Monday, January 31, 2011

The Beginning

The first blog entry is always the most awkward. I'll pretend this isn't it.

Here's what I've been up to.

December 10th 2010 marked the debut of the NY band at the McKibbin Lofts in Brooklyn, (thanks again to Pedro, Bennett, and Mercer for letting us use their spot!)  I had a blast putting the show together, mostly because I was able to get the band to play in the sort of event I wish I could attend every weekend.  We played our set starting around 11pm, which lasted just under an hour, and after the very last note I thanked everyone and put on Q-Tip's "The Renaissance" and let the rest of the evening take off.  In most cases, the denouement of a loft party/show is the trickiest to control, and we've all witnessed these get sloppy (for lack of a better word.)  This was NOT the case this time around. We pushed the chairs and stands back into the wall and an all-inclusive dance party began, leaving anyone with an I-pod to choose a track (once again, usually a TERRIBLE idea...) which turned out to be amazing.

This is just before the music began.


This is just after the music ended. (That's my brother/bass player extraordinaire gettin' some love...)

As I heard Adam Benjamin say yesterday (I'll address that in a second), it's nice to have been a part of a "jazz" show that didn't feel stodgy or conceited as the music was being performed, and end in a celebration of sorts.

I returned to Montreal for about a month, working on some "commercial" music for a while, and spent time at home for the holidays.  I decided to organize a show at the end of my stay with the MTL Big Band before leaving for New York.  I encountered some pretty interesting organizing conflicts, but managed to find a loft space on Mont Royal and Laval called "Le Space" which worked perfectly for the event (I have to give tons of credit to Julian Gammon (keys) for being my MVP that week.)  I had decided to feature my great friend and member of the NY band Arthur Hnatek for the show, and to use every resource available to me; this meant 6 woodwinds, 3 tenor trombones and 2 bass trombones, 5 trumpets, guitar, bass, piano, and 2 DRUMMERS! It was great to have the Montreal band together again, and the show went over well.  The audience was extremely attentive, to the extent where they didn't utter a single sound while the music was playing... Gotta love Montrealers!

MTL Big Band at "Le Space"
I'm now back in NY, and have some gigs lined up for the band here, but the main focus for the next month or so will be recordings at McGill with the MTL band! My buddy Matt Baltrucki is a Masters student in the Sound Engineering program at McGill University so we get the pleasure of working with him and his team in one of Canada's best live studios. I'm very excited about this project, as well as the smaller room recordings which I'm currently writing for, which will include singers, the big band, and electronics.

I've also been asked to write a piece of music for an exhibit at the CEGEP du Vieux Montreal. The exhibit is going to be a group of artists in several mediums creating a work based on Edouard Manet's "Le Dejeuner Sur L'Herbe".  The opening of the gallery is on the 25th of February, so I'll keep everyone updated!

...

That's enough about my own music for now... One of the main reasons I've decided to start this blog is to share the music that I've been hearing which fuels my writing.  I'm often asked what style of music I make and the truth is: I have no idea.  I think the only way to make any sense of it (at least for me) is to look around at the musical community that I'm fortunate to be a slight part of. This past week of shows in NYC is probably the best approximation of this that I can come up with for the time being.

I got back in to the city on the 20th of January, and on the 21st I kicked off the 2011 live music concert series with my friends Snarky Puppy at Rockwood Music Hall.  Mike League and his band had a residency every Friday night at this amazing LES venue,  and they had decided not to play any original music and instead, invite guests to perform their material with them.  On that night, we got to hear Gordon Chambers, Mikal Evans, Shayna Steele, and Jason Marsalis.  I always have a good time bringing friends to see them for the first time just for the reaction on their faces.  I managed to catch the last of their series the following Friday as well, the highlight of which was hearing Ari Hoenig sit in for a couple of tunes.

A friend of mine mentioned that Martha Wainwright was going to be playing at Rockwood Music Hall (Stage 1, the smaller of the two venues) for free so I headed down early Monday night to ensure a spot.  I got there just in time for the venue to pack up and for a line to form outside (I can't imagine that it holds more than 70 people.)  Sure enough, Martha showed up with a guitar and performed for an hour. Her explanation for booking these gigs at Rockwood was that she had willed it upon herself to write a song every week, and to prepare unfamiliar solo material for an upcoming project.  I've always been a fan of the entire Wainwright clan, and hearing Martha in such a raw situation was as amazing as I expect any Wainwright show to be.  She made tons of slip ups with the chords, forgot words to songs quite a few times, which didn't detract in the slightest how much I loved this show (in fact, it probably enhanced it.) She is an incredible songwriter, and I'm glad I got to see her while being in the process of writing for female voice. I also sneaked over to Rockwood (Stage 2) briefly after her set to watch Jason Lindner's band.  I've seen them many times, and I'll always go see Mark Guiliana if I have the chance... I will definitely be back early tomorrow for another installment of Martha's weekly gig. I'd like to re-iterate that these shows were FREE!

Wednesday night was a rarity for my usual NY musical excursions for two reasons: 1) I went to Carnegie Hall, and 2) I saw Brad Mehldau play an entire concert solo.  I don't think I need to say much about this show, because the event speaks for itself.  We had the amazing opportunity to hear him play Brahms followed by his own compositions throughout the first half (with Brad speaking after every second piece about the harmony, structure, etc.)  I missed an audition for an ensemble by going to this show, and I don't regret it at all. He's an incredible inspiration to me and my writing, and I can't think of many musicians on the planet that I respect as much as this man.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were another NY rarity, and one that I looked forward to ever since the last 4 day series last year.  KNEEBODY! I missed the first night of the series because I was at the Mehldau concert (poor me...) which featured Wayne Krantz.  Thursday night featured Busdriver, Friday night featured Busdriver AND Mark Guiliana, and Saturday night featured Daedelus (with Mark Guiliana as a secret guest), and Tim Lefebvre subbing on bass (Kaveh, the regular bassist was on tour with someone else.) This band is where it's at.  Period.  The good folks over at Search and Restore (I'll definitely write about them in future posts) set up this event in Park Slope at a venue called Southpaw.  Here's what it looked like:

Kneebody w/ Busdriver and Mark Guiliana
  These guys are doing it right.  The shows all had this amazing energy in the crowd, which I think the band was feeling as well.  It's not often that I get to see a "jazz" show where everyone is standing shoulder to shoulder in front of the stage, or you get to hear the most rhythmically interesting hip-hop artist or an incredible live electronic artist being backed by a live band.  Once again, these guys are huge inspirations of mine, and I already can't wait until they perform again.

8 days of music, each act/musician gave me something to think about for my own music.
 I highly recommend checking out this roster if you haven't already.

The next few weeks should be very interesting, I'm looking forward to attempting to execute my plans as they've been sketched out, which I can almost guarantee will not. Just like Martha Wainwright's set, I'd much rather they aren't.

-FR