May 20th 2013


In addition to the Made To Break material documented this spring, two other bands recorded music and, again, both were new ensembles. Last June, at the instigation of Dave Rempi,s who asked me to organize a special concert to help celebrate a decade of music connected to the Elastic Arts Foundation in Chicago, I presented a project called, “Celebrating The Midwest School: the music of Anthony Braxton, Julius Hemphill, Roscoe Mitchell, and Henry Threadgill,” a collection of arrangements I made of pieces by all of these composers. The concert went so well, and so much work was involved for it to be realized- in the transcription, arranging, and rehearsal process- it made good sense to perform the music again. I contacted Dave Jemilo of the Green Mill and he agreed to the idea of hosting the band for two nights in March, the 22nd and 23rd. Everyone from the original lineup (with Josh Berman [cornet], Jeb Bishop [trombone], Tim Daisy [drums], Nick Mazzarella [alto], Nate McBride [bass], Dave Rempis [saxophones], Mars Williams [saxophones]) was able to participate for the second set of concerts except Jason Adasiewicz [vibraphone], who had to undergo emergency back surgery earlier that month. After some time spent trying to consider an alternative (no one would be able to “replace” Jason’s contributions to the group), I decided to ask Jen Paulson [viola] to be involved- her work on the Margots session was outstanding, and Tim Daisy concurred that her playing in improvising ensembles was excellent. Luckily, she was available so last minute and could be a part of the project. I added another batch of pieces to the book because the group had to play 3 sets each night. The work by the band paid off, Friday and Saturday at the Mill were packed, and ample music was documented by recording engineer, Dave Zuchowski, for an album by the project which will come out next spring.

During 4 days in April, from the 9th-12th, James Falzone’s, Renga Ensemble, convened- a project that featured James (Bb and Eb clarinet), Ben Goldberg (Bb and contra-alto clarinets), Keefe Jackson (contra-bass clarinet), Ned Rothenberg (Bb clarinet and alto sax), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), and myself (Bb and bass clarinet, baritone sax). The group rehearsed, performed (at the Hideout, Chicago Cultural Center, and Elastic), and recorded (at Electrical Audio) this challenging set of compositions by James that featured the various clarinets in a wide range of combinations and improvising settings. I always find it interesting to work with other composers’ music. The differences in the way notation is used, and ideas are organized from the structural and improvising standpoints, are always striking- it’s a good way to discover better ways to articulate musical ideas to band members, whether they’re scripted on the page or conceptual. It felt to me that the best performances of James’ music took place on the last day, in the studio, and when making an album you really can’t ask for more than that from the musicians.

More studio work took place in April, on the 15th and 16th, this time to mix “IMPRESSIONS OF PO MUSIC” (recordings made during June of 2011, with Joe McPhee (tenor), Jason Adasiewicz (vibraphone), Josh Berman (cornet), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Tim Daisy (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello and electronics), Dave Rempis (saxophones), and myself (Bb and bass clarinet), performing arrangements I made of a number of Joe’s compositions from the 70s and 80s). Bob Weston recorded the music and we both mixed it at Chicago Mastering Service for a release on Okka Disk, that will coincide with Okka Fest 5, which takes place from June 21st-23rd this year, almost 2 years after this material was recorded- extremely hard to believe, time continues to move much too fast…

In addition to the release of “IMPRESSIONS OF PO MUSIC,” 2 other albums will be issued in early summer: 1st- an lp by Fire Room (with Lasse Marhaug [electronics] and Paal Nilssen-Love [drums]) called, “Second Breath” (Socian Records), that was recorded live in concert at the Vortex in London during the trio’s European tour during November of 2011 and which will coincide with the band’s tour that starts in Moscow on May 27th; 2nd. the first duo recording by Mats Gustafsson and I, after playing music together for nearly 20 years, called “Verses” (Corbett vs. Dempsey). This cd was recorded on March 24th during our performance at the Corbett vs. Dempsey gallery in Chicago, and a June street date makes this the fastest turn around time from recording to release of any album I’ve ever worked on.

[Note: all of these recordings, as well as a full catalog of albums and other items from Peter Brotzmann, Mats Gustafsson, Paal Nilssen-Love, and Ken Vandermark, can be found at]

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