battle Trance is to unlearn certain ideas and surrender to the collective in service to a sound that none of us could play on our own.  If we all were trying to “have our own voice” in this particular band, it would sound like four voices rather than one voice.  In this case one is greater than four.    Where did the name Battle Trance come from? It just arrived.   And Palace of Wind?  It also just arrived. What is the future of this group? Have you begun to write new music? If so, is it in this same fashion of a lengthy composition?  Battle Trance will tour performing Palace of Wind extensively in the fall of 2014 and 2015.  I think we have something like 30 concerts booked between now and the end of the year. I’m very much looking forward to playing this piece night after night.    I am working on a new composition for the band and it will most likely take the form of an album-length composition, but I don’t want to speak too soon.    I will say that so far the process of writing the 2nd piece is extremely different than writing Palace of Wind.  It literally and figuratively comes from a different time than Palace of Wind. Battle Trance Tour Dates: 9/1 – The Buoy – Kittery, ME 9/2 – Jenke Arts – Burlington, VT 9/3 – Casa Del Popolo – Montreal, Quebec 9/4 – Mugshots – Ottawa, Ontario 9/5 – Array Space – Toronto, Ontario 9/6 – Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH 9/7 – Constellation – Chicago, IL 9/8 – Trinospheres – Detroit, MI 9/9 – TBA – Kalamazoo, MI 9/10 – Oberlin College – Oberlin, OH 9/11 – Silo Sessions – Buffalo, NY 9/24 – Roulette – Brooklyn, NY 9/26 – The Red Room – Baltimore, MD 10/30 – Emerald Lounge – Vancouver, BC 11/1 – Earshot Jazz Festival – Seattle, WA 11/2 – Habesha Lounge – Portland, OR 11/4 – TBA – Sacramento, CA 11/5 – Center for New Music – San Francisco, CA 11/6 – TBA – Oakland, CA 11/7 – Equitable Vitrines – Los Angeles, CA
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