23 May 2012

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On Monday the 21st of May, Sonore traveled to Antwerp from Herne on 3 trains and another early morning. Arrived tired but happy to see Christel Kumpen (who organized the “Chicago Jazz Connection” series in Antwerp) and Koen Vandenhoudt, who programs the Belgie in Hasselt. Spent the afternoon scrambling with visa and “letters of invitation” work for the Chicago Jazz Festival, faced with the difficult task of getting a number of European musicians into the United States and EXTREMELY FRUSTRATED by the current state of cultural affairs in my country. It is infuriating that I can travel to most of Europe without any visa whatsoever and play music as an American, but returning the favor to my European colleagues is next to impossible. What does the U.S. think that it’s protecting? Doesn’t the government remember the positive impact to international culture which occurred through their acceptance of European expatriates before and during World War II?

The current attitude propagated by the U.S. toward visiting artists (among many other things, unfortunately) makes me ashamed. Things at the Antwerp show don’t go well: Peter is irked by the electronics in the other band on the bill and lets that be known; the music of Sonore’s set is at odds with itself, acoustics dry, difficult to get a sense of energy back from the crowd… a very, very tough gig. For me, there were real highlights to being back in Antwerp- talking ideas with Christel and Koen regarding current developments on the scene (forward and retrograde) , seeing Joeri and Peter from the Brugge club, Parazzar, getting my clothes washed (it’s a sign that I’ve been on the road too long when I’ve washed my laundry twice at the same place at different times on the same tour!). Sonore traveled early to Vienna by plane on the 22nd. The schedule is pounding us, lack of real sleep is starting to hit hard; tried to rest as much as possible in the afternoon at the Furstenhof. The concert is played to a sold out crowd, many friends in the audience, and a feeling of expectation in the air. The 1st set is a near catastrophe- music awkward and tense, the sense of repeatedly getting in the way of each other on stage, trying things that repeatedly fail.

During the break I talked briefly to Peter and he commented on the fact that there was too much volume and density, all the time. I started the 2nd set on clarinet and stuck to it even when buried. Mats backed off as well. Even if the feeling on stage was strained, it was quite clear that the music worked much better. Afterward I talked briefly to Christof Kurzmann who really enjoyed the 2nd set- he missed the 1st because he went to the club Porgy & Bess by mistake, realized his error when he saw the crowd standing outside before the show- it was a Markus Miller gig. The group traveled to Germany again on Wednesday, again early followed by a 7 hour journey but at least a straight shot on one train. The realization that the music was becoming cluttered through volume and density is applied to the 2 sets in Hofheim, even with the mounting fatigue the music flows much better and with more clarity. In addition, it seems to me that group is finding a more organic balance between combinations of solo, duo, and trio playing, with more unique structures taking place- abrupt endings with just a pair of players, solo openings leading to simultaneous layers of activity.