Early on Saturday, the group caravanned to Milwaukee with driving assistance from Amos Scattergood and Mitch Cocanig. Then the ensemble reviewed the pieces in the afternoon, and played a concert that evening to a small but appreciative crowd, about fifty people or so. Thanks goes to Tom Crawford and Chris Stawski for all their help in organizing another opportunity for the band to perform while in the United States. The performances were very strong, hard to believe that we hadn’t played the music for an audience in the last nine months. Bruno Johnson arrived with copies of the new album by the group, New Horse For The White House, a triple cd including our concert from the Donaueschingen Festival in Germany and the studio sessions held a few days later in Osnabruck. Considering all the details and logistics necessary to: 1) get the band to Chicago, 2) get the new disks released in time, 3) get all the rehearsals and concerts coordinated, and 4) get the necessary funds somehow into place, I’m amazed at how smoothly everything kept going during our week together. Pretty much the whole band celebrated after the show by heading to the Palm Tavern before heading home to sleep a few hours before the next day’s rehearsal.
On Sunday the 20th everyone convened in my basement again, but this time to begin work on the new piece. As always, I was anxious to see how my ideas will turn out, more so than usual this time because so many factors going into the writing and performing were unknowns. In addition, this is the longest piece I’ve ever composed (it ended up being about an hour in duration). “Collide” is designed as an open concerto for an improviser who is free to interact with the piece as they see fit. This was done so that Fred Anderson could listen and react to the music without having to be concerned with reading any charts. Essentially the written material is comprised of two long sections divided by a ten-minute interval featuring Lasse Marhaug’s work with electronics. The first day of rehearsal went well, pieces in a big puzzle getting put together one step at time. That night Kent, Per-Ake, Paul, Jim, Dave, and Fredrik perform at the Hungry Brain. It was the first concert that I was able to catch since everyone arrived, and it was a real pleasure to sit and listen to such good music.
The next day everyone convened at the Chicago Cultural Center to begin our rehearsals downtown. By mid afternoon we were actually beginning to run through the full piece, an amazing testament to the musicianship of the members of the group, and the value of working together over a long period of time. Through the last six years I’ve been able to figure out better ways to compose for the ensemble, and the band has figured out better ways to decipher what it is I’m driving at. Tuesday morning Fred Anderson arrived to start practicing with everyone. Of course he’s the first one there. “I always tell the younger musicians who come by the Velvet that you’ve got to be on time. This is a business and you’ve got to be professional,” he tells me while the group sets up their instruments. The band then ran straight through the full piece so that Fred can hear it in its entirety. Each time we play “Collide” it becomes tighter- I edit out parts, people make suggestions, we keep clarifying the details as we go. Fred seemed happy with the piece and we ran it again with him playing along with the band. I was relieved to see that the idea of letting him be free to interact with the music as he chose worked so well, he listened and played and stopped to consider the events as they went by. Everything felt like it was really coming together.
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