About a year ago, when I started in earnest to feature live improvisational music on The Long Rally, I had a grandiose vision of how it might ultimately go down. I imagined a weekly rotating door with musicians of all genres and personalities coming by to improvise live at 11pm in casual self-appointed groups: locals with out-of-towners passing through, adventurous rockers and noize dudes with straight up jazz musicians, the drone with the lyrical, the acoustic with the electric and electronic, the classically-trained with the self-taught. Sometimes a gumbo's just a gumbo, and sometimes it's the best fucking food you've ever tasted in your life.
Last night is the closest I've gotten to my fanciful and somewhat naive dream when a cast of NYC's best and brightest made the trip out to our humble Jersey City home. Jeremiah Cymerman, who played a solo clarinet/electronics set on the show last year, assembled the group of musicians, and together we came up with a loose concept of configuring them in little ensembles for short improvisational pieces. Neither the musicians nor I knew what the formations would be or what would be played until a few minutes before kickoff. Between pieces whoever wasn't setting up would join me in the studio for some chat, and we'd end with the full group going at it.
The result was a relaxed and convivial atmosphere, some unexpectedly wacked out high points, and ultimately a wonderful set of live and spontaneous music! Catch all of these folks at the Telluric Currents Series at Ibeam in Brooklyn this weekend. I'm off the schedule for the summer, but who knows, maybe my live improv dreams will come true in the fall, after all. Thanks to Sean Austin for engineering.
I. (Matt Bauder, electronics; Alex Chechile, modular synth; Aaron Siegel, percussion)
II. (Katherine Young, bassoon; Matt Bauder, sax; Jeremiah Cymerman, clarinet)
III. (Woody Sullender, banjo; Jeremiah Cymerman, clarinet; Alex Chechile, modular synth)
IV. (Aaron Siegel, percussion, Matt Bauder, baritone sax; Katherine Young, bassoon; Alex Chechile, electronics; Woody Sullender, banjo; Jeremiah Cymerman, clarinet.)
Aaron Siegel (percussion): Aaron brought a single snare drum but halfway through setting up, based on the vibes in the Love Room, changed his mind and went with the full kit. In addition to his constant improvising around town in all sorts of groups, Aaron does a fair amount of composing for glockenspiels, vibraphones and such, has a chamber group, and also does a musician-oriented podcast. He's got a beautiful new duo LP on Jessica Pavone's label Peacock Recordings called Fiddle and Drum, which you should peep.
Katherine Young (bassoon): I love the sound of the bassoon, and Katie seems to have a knack for filling the right spaces with the full range of the instrument's unique reedy qualities, from a drone-like bowed string sound to buoyant horn lines. As I mentioned to her on-air I think I know of two other jazz bassoonists: Karen Borca (wife of Cecil Taylor's longtime sidekick Jimmy Lyons) and the the multi-instrumentalist from Sun Ra's band (who I wrongly named as Pat Patrick, it's James Jacson... oops! She added a third, new mom Sara Shoenbeck). I'm fairly positive Katie's doing stuff on the bassoon that has never even been considered by anyone.
Alex Chechile (modular synth): Alex was the wildcard here since he had never played with any of these folks. He had no trouble fitting in though! As he explained to me he does a lot of work combining human (and animal) physiology with improvisation. For instance, he uses his own brainwaves (in the act of creation) to trigger synth sounds. He also has a record in which he improvised with 300 maggots reacting to light and sound and thereby triggering synths. Creepy!
Woody Sullender (banjo): Uncle Woody aka WFMU's own DJ Woody is a banjo player of impeccable taste and freeform sensibility. His improvising utilizes the high-mountain-lonesome American roots of the banjo, in addition to the woven raga-like drones and repetition of the John Fahey school, and even punk rock attack on occasion.
Matt Bauder (sax, electronics): Matt is seriously one of the most elastic saxophonists around. That I knew, but I was pleasantly surprised when he busted out a chain of effects pedals and played them exclusively in the first number. Matt plays in a longstanding band with Aaron Siegel called Memorize the Sky and also has a doo wop group!
Jeremiah Cymerman (clarinet): Last time Jeremiah played on the show, he played solo clarinet processed through a bunch of electronics. This time he played acoustically with a group. Jeremiah also assembed the musicians. He also curated the Telluric Currents Series which will happen over three nights, 4x a year.
The live audio in this post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-