After the tour with Muller, Rutherford, and van der Schyff, I returned to Chicago for what will be the longest duration since summer. The first task at home was to mix the VANDERMARK 5 session recorded in July. My initial impression of the quality of the takes proved correct, the band really sounded prepared and relaxed after the tour in North America with Atomic when reviewing the material. The fact we got half the cuts in one take, and the other half in two, showed how ready we were to put the performances on tape. Bob Weston keeps finding new ways to get the music to sound better with each session we do together, and there is no question that this is the best engineered V5 album yet. With too much solid material to fit on one cd I’ve decided to release the music as a double cd on Atavistic, probably during the summer. Also slated for release in 2005 by the VANDERMARK 5 are volumes 4 & 5 of the “Free Jazz Classics” (“Six For Rollins” [compositions of Sonny Rollins] and “Free Kings” [compositions of Roland Kirk]), and the live performances recorded in Krakow, Poland during our residency there in March of 2004.
Other than that mixing session, the primary work in Chicago during December has been composing for, rehearsing, and performing with the new quartet, BRIDGE 61. After many hours of discussion with Nate McBride and Tim Daisy over who should be asked to join as the fourth member, we decided on the bass clarinetist, Jason Stein. Tim and I met Jason while he was studying music in Ann Arbor. He spent the fall in Austin, Texas, and showed up in Chicago the day before the first rehearsal with the group. BRIDGE 61 is essentially a cooperative, everyone composes for the band and we work on group details equally. This is the first band like this that I’ve been involved with since the demise of AALY and SCHOOL DAYS a couple of years ago. Each member brought in 3 compositions, giving us a solid base to start with (Tim Daisy and I added one more piece each in order to bring some more aggressive work to the book and balance it out). The first two concerts were very successful, about 100 people listening each night, and we have been able to pull the diverse music together quickly through lots of rehearsals (there is a nice routine of rehearsing Mondays, gigging Tuesdays, and reviewing/rehearsing Wednesdays). The sound of the band is wide and extreme, from “chamber pieces” for clarinets, bass and percussion, to explosive funk distortion driven by Nate’s electric bass. One of the main goals is to find rhythmic identities outside standard stylistic concerns. BRIDGE 61 has two more concerts coming up in January (Tuesdays, the 4th and 11th at the Bottle), and it looks like some European work in March – a damn good start for a young band.
My last concert of 2004 was with SPACEWAYS INC. – Wednesday, December 29th at the Empty Bottle. Trying an extreme long shot, I got in touch with Hamid Drake to see if he’d be in town and available to play. Needless to say, I was VERY surprised and happy when he said yes! This was the trio’s first concert together since a performance with ZU in Rome during May, 2003. Hamid, Nate and I got together to rehearse the day before the show and the music came together right away, really great to be playing with this lineup again. The show was packed, more than 200 people in attendance. Unlike with most jazz shows at the Bottle, SPACEWAYS set up on the stage in order to use the sound system. A good decision – the music came across like a freight train… nice to be able to hear myself over the electric bass and drums. Don?t know when or if this group will get a chance to work together again, last time I played with Hamid was in February of 2004 in Milwaukee with DKV. Strange to believe we both live in Chicago and can’t meet on stage but twice a year. Luckily, we’ll have a chance soon: Peter Brotzmann is back in town in January to mix the latest TENTET material (“Be Music, Night,” recorded in November), and he’ll be playing with Hamid and Kent Kessler for a set on Wednesday, January 12th at the Bottle. They’ve asked me to sit in for the second set, should be quite fantastic!
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