Perambulating the Bounds

Friday, December 30, 2005

Best of 2005: Playing Music

This, the last in my exciting series of Best of 2005 posts, is probably of little interest to anyone other than myself and the people involved. These are the best experiences I had this year playing music. In rough order of occurrence. It occurs to me that maybe there’s some stuff I’m forgetting about from early last year. So it goes.

Robert Pearson. Robert is a remarkable pianist in Houston who is not much known outside of Houston. He is completely self-taught, and has developed a style and vocabulary of total improvisation but with little or no swing – in other words, you don’t hear it as jazz, but more like classical music or some derivative from popular music. Really it is a kind of painting with sound. Robert trained as a painter. One of the things that I admire about Robert is that he has adamantly insisted on building his own approach. It would never occur to him to pattern himself on someone else, or get someone to show him how to play. The resulting sound has tremendous coherence and integrity. It’s a lot of fun for me to play with him. He plays a lot of notes, with gusts of energy, and it’s fun to throw yourself into it. I think what we do together often comes out very well, and I hope to get us recorded one of these days. I don’t think Robert has any recordings in circulation, not even informal CDRs, except he’s probably on some things from the Hawthorne Improvisation Collective or its subsidiaries.

Susan Alcorn. Susan and I played a duet after she finished her solo set in Nashville this summer, and it was really nice. Several years ago we did some in a practice in Houstonthat felt really great to me, but we haven't been able to get back to it until now. This time we were both pleased to find ourselves going into the Internationale, each of us enjoying the fact the other knew it. Susan is a person and musician who continues to be very influential for me. I’ve posted on her a couple of times. Enough said for now.

Chris Davis and Chuck Hatcher. We started playing together as a trio this year, I guess just played out once, but there are some recordings around. We were the Bloated Lackeys on that one show, but the name was in flux. This is the best place I’ve had to try out ways to express my affection for the Anthology of American Folk Music and Trad Gras och Stenar. Chuck and Chris have great frames of musical reference that I'm trying to soak in as best I can.

Cherry Blossoms. I got to sit in with the Cherry Blossoms a few times this year, playing tin whistles and stuff, and singing backgrounds once in a while. And they let me join in while they were recording with Josephine Foster, which for me as the guest was a delightful experience, one of those occasions when time just floats by blissfully.

Bluff. This always gets called Bluff Duo, but I think of it as just Bluff. Its Brady Sharp and me playing as a duet. We played on the Buzz and Click show in November, and I hadn’t been playing much, so I didn’t have a lot of lip to put into it, but I found a nice dodge by playing the clarinets without the mouthpiece. It makes funny noises, and they worked well with what Brady was doing and bought my lip some time.

Transcendental Crayon Ensemble Christmas/New Year’s show. I’ve been doing the Crayon Ensemble for years. Sometimes I find myself out of alignment with the energy required, but I was trying something new with my embouchure on soprano before this last show and was ready to see how that would work. When I’m not playing too frequently I have to warm up through the set, and late in the evening I got to a nice place on a version of My Favorite Things. We have some rotation with the drums and bass these days, and really everyone coming in is good, but on this show Greg Bryant was on bass and he is really adept at helping a horn player sound good. The other guys in the band continue to develop and change in interesting ways, like Andrew Tarpley hitting a strong stride as a soloist, or Zander Wyatt trying out new stuff.

Happy and healthy 2006 everyone.

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