Between September 5th and 11th I was in New York to play more solo sets before each screening of “Musician” during its week long run at the Pioneer Theater. I tried to take as much advantage of a week in a NY as possible. During the first four afternoons I worked on new compositions for the upcoming project with Ab Baars and his trio. Each evening I’d play the piece that completed earlier in the day as part of my solo set to see how well it worked in performance For the performance on Monday the 10th I played all three, “Waltz Four Monk,” “Memory Moves Forward,” and “Rather Scattered.” The odds of getting a chance to do a series of solo concerts night after night in the same city for one week are unbelievably small, and I wanted to try and learn as much about this discipline as possible about the process during the time I had. Basically, I tried to approach the music each night with a different strategy: one show would be completely improvised, another would be comprised of other composers work (“The Thing,” by Don Cherry, “Love Cry,” by Albert Ayler…), another would contain homages inspired by the conceptions of players I revere (John Carter, Joe McPhee, Anthony Braxton…).
In the end, four out of seven concerts were well attended, with about thirty people or more at the shows. Thursday and Friday were tough, Sunday was brutal- about three people in addition to my folks and Ellen- and it was nearly impossible not to question the intelligence of trying to tackle such a series in a city as expensive as New York. Considering the excellent press the film had received, particularly in the New York Times, it turned out that was overly optimistic about the impact of the media on the size of the attendance. Though it was difficult at times, the week proved to be an important experience, due in no small part to the staff of the Pioneer, particularly Ray Privett who was an amazing help throughout the series. I stuck around on the nights when there wasn’t a movie following “Musician” to answer questions from the audience, figuring the chance to discuss the music and the elements affecting its creation were rare.
While I was in the city I tried to take advantage of the other great aspects to being in New York- by visiting the Richard Serra exhibition at MoMA, meeting the journalists Tad Hendrickson and Andrey Henkin to discuss the state of the current NY scene, talking with Kathy Hendrickson about a possible theater project that I would compose the music for, buying records (in one shop, after picking out Peter Brötzmann’s, “Full Blast,” among my selections, the gentleman managing the store suggested that I might be interested in the new Sonore album, “It’s got Brötzmann with Vandermark and Gustafsson.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was one of the guys he was referring to and the saxophonist on the poster for “Musician” taped to the wall by my head next to the cash register. Better to nod at the suggestion, take my albums, and walk out before I started to laugh.
-Ken Vandermark, Stockholm, 9/19/07.
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