The decision to bring the big band out on a small tour came to Sammy Miller and I after receiving some news that came to me as a surprise regarding my plans in the upcoming year. We had decided that bringing our projects out on the road would be the perfect start to what would be my first year out of school. We met for lunch on April 17th and talked through the possibilities, prompting me to start making phone calls to my band members. I had a few factors to work out:
1. I had just applied for a new visa, which would restrict my ability to travel.
2. The dates would only work if we started on the 14th of May, which happened to be the last weekend of the semester.
3. We only had 3 weeks to co-ordinate venues and musicians.
4. We didn't have a van large enough to accommodate 17 musicians, and as far as I knew, renting one was out of the question.
5. I had to finish up my school year (which would mark the completion of my studies at the New School.)
The task was daunting, but I knew I could make it work as long as I had the right people with me. I bounced the idea off of my two instructors for the semester, Kirk Nurock and Ben Wendel, both of whom expressed enthusiasm and encouragement.
I would rather spare the details of the organization, as the plan changed (to my frustration) too many times for comfort. I had a hybrid of the Montreal and NY bands, with "Sammy Miller and the Congregation" built in to my group, with the exception of Sammy and Adam Moezinia. From Montreal I had Ben Deschamps on alto/flute/soprano, Carou Johnson on trumpet, Felix Del Tredici and Gab Gagnon on trombones. From NY I had my brother Matt Rousseau on bass, Arthur Hnatek on drums, Dominic Mekky on piano, Cody Rowlands, Ben Kreitman and Francesco Fratini on trumpets, Levon Henry and Sami Bronowski on tenors, and Sarah Safaie on bari. This left some room for players from each city to play gigs without coming on the road with us.
I left New York on Thursday May 12th at 11pm after a 20th Century Classical History exam. I had to go to Montreal to get my father's car to bring back to NY in order to have room for all of the musicians and gear. We would also have Ben Deschamps and Dom Mekky's cars. With me was my "significant other" Hannah for company. Anyone who has taken the NY/MTL bus knows that the experience is softened with someone else, which was amazing of her. We got to the border at 7:30 and waited until 9:30 to leave. Someone always neglects to be prepared and the whole bus has to wait. We got home, ate, and packed the car for NY with a turnaround time of 2 hours. We had a little hiccup right as we were leaving, as we found out that my father's car wasn't registered. My mom vowed to look for the registration paper, and we took off with the risk of traveling with an unregistered vehicle (I didn't mention this to anyone…) We picked up Felix at McGill, and headed south. When we got to the border, we had a stubborn guard who didn't like the fact that Felix had an instrument and few clothes with him. After asking us questions for 10 minutes, she asked that we pull over due to a missing signature on my visa. We waited for 45 minutes before being called up. The woman explained to me that getting my visa signed was pretty useless since it was expiring in 3 days. I figured it wouldn't be worth an explanation, confronting border guards isn't a hobby of mine. We got to New York late in the evening safe and sound.
|Michael and Arthur|
|Sammy Miller and the Congregation (with Ben Flocks and Josh Crumbly)|
|Setting up at Bar 9 in Ithaca|
|FACE performance (as people started coming in)|
|Setting up for the corporate event|
One of the large issues I've been dealing with is my self-imposed pressure to write new music that is "better" than my previous compositions. Having read the autobiographies of John Adams and Miles Davis recently, I am encouraged at the prospect of trying things in my music that feel natural and current, over having to squeeze in elements of the "history" that is associated with a big band. One of my mentors once shared with me an anecdote that has stayed with me over the years (I'll eventually laugh at myself for using the expression "over the years" at 21…). He had been assigned a creative writing exercise that was open to any subject and narrative, essentially coming up with a short story of his choosing without any restrictions. He had decided to write an army submarine story (much like The Hunt for Red October) and turned it in to his teacher, who told him it was well written but asked him what knowledge or experience he had with submarine life, the answer to which was obviously none. I've felt kinship with this ideal since the beginning of my post-secondary musical education, and my ability to express it without coming off as dismissive has gotten me into some interesting discussions. My question to listeners is this: if my group began to play repertoire of the 30's and 40's big band era, could it have cultural relevance for something other than a throwback to the music of those times? I'm not in any way undermining the beauty and significance of that music. I'm constantly thinking about environment, time, and necessity to all works of art, especially when I write my own music. Just a thought…
Also, previous to the tour I played a really fun duo gig with Jenny Szelag at the Brooklyn Lyceum!
Listening-wise: I've been checking out a lot of Aaron Copland's music, especially his "Third Symphony". I've also been listening to Tigran Hamasyan's "A Fable" non-stop. I'm not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier article, but Baths' album "Cerulean" has been a highlight for me in the last couple of months. "12 Songs by Charles Ives" from Theo Bleckmann and Kneebody has also been playing a lot recently. Lastly, but certainly not least, Keith Jarrett's "My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux". That's all for now. Thanks for reading this entire article!
|The Notorious Adam Moezinia|