28 February 2012


Wake up Sunday and spend it at Terrie Hessels and Emma Fischer’s place, a former Dutch squat being transformed back to it’s original beauty through Terrie’s renovations. Throughout the afternoon Terrie played me the rough mixes of the new Ex & Getachew Mekuria recordings I made in December (along with Wolter Wierbos, Brodie West, and Arnold de Boer on trumpet instead of vocals and guitar), and compared them to different versions of the songs recorded in Ethiopia, either by Getachew or other musicians. It seems that when Getachew heard these interpretations while Terrie brought his most recent project to Addis during late December/early January (Andy Moor, Arnold de Boer, Anne-James Chaton, Jaap Blonk, and Paal Nilssen-Love were participants), he was very pleased but felt that some of the “call and response” sections between his tenor lines and the replies/unisons played by the other horns needed to be fixed; essentially all of us are playing instrumental versions of melodic texts, if the unique rhythms and/or melodic content of the phrases are slightly off, they just sound like gibberish to Getachew and anyone else truly familiar with the Ethiopian performances of this material. After some discussions and cross checking, Terrie and I felt like we had a good plan set for Monday’s rehearsal with the clarinetist, Xavier Charles (who is in the Ex project with Getachew, but who was unable to participate in the December sessions and concerts). He had not yet played the current pieces. Arnold de Boer also came by for the rehearsal, which was extremely helpful since he really knows the songs in their original versions, understood Getachew’s critiques of our initial recordings, and could help teach Xavier the parts with me. Having heard him in performance, I knew that Xavier was a stellar musician, but I was not prepared for just how extraordinary- he learned parts immediately by ear, easily transcribed them and transposed them from Ethiopian recordings to the keys of the new Getachew versions, etc. In a few hours he was playing the songs better than I was after days of working directly with Getachew when the Ex made the initial tracks this past winter. Tuesday Xavier and I recorded new parts and/or replacement lines with these basic tracks- many of the horn “response” parts were either incorrect or incoherent, Xavier worked with Arnold to straighten out the phrases which made it much easier for me to replace my parts when they were faulty. I also needed to redo a baritone solo that I had made durning the first sessions- it was badly recorded and slightly out of tune- after 3 tries I found something worthwhile; Xavier recorded a beautiful solo over existing tracks in one attempt… another humbling musical experience, and inspiring. As with most musicians of this caliber that I meet, Xavier was a pleasure to work with. I learned a lot from him in 2 days, and I look forward to playing with him in July during the Ex & Getachew Mekuria tour in Europe. Tuesday night I went to bed early, quite exhausted, and had dreams with the 8 Ethiopian songs we recorded running through my head… Another band, another aesthetic, same intensity: Fire Room from our concert at the Primavera Festival in Barcelona last fall: