The next night I had a chance to catch the Dirtbombs at the Empty Bottle. Wasn’t really knocked out by the opening bands, but the Dirtbombs were pretty incredible and made the wait until they hit stage well worthwhile. Great to hear a rock group with a real rhythm section and a great singer, which again pointed pretty dramatically to the fact that playing any music well just isn’t that easy, otherwise there would be a hell of a lot more good bands. On the 18th, I had another solo concert, this time in combination with a set of short silent films at Chicago Filmmakers. In the past when I’ve worked with films I have always taken an ‘indeterminate’ approach, playing parallel to the visuals without trying to integrate the improvisations with the rhythms and possible meanings of the films’ imagery. Perhaps because the last concert of the Pintura Series had just taken place, and Richard and I had used such a method while putting those materials together, I changed my strategy at the Filmmakers performance and tried a more interactive approach. There were nine short films, and I utilized different improvisational tactics for each (linear time phrasing, sonic exploration, static overtones, sharp dynamic contrasts, split tone melodies, etc.), as well as using a different horn for each, in an attempt to give the broadest range of starting points for all the pieces. Hard to have any objective point of view regarding the results, especially while trying to focus on an atypical set of visual information. In retrospect, I think it would have been a good idea to explain to the audience what was going to take place during the performance, that I had not seen the films beforehand and was freely improvising to them, because most of the people there were more filmgoers than music fans and seemed to have the impression that the music was pre-composed with those films in mind. It?s easy for me to forget that the concept of improvised music is still quite foreign to most of the public.
The Vandermark 5 performed the following evening at the Hungry Brain, our last gig before July. A good audience in a good room pretty much always leads to a good time, on stage and off, and this night was no exception to the rule- we played some of our best music since the December recording sessions. When Fred Lonberg-Holm joined the group last August, the band had to reassess some basic ideas about how the ensemble worked with rhythm, intonation, and dynamics; a situational change like that can shift almost every detail in the way a unit functions. The continued effort in dealing with these factors has quickly re-balanced the group’s musical architecture, and when we play like we did at the Hungry Brain all the elements, from execution of the material to group interplay to individual improvising, feels like they have been completely unleashed into the room.
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