Monday, April 25, 2011


The last couple of weeks have been busy.  Let me start at the top...

Like I mentioned in the last blog entry, the focus in February were the recordings at McGill with the Montreal band.  It started on Wednesday the 9th at midnight at the Port Authority bus terminal, with my charts in hand, my brother with his bass,  and my musical co-conspirator Arthur Hnatek.  If you've never taken the midnight bus from NY to Montreal (or any midnight bus for that matter), I can't say that it's my favourite trip in the world.  Having lived in NY for just under two years, I've taken this bus ride more than enough times to want to avoid it if necessary.  It's not so much the discomfort that bothers me, or the dysfunctional phone calls I hear people having at 4 am, I can live with that.  It's the stop in Albany, the stop at the Duty Free, the wait at the border (someone on the bus always neglects to bring a passport) which happen to always be right about when I manage to fall asleep. Needless to say, I didn't sleep much, but got to Montreal at 8:30 the next morning.

The session was set to start at 5pm, just like the last McGill "MMR" session last year.  The first little hitch in my plan was my complete lack of drums.  My Montreal drummer Liam Killen was on another gig, but I figured I would be able to borrow a drum set somehow. I called him and headed down to McGill to try and "borrow" one of the kits in the practice rooms, much to Arthur's disdain.  With Liam's help, I managed to get the better part of two separate kits down to the studio before anyone could complain.  We entered the studio to find a crew of about 8 technicians already setting everything up, with MVP of the trip Matt Baltrucki leading the way.  Both Matt and I had learned from the first MMR session, and as a result everything was ready to go before the musicians arrived at 8:30. We had another little hitch, although it was never explained to me, I believe on of my tenor/clarinet players Giacomo Smith had showed up to the session without his tenor sax... The recording began at 9pm sharp, the band being:

Rhythm Section: Arthur Hnatek - drums, Matt Rousseau - bass, Julian Gammon - piano, Marc-Andre Giroux - guitar

Woodwinds: Ben Deschamps, Corey Armstrong, Jarryd Torff, Giacomo Smith, Sayre Schultz

Trombones: Felix Del Tredici, Gabriel Gagnon, Geoff Cronin, Taylor Donaldson

Trumpets: Simon Millerd, Carou Johnson, Dom Rossi, Fred Bourgeault, Rachel Therrien

On a side note: I had never met Rachel, as she was subbing for the recording.  On the bus ride from NY to Montreal, I noticed a girl with a trumpet that I was sure I had seen at McGill before. I remember mentioning to my brother that it was probably her that was going to be on the recording. It was pretty funny seeing her walk in to the studio...

The plan was to record all of "Somewhere In There" (yes, that's the name of the blog...) which is a 4 part suite I wrote in the summer of 2010, as well as the piece for the art exhibit based on Edouard Manet's "Le dejeuner sur l'herbe" for Le Cegep du Vieux-Montreal.  The band had played these charts enough times for me not to have to work on anything, which was awesome.  We did a few takes of each movement, with a few breaks. Luckily, I had my friends Rasa Sam-Daliri and Roxane Loumede hanging at the session, and they were able to get so much needed coffee to the band.  Robert Del Tredici was once again among us, making the largest of his works to date! This is what came out of the session (notice the feet to the left of the picture to see how massive this really is...)

  The session wrapped up around 1am, which let the band members make the last night metros.  Here's a small clip from the session, recorded by Roxane just walking around during a take (the bass and guitar amps were isolated, and the electronic track was only in our headphones so they aren't being picked up by the camera.)

Friday was a day off, so I used it to show Arthur around parts of Montreal. Matt Baltrucki and I had decided to use our smaller studio session for certain overdubs and quick fixes on Saturday night starting at midnight.  For this I needed Simon Millerd, Jacquie Christen on flute, Julian Gammon, Ben Deschamps, and Fred Bourgeault, with Arthur and Matt (Rousseau) listening in.  The session wrapped up at 5am, with Simon being the brave one and going last.

I had a gig Sunday night in NY with Dillon Baiocchi's quintet, which meant leaving Montreal at 9am, this time extremely fortunate to have my mother driving us back and hanging for a couple of days.

Having recorded the beginning of "Le dejeuner sur l'herbe", I had just under a week to create the digital component. Here is what I sent in as the description of the piece:

"The concept for the musical piece came from what struck me as the most important quality of Edouard Manet's "Le dejeuner sur l'herbe"; the juxtaposition of the "traditional" components to the piece in relation to the artist's intentions. In other words, although the subject(s) of the painting are not unlike anything the public had previously seen, the context was pure innovation. I translated this notion into a musical idea by using the same framework for the entire piece: the merging of a "traditional" setting (big band instrumentation) with a digital transformation. The piece begins with just one idea, and is slowly expanded/broken down as the listener realizes the music is heading away from conventional expectation. In the painting, there are several deformed yet beautiful components such as the use of light, the fallen fruit basket, the disproportional size of the woman in the back, the naked woman sitting across from the clothed men etc. I tried to convey this emotion through the harmony, which I based on French Impressionist composers (mainly Maurice Ravel.) I believe Edouard Manet had every intention of dismembering the Realist tradition while embracing its themes, as many great innovators in art have done."

I wish I could have spent more time on it, but I had a deadline... The exhibit starts this Thursday (27th) until the 4th of March. Please check it out if you're in Montreal, I wish I could make it! There will be art of many mediums by 18 young Montreal artists. I had a blast writing for it, I look forward to writing music based on other works of art...


Besides all of that work (including work on several other projects that are too absurd to write about right now...), I had the chance to check out a bunch of great music, much different than what I wrote about in the previous blog post.  Upon coming back from Montreal, I was able to meet up with my good friend Austin Peralta, who just released his 3rd album, Endless Planets on the Brainfeeder label, which features Ben Wendel, Zane Musa, Hamilton Price, Zach Harmon, Dr. Strangeloop, and the Cinematic Orchestra with Heidi Vogel.

Tuesday the 15th I was invited by another good friend Emma Love to see John Adams' opera "Nixon in China" at the Met Opera. We were given tickets by Bob Hurwitz (Nonesuch Records, universal badass...) whom Emma works for.  Written in 1987, it is completely of our time, which is what I loved most about it. Musically, historically, instrumentally.

That Friday John Adams was conducting the Juilliard Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and I made a quick call to another friend of mine, Adam Moezinia, who gets free tickets to Juilliard concerts by virtue of being a student there.  They played one of Adams' more recent works, "City Noir", which had mixed reviews from my peers, but I enjoyed it regardless.  They also performed "Don Juan" by R. Strauss, and Bela Bartok's "Dance Suite".

I also saw a show at the Blue Note, which I'd rather not elaborate on except to say that sometimes it takes a gig like that to appreciate everything else I get to see on a weekly basis.

That's it for now, I'll be posting the recordings of the McGill session online as soon as I get them!