14 February 2008


An important factor that separates a rehearsal and a performance is that you can’t really stop in the middle of a set, or halfway through a tune, and re-adjust things that are going off track while you’re onstage. An arrangement, a musical approach, a conception, or a game plan, can be discussed before, after, or during each composition as it’s run in a rehearsal. This kind of discussion is usually not what you want to be doing at a concert, so talks about the music happen before or after each set instead of between pieces. I can be accused of wanting to emphasize planning and rehearsal time, but I think how the music of C.O.D.E. was damaged by the irresponsibility of a single individual proves that focused preparation is a key element in the making of strong music. Our gig that Sunday night was a good example of why the difference between a rehearsal and a performance causes problems if you’re under-prepared; since it was the first time this quartet had ever played together, and only Wolfgang and Andy had ever even met before, with all the new tunes there was too much to remember and coordinate in each set for our arrangements to coalesce and develop as planned. I believe we did the best we could under the circumstances and, despite everything, got to some good music. In addition, the chance to work with Wolfgang for the first time, and to see how open minded a musician he is, made me want to re-commit to the project.

After surviving the near-fiasco of C.O.D.E., I spent a lot of what had become free time to explore as much of the city as I could: a day at the Albertina (on this visit there was a selection of pieces from the extraordinary Batliner Collection, which has provided the museum with an incredible permanent collection, and an exhibition of Philip Guston’s works on paper); my friend Lisi, who I’ve known since I first started playing in Wels, convinced me to sit in at Marco Eneidi’s jam session on Monday the 29th but I think this will be the last time I do this anywhere- it never ends up leading to music that is satisfying to me though I really respect what Marco has brought to the scene in Vienna and do understand why the musicians who participate want to be there; a stop by the Extraplatte shop after heading out to the closed Essl Museum, amusing to watch Gerhard try to get someone to open the entire place up for just the two of us; and of course a few evenings well spent at the Blue Tomato… One of the week’s standout experiences was another show that Lisi suggested we attend, this time a modern dance performance on October 30th called, “Shifted Views- Extended.” The piece was choreographed by Doris Stelzer, and was as an exploration and critique of the way women are presented visually by the media- slowing down movements, repositioning the way a model might pose in a photograph, how they’re taught to smile, etc.- and the performance by Lieve de Pourcq was absolutely incredible. She took something that could have been little more than a conceptual exercise and realized the material in an extremely compelling and powerful way.

I was extremely fortunate to have a lot of help sorting out accommodations and work while I was “stranded” in Vienna. Gerhard coordinated a solo gig on October 31st at the home of Kurt Stefan, a small concert presented to friends who could come by. It was my first solo concert in Europe, and my sincere thanks go out to everyone involved for the opportunity. Some of the pieces played were completely improvised, others were compositions by Joe McPhee and Albert Ayler, and a few were originals of mine, with a theme in progress for the upcoming Resonance project that would take place in Krakow at the beginning of November. Kurt and his wife were unbelievable hosts, and extremely helpful in making sure I had everything I needed to make the small concert go well. The chance operation that night was that it was Halloween, and Kurt really had no idea about what to do with the kids periodically coming to their front door, it was a very new “holiday” for them. “What do they want?” “Well, in the States they’re looking for candy.” “What should we do? We’ll have to find something else, we don’t have any!” Surprisingly enough, the doorbell only rang once while I was playing, towards the beginning of a fragile little clarinet improvisation, which put an end to it- no way to compete with a dressed up Austrian kid demanding something sweet.

The return to real touring started on November 1st, when Sonore performed as part of the Blue pharmacy no prescription Tomato’s anniversary celebration of more than two decades of concerts- huge congratulations to Guenter and Gerti. It was an especially fine gig, extending where Mats, Peter, and I had been before as a trio and it was great to be onstage with them again. Ironically, at the same time that the Blue Tomato was celebrating, the Jazz Galerie in Nickeldorf, one of the most important centers for contemporary music in the world, was coming apart at the seams. I’m not clear on all the details, but it seems that Austrian government was forcing Hans Falb to shut down the venue and restaurant- a complete catastrophe for the scene and certainly for Hans, who has devoted so much of his life to support new Jazz and Improvised Music. Hopefully there will be a fair way to resolve this problem, and as soon as possible. It’s hard to imaging the world without Hans’ ongoing contributions to it, hundreds upon hundreds of concerts so far.

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