Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tilting Forward

One of the beautiful things about blogs is the ease with which you can shamelessly promote something. In this case it's a bit on the benign side since the performances have all past but here goes.

I have had a band called Tilt Brass ( which has been together for a few years now. We originally built the group with half being jazz musicians and the other half "legit" but with some background in improvisation. We tend toward process pieces in the vein of Rzewski, Wolff, Brown and the like in addition to some more straight ahead stuff but staying away from the Rebirth/Dirty Dozen thing. From the beginning we had members of the group interested in writing and arranging for the ensemble. We performed around town, out at Barbes, Bowery Poetry Club, Joe's Pub, etc.

It used to be thought that there was this great divide between the jazz and legit music worlds. It's not particularly true in all cases as evidenced by Tilt's ability to perform the music of Dave Ballou, Anthony Coleman, Nate Wooley, Curtis Hasselbring, Charles Waters, and Taylor Ho Bynum. Each of these charts came with its own unique set of circumstances to navigate. The collective amount of experience really made for the ease of producing this show.

Another big surprise for me was the level of quality that these pieces were written at. I as the conductor/traffic cop was feeling some pressure about how to manage a relatively short amount of rehearsal time into something productive for the digestion of all this new music. It could'nt have been simpler and here's why:

This approach to music with many different types of musicians finding common ground goes much further than any crossover label that could be applied to it. It also puts us in good post-modern company as we bash through some barriers that some still jealously guard.

Those who do things in a very particular way are play with forms that will always be cherished. The new way seems to be to mix things up and show off what you can do. I will always be psyched to here Dr. Michael White or the Guarneri show us how the classics are done but will also always be fantasizing about what Dr. White's turn-on-a-dime precise band would sound like playing something else.

So give me your distended/extended blues forms, 7/8 alternating with 9/16 passages in all their microtuned splendor as well as anything else you can think of. I welcome it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


This is the beginning of Around The Bend, a blog about the music I love and why. Upon arrival in NYC back in 1987 I immediately gravitated to the wilder side with an interest in how things work that still fascinates me today.

Novel sounds still grab me as well as novel approaches compositionally. I question what it is that draws me to the new and novel. I can only think that it is because I was encouraged to listen to everything I could for my instrument as a kid and that translated to everything else over time. This makes me think that we need a new approach to getting the audience into the hall. Themed concerts, celebrity buy-ins and the like are beginning to be explored to some success. It is necessary for the audience to be interested enough to talk about the experience to others in a compelling way.

The musical experience is always being recreated by musicians. Their specific reinvention of the sounds in real time rely on their own collective (or solo) interpretation of the composer no matter what the style. Composers in turn have to start from somewhere and almost all musical styles have accepted ways of fashioning pieces that will bear that style's name. This is changing as younger composers in the jazz and so-called classical fields pick and choose from their favorites all over the world, not just building on what's come before. This is a great entry into the musical process for many. If you like Radiohead, then you should like a group who plays their music or something like it.

The concert experience as museum piece is fine as far as that goes. However, without engaging the "luxe crowd" (that generally shows up to the millionth performance of Death and the Maiden) with the music of today, we will continue to see a shrinking audience at that demographic. Putting old an new together can only work if programmed with care. Many young groups today are doing just that with great success. Others simply use some piece of music or style from the past and make that their own.

Any way you look at it music is moving around the bend.