“We look at most of the sculptures without incident. But, when we come to the scooter bird, the publisher whispers in my ear: ‘Don’t bother to photograph it. It’s more an object than a sculpture.’ Picasso, who hears and understands everything, whom nothing escapes, suddenly turns toward him, and, pointing to The Bird, says sharply: ‘I absolutely insist that this sculpture appear in my album!’ When the publisher leaves the studio an hour later, Picasso is still seething.
‘An object! So my bird is just an object! Who does that man think he is, to tell me, Picasso, what is or is not a sculpture! He’s got some nerve! I just might know more about it than he does. What is sculpture? What is painting? Everyone’s still clinging to outdated ideas, obsolete definitions, as if the artist’s role was not precisely to offer new ones.’”
from “Conversations With Picasso,” (University of Chicago Press: 1999), by Brassaï and translated by Jane Marie Todd, pg. 69.
The North American tour with CINC (Paul Lytton, Philipp Wachsmann, myself) started in Chicago on Wednesday, June 8th, at the Hideout. We had not performed together since our quartet concert with John Tilbury at the Nickeldorf Festival in July of last year. Because I had spent a fair amount of time reviewing the material for our new limited edition release on Okka Disk- going over performances from the October 2004 European tour, discussing selections with Paul and Phil, sequencing the material, then mastering the album with Bob Weston- I was perhaps overly familiar with the way the trio sounded a year and a half ago. As soon as we started playing onstage in Chicago, I felt as though I had been dropped into the center of a maze where Paul and Phil had directions and I did not. The music moved simultaneously in multiple directions at different speeds, and was extremely detailed. By the end of the first set I felt that I had run through all my vocabulary options while the other guys had barely scratched the surface of their sonic range. It was clear in that hour that I was going to have my ass kicked for the next ten days.
On Thursday night, the visiting Englishmen played at Elastic in combination with other musicians from town. Philipp performed first, in a solo and trio context. This set was fantastic, hearing Phil’s use of acoustic and electronic sound in both ensemble formats was mesmerizing, and my excitement for his improvising and ideas did nothing but grow throughout our next days together. Fred Lonberg-Holm and Jeb Bishop worked with him in the trio and proved to be excellent, like-minded collaborators; the sonic possibilities of violin, cello, trombone, and electronics were bashed around with grace. In order to reduce the set up time between Phil and Paul’s halves of the program, the piano at Elastic was moved to a better location for Paul’s quartet with Jim Baker (who also played Arp), Nate McBride, and Dave Rempis
before the audience arrived. As we moved it along the side of the stage (one wheel already missing, so rolling it was difficult) the leg on my side of the instrument fell off which resulted in a few minutes of near panic as we tried to figure out how to keep the piano in the air while someone looked for enough plastic milk crates to hold it up for the rest of the night. After it was stabilized, magazines were added to the pile in order to try and balance the level of the keyboard so that Jim wouldn’t feel like he was sinking on the Titanic while playing during his set. In the end things worked out, but the instrument looked pretty ridiculous perched on top of a stack of milk crates, PA monitors, and periodicals. My favorite music of this quartet took place on a middle ground between the Chicago musicians’ “American-ness” and Lytton’s English free improvisation aesthetics:a surging energy music with a rhythmic sensibility more in line with Sunny Murray or Andrew Cyrille’s work with Cecil Taylor than most of what I’ve heard Paul play in his years with Evan Parker.
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