27 April 2007



Once back home I had to hit the ground running, rehearsals started on the 9th for the Frame Quartet and Vandermark 5, and ran all week. Frame performed at the Hideout on the 11th, and my goal this year is to make that unit one of my most important bands. Already we’ve built something special, and the European tour in January really helped to pull the group conception together. Now it’s time to add to the book, and further develop the collaging and cross cutting ideas that the ensemble utilizes in the compositions. I think we may be onto something pretty significant. That night I also played selections from Ennio Morricone soundtracks, and I think I got more positive feedback for the cuts than any of the other music I’ve played at the club. On Thursday the 12th I went to the Empty Bottle for the first time since last August to hear Peter Brotzmann play in his trio with Michael Wertmuller. The band had a nice intense Last Exit type vibe that I really enjoyed.

The V5 worked all week rehearsing a suite of three new pieces dedicated to New York and its artists from the ‘50s and ‘60s, the painters (Hans Hofmann, Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko), improvisers (Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor), and composers (John Cage, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown), who have all permanently changed the way I think. On the weekend of the 13th and 14th the quintet played at the Green Mill to huge crowds. It’s unbelievably gratifying to keep a band together for so long and work with musicians who help me focus on getting the music to move someplace new, and to continue to perform for audiences in Chicago who are so receptive. We recorded the new music, with Amos Scattergood engineering, so that it can be included as a bonus disk with the December studio work by the V5, but I think that I was too ambitious. The pieces came across well, and we got to some good music, but the written passages still need some more work, so I’m going to record the compositions with the band again in June. To keep things interesting, Tim Daisy and I played a duo gig during Saturday afternoon before heading to the Mill, on a triple bill with some other Chicago groups. I love playing in this format with Tim, and it makes a really interesting contrast to the type of power contained in the duo with Paal Nilssen-Love. Maybe it was crazy to take the gig considering everything else that was going on, but the pay from that concert will help Tim and I cover the costs of going out on tour in the States during late June/early July.

Once the Vandermark 5 work was completed it was time to start rehearsing with Powerhouse Sound, in order to prepare for our “Breaks” cd release gig at the Hideout on the 18th, and for the upcoming European tour. I was able to find the time to compose a brand new piece for the band, called “Broken Numbers.” My hope was to have it ready to perform for the release gig, but the music was too difficult and needed more rehearsal time, as well as some structural adjustments – we’ll have it together for Europe for sure. The Hideout concert was the best the group has played so far, and the second set was incredibly burning. To have the chance to work each night on the road with Powerhouse is going to be unbelievable, and will give me so many ideas about what to write next for the band.

The Chicago work in April rounded out with the arrival of The Thing and Joe McPhee for the one-year anniversary celebration of the Immediate Sound Series at the Hideout. On Friday the 20th, the Thing (Mats Gustafsson, Ingebrigt Haker Flaten, Paal Nilssen-Love) played as trio, and as a quartet with Joe McPhee. Joe flew in especially for these gigs; The Thing had been on tour in the States. What can you say? These are some of the best musicians working today, and The Thing has cut a swath of originality through what can be heard as some pretty mediocre artistic times. The following night I sat in with the band for both sets and Joe joined in on the second, making the group a quintet. The last time I played with the Thing was at the Northsea Jazz Festival during the summer last year, but onstage it felt like it had been only yesterday- the music picked up right where our last note in Rotterdam had left off- and we continued with one structurally balanced and blistering set. Performing with Joe on the second half of the concert was fantastic, I hardly ever get a chance to work with him in a small group context, and I remain amazed by his ability to make both reeds and brass sound so beautiful. All of the music from the weekend was recorded by Amos Scattergood; some highlights will be used in a compilation cd to be included in a poster box set put together of all the artwork created for the ISS series, other material from the performances may be released by the Thing in the future. After the second concert, Jeff Parker and John Herndon played Soul and Hip Hop recordings all night long- it was quite a party.

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