Friday, July 6, 2012

Charon and the gibbering spirits of squeaks past

   Reading an interview with Jan Gabarek, he mentioned that he never had much interest in geeking about with possible sax/mouthpiece/reed combinations; he had used the same somewhat standard (and a bit  unfashionable) MkVI-Berg Larsen set-up for years, in the meantime creating one of the iconic (and most copied, after Brecker - and it's interesting to speculate whether Brecker had been influenced as well) sax sounds of the last quarter of the twentieth century.  I remember sitting in the Jazz Workshop in Boston in the early 70's, waiting to listen to him, determined to disapprove of some unknown Scandinavian interloper (with the strange "I-come-from-the-planet-Vulcan" haircut seen below) who had replaced my fave guy of the moment, Dewey Redman, in the Keith Jarrett Quartet.... and then he just played a simple, soaring line...

He talks about never giving his gear a thought until  rather recently, when he started getting involved with the Internet. He referred to his sax as  a tool, a 'hammer' something which he not particularly interested in and was invisible to him as long as it did his bidding. This saxophone-as-hammer  is similar  to the idea of Heidegger's hammer (I know, there was the unfortunate business with Adorno, who was down on this guy)  ; an object that is invisible as long as it  fulfills its function. Garberek was happy for years playing in his preferred manner without thought of mouthpieces , reeds or particular instruments .But, of course, Theo Wanne promises everything, and once Gaberek started messing about on the internet, the chimera of a better world hovered just beyond his reach; one where everything spoke effortlessly from low Bb to an altissimo double F... balanced, in tune, rich in timbre. Squeaks are sent to a specific circle of Hell, or perhaps just on Charon's ferry across the Acheron to accompany the wailing of souls on their final journey to damnation...I think all reed players would like to think of that as the last outing of all their squeaks down through the years. One would faint, and find that all the squeaks had been banished upon awakening on the other side. Here is Delacroix's take on Charon, Dante and the Damned (not the band) hearing all the squeaks from the mortal world while crossing the Acheron on the barge, such as all those Parker out takes....

So term is over, marking and deadlines fulfilled, and after a day or two of staring at the walls, chauffeuring the Cruel Mistress of my Heart on a 14 hour round-trip to Aberystwyth (which I can now spell) and going for long cycle rides, my headspace clears enough to start thinking again about being a musician and organizing the quartet. As always, I realize that a lot of stuff has slid all the way down the hill in the last two months, so instead of sitting in the hoped-for sunny uplands of  practicing/writing, as I kept promising myself through the dark moments of being surrounded by mounds of unmarked portfolios, I find myself making numerous phones calls  and emails trying to get things moving again. Inertia is always such a difficult thing to deal with, especially with a project, as everyone else just assumes that it has gone away and needs a thorough prodding in order to take interest again, never mind trying to get a few decent gigs.

I made the mistake of thinking "....oh, hey guys, it would be fun to do a gig in Cambridge when stuff calms down this summer..." so, innumerable phone calls and calendar negotiations later, I find that there is a film crew and a professional photographer involved, along with a nascent re-vamped website made necessary by a  new CD launch, various band health issues, venue problems, and I'm lying awake thinking about stuff and another recording session...and it's goddamn July already; there's the second song of the Holy Goof to write over the summer.

and, for limited time only, a whistle-stop tour of the new tracks....

So along with all that, I've been changing the way I think, soloistically, over the last 6-9 months; and, moving differently while rippling (I'd like to think it ripples) through triads, creating inadvertant shifts and sheets of sounds with sort of fishy (Pisces, after all) lateral motion - plus having the usual who's-the-Daddy issues with Riley the Wonder Dog

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spring is on the Way

Spring, apparently, is on the way. I can tell this not because of the goldfinchs once again decimating the early blossom on the plum tree (and actually, doing far more damage than the original practice of decimation  in a legion; that was only a clubbing to death of every tenth legionnaire), but the fact that I am staring sullenly at the pair of Dell'orto PHF 36's sitting on my chaotic workbench, after having stripped and reassembled them (twice) to prove that there is nothing amiss with the various weeny bits, which I live in dread of losing in the gravel each time. So why won't the Guzzi tick over nicely whereas I am so idle?

Cycling, likewise,seems to have fallen off a cliff, despite the feeling in my waters that this was going to be my year; up at dawn, 100k before breakfast, that sort of thing. Some serious miles. Unfortunately , crap weather, mild bronchitis and the allegedly urgent need to be elsewhere every (damn) time the weather breaks has put that plan on hold. soon, however. Dunwich Dynamo, WSW Sunday runs, and some serious audaxes beckon.

Not unlike the carbs,  we're now just messing about with the mixing of the new Cd; it's kind of interesting trying to figure how to chop it up, a la  Miles and Teo. the idea of having purposeful and obvious cuts, like Stravinsky's block form, is becoming more attractive. the idea of using abrupt transitions, brick wall stops, and cinematic cuts could work, especially if they are overt. Not like the endless  overdubbing of a pop session with vertically constructed episodes and auto tune, but the use of juxtaposition; pulling together and ordering of disparate blocks of sound, themselves untouched and autonomous,  to create something that didn't exist before.  That's the plan, anyway; a way to use the takes with good solos and crap heads, or vice-versa. I'm always struck, when sitting in a studio mixing, how many interesting fragments there are, but that don't quite survive as stand-alone takes.

The usual jazz aesthetic, as far as recording goes, is, as much as possible, try to re-create the live experience. the idea behind this is that the music is a process, something that occurs only once in real time, with a privileged listener as part of the event, blemishes and all. This is partially because of the emphasis on the moment, the process of improvisation, and its ir-reproducibility in the next occurrence; each of which, although broadly similar, is unique. (the question as to how this uniqueness carries over into still having an authorial continuity, as in we always instantly know it's Miles, is another topic altogether)  This is why the apparent outcome is so different to that of pop, with its need to be an infinitely reproducible commodity. Even though a jazz recording is the also just another manufactured item once recorded, and subject to the same market forces, there seems to be a need to maintain the illusion that this hasn't happened and the listener is present.; a hairy-chested we do it in real-time aesthetic. Which is more honest?

Of course, having organized everything, found the funding,  booked everyone, written the music and practiced (I thought) the shit out of my parts, I found I was anything but centered.  In the session, I wanted to try some of the stuff I had been working on, in terms of moving my improvisational language usual, some stuff worked, and some wasn't quite ready; we probably needed three days instead of two, with another stab at things a month later once the dust had settled. Funnily, after 6 weeks of practicing the ideas after the fact, I now know what it is I want to do.... a little too late.  As it is, it's the normal complaint of lacking the time to get things to a satisfactory state, and knowing that you'll have to work with what you have at the moment.

So, a nice 80k roll on John's old Peugeot fixie through the Suffolk borders this weekend, watching the road spin out before me, puffing a bit harder than I should be at this point of the season. It brought to mind Hockney's talk about his new large canvases and their relationship to classical Chinese scroll paintings, which don't represent a moment, but a journey, as they spin out across an entire 50 foot wall.