1/30/14: I listened to the new Lean Left mixes that Andy Moor did, and they sounded GREAT; he had the reeds right where I hear them when we play, so the riffs and fragments I utilize sound like part of the rhythm section, not as a “lead voice,” it’s a blend of assaults, a collective activity without hierarchy, and he got it! I went through the 7 Midwest School selections (C, Untitled Tango, 6C, Keep On Going…, Hard Blues, Theme De Yoyo, Old), and the 5 final original compositions Audio One will perform at the Green Mill (I’m dropping Circular Ruins, it’s far too difficult to prepare in the time we’ve got left to rehearse; this leaves Two Way Street, Encyclopedia of a Horse, Vivre Sa Vie, Atlas of Madness, and The Floor), and organized how the soloists were spread through the material; I had to reorganize some elements to make sure everyone got represented fairly and creatively. Everyone in the band was willing to meet an hour early to have more time to work on the music, a real display of focus and enthusiasm for the project. The first hour+ was a review of the Midwest School charts, then the rest of the time was spent hammering out short solo versions of the originals. There is A LOT of material to remember and to develop- this is probably the most ambitious set of music I’ve ever put together, and we would have definitely benefitted from more rehearsal time (for the Territory Band we always had extensive rehearsals to learn the music, and I think the Audio One scores are even more involved than those). After the rehearsal everyone was dazed, but there is now a sense of optimism and clarity, that the performances at the Green Mill will work. I got some dinner alone at the Hopleaf, needed space, and finished “Party For Boris,” the first Bernhard play that I’ve read. There’s some kind of connection to Beckett’s absurdity and despair, but Bernhard’s play somehow felt more surreal and theatrical than Beckett to me. I need to read more of Berhard’s theater work; right now I enjoy his prose more (whereas it’s the other way around for me with Beckett). I got home still awake, tired but unable to sleep, and watched the documentary on the architect, Norman Foster, “How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?” directed by Carlos Carcas and Norberto López Amado Perhaps it was a bit too general and simplistic, but still a decent overview of Foster’s career and thinking. I went through the process of watching the film equally inspired by his work- the Millau Viaduct bridge, the various airports- and dismayed that he was the architect behind the Millennium Bridge in London and the Reichstag in Berlin. Foster’s creative discussions with Buckminster Fuller were a highlight. Looking at all Foster has accomplished made me feel like I’ve done almost nothing in comparison, and I’m trying to innovate in a field that has almost zero cultural impact. Thankfully, there are many beautiful, inspiring, and creative artists connected to the scene!
1/31/14: I worked out the sets for night one at the Green Mill, splitting the originals up, two each in the first two sets, and the ballad, “Vivre Sa Vie” in the last. With Tilbury’s work ethic that he displayed earlier in January when I was in Oslo in mind, I ran all the new pieces by myself; which, even more than helping with execution of material, further clarified the sequences of form to me. The members of the band arrived at the Mill at 6:30pm even though the first set started at 9pm- there was lots to coordinate, and getting 10 people on that stage was a challenge, but we got a bunch of help from Dave Jemilo and Chris, the soundman. Dave Zuchowski had to set up all his recording equipment. Audio One had a good crowd for its first concert despite the January weather in Chicago. It took the first half of the the first set before the band relaxed- this new music is really a challenge, not just the parts but the flow and contrasts in the forms; there is a ton to remember, not just execute. The second set was solid, and we played “Two Way Street” again in the last set, since we opened the show with it and it was stressed. By the third set you could feel the band’s concentration starting to slip- there was a ton to accomplish over three one hour sections, and people were fried from rehearsing and dealing with the first performances of completely new and challenging music. Overall, the band did a very good job- some missed cues, miscommunication as to the series of events, but people were focused and gave it everything they had. Nick Macri and Jen Paulson both stood out- Nick because he had really jumped into a massive project and aced it; Jen because the original music showcases her much, much more and she played beautifully. I wasn’t happy with the way I improvised; I was so concerned with everything that was supposed to be happening I didn’t have enough focus left for my own performance and was not pleased with myself. Stayed up too late celebrating at the Green Mill with Bruno Johnson and Adrienne Pierluissi (down from Milwaukee on a rare visit to Chicago together to socialize) and Audio One, then home with a nightcap with Bruno and Adrienne and music from Angola. I felt during the concert that the idea of running another large band was so difficult, like pushing a massive boulder up a hill, but the band members seemed happy, the audience feedback was exceptional. Perhaps it’s a crazy idea, but perhaps it will be worth it.
2/1/14: I practiced the Audio One material again at home, felt much more confident with it- the concert on Friday pulled many things together (you can rehearse with a group as much as you want, but nothing develops the music more than performing it in front of an audience together). I changed the concert order, putting all the original music in the first two sets and leaving a space in the third to do a second version of something if necessary. From the get go, the ensemble played with incredible focus and power. The place was packed midway through the first set and remained so for most of the night, lots of friends came out, people applauding spontaneously, shouting out in enthusiasm- a really inspiring crowd to play for. I felt much, much better about my own performance than on Friday, and made small adjustments to the arrangements, indicating more details to the group about what needed to happen on certain aspects of the parts. The only flaw during the night was the band’s version of “Encyclopedia of a Horse,” when things fell apart in the vamp change ups and the coda dissipated. This issue was resolved by playing the piece as the opener for the third set, and it was nailed, an incredible performance, vamps opening up as I had suggested to Nick Macri, total energy and excitement. Everything about Saturday night felt vindicating regarding the idea of Audio One, what I want to accomplish with this great band of individuals, and what we did together. I feel the original compositions showcase the diverse creative voices in the ensemble and give people room to improvise openly within high contrast constraints, montage forms whose impact creates new “images” as the sections collide. And the decision to invite Nick Macri to join the band on basses (acoustic and electric) was completely vindicated- it felt like his playing jumped forward exponentially on Saturday; and he and Tim Daisy have a special rapport in the rhythm section, the grooves (particularly on Saturday) were tremendous. Having this night of music recorded for my upcoming label, Audiographic Records, is incredibly gratifying. Many of the “Midwest School” performances were outstanding too- perhaps using the ones from this weekend will work best for the albums since they showcase the full line up of Audio One (Jason Adasiewicz was missing from the concerts last March, which is why Jen Paulson was invited to participate). Afterward everyone from the group hung out at the Green Mill, celebrating in an exhausted but elated state. Dave Jemilo was really happy with the weekend, as generous as ever, and invited me to come back with another project anytime I wanted to. Friday broke the music in, Saturday broke the music out.
Elastic, Chicago, June, 22, 2012:
Hyde Park Jazz Festival, Chicago, September, 28 2013:
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