Sound clips of some of the recording projects and performances I’ve been a part of over the years. Clips from recordings that are released on albums currently for sale may be edited to represent extended samples rather than posting the full clips. Enjoy, and please share if you find something that you think others might enjoy.
Sparrow and the Bear
These duet sessions with my friend Dave Klingman began in 2005 and have continued ever since, sporadically and frequently interrupted by life. Our purpose in the beginning was simply to get together and play because that’s what we live for. From the beginning, we felt that we had a special connection and decided to roll the tape on each session and then try to forget that it was rolling and just play. After each session, we listen to the results and decide if anything is worth saving. The playlist here represents a few of the cuts that we have liked over the years. In 2017, we released a full duo CD of the best of these sessions.
Composer and saxophonist Jacob Duncan has had some version of this group going pretty much ever since I can remember. The group is his outlet for his compositions and his philosophy of collective improvisation. The philosophy is simple: write music freely and intuitively, then get the best players you can find and let them have almost complete freedom in how they perform it. The results are powerful and unpredictable, and as a player, an absolute joy to be a part of. I was honored to be asked to join the ensemble sometime in 2011 when Jacob was planning music for what would eventually become the recording for the group’s second CD, Invisible House. At the time, I had no idea how much I was going to love this material or what a great recording it was going to be; I only knew that anything that got that many great musicians together in the same room to play was something I definitely wanted to be a part of. The selections here – heavily excerpted because the record is still for sale – were recorded at Ratterman studios on two very steamy days in 2011, a session that turned out to be one of the recordings I’m most proud to have been a part of.
Harry Pickens Trio
Sometime in 2001 Harry Pickens, already a giant in my personal musical mythology as a jazz piano/philosophical guru, asked me to play a few sessions with him as a bassist. This shocked me, since I had only been playing the double bass for a few years at that point and it seemed to me that – from a technical standpoint, at least – he could have done far better. In spite of this, I embraced the opportunity and accepted his offer. We quickly discovered that we were very musically compatible and soon after he asked me to join his trio with drummer Jason Tiemann. While Harry half jokingly described the trio as a “benign dictatorship”, it began as an older, more experienced player taking on a mentor role and helping to shape two younger and less experienced but extremely passionate players; from these beginnings, over the years the trio evolved into a symbiotic musical relationship based on intuition, trust, and cooperative risk taking. Many of the concepts I currently espouse in my own teaching about musical roles in collective improvisation were forged during more than a decade of performing with the trio. I would not be the musician I am today without having had this experience with these two extraordinary musicians. The performances here were recorded live at the Jazz Factory in 2005.
In 2007, Jacob Duncan asked me to join the trio for a new weekly Wednesday night session at the Nachbar on an alternating basis with bassist and long time friend Sonny Stephens. The core group consisted of Jacob and drummer Jason Tiemann. The Nachbar sessions were and are unique circumstances for musicians, because the management doesn’t put any limitations on the kind of music the regular groups play; for this reason, while the trio has always basically played “jazz” there, it’s often free and experimental and almost always pushing boundaries. It’s the place where I get my musical bi-weekly primal scream therapy, and my life is much the better for it. Visiting the Nachbar is like visiting some strange planet where normal folk, hipsters, musicians, large and small dogs, and a black cat named Magic all come together into one big weird, happy family. When the trio plays, the point of the music is to provide energy and ambience to the room while people do what they do – some listen, some don’t, most do both. In an era when many people think of jazz as “art” to be listened to reverentially in a concert hall while applauding politely after every solo whether you actually liked it or not, playing at the Nachbar somehow seems more organic and natural. The music is just an atmospheric part of the overall mood of the place and the people in it, and I love that more than I have words to express.
Todd Hildreth Trio
Todd and I have known each other for about 30 years now, and have been especially close for the last 20 of those years. When I was a jazz pianist, we used to sub for each other on gigs. When I started becoming interested in bass but was only still playing electric fretless, we got a trio together and played anywhere they would have us. Our purpose was always to explore new musical territory, and to combine our innate personality differences to do it. Todd and I are like the original Odd Couple – he’s Oscar, and I’m Felix (It just occurred to me as I wrote this that Todd and I MUST create an arrangement of that theme song for the next album). He’s the disorganized, freethinking slob, and I’m the hyper anal-retentive OCD neat freak. Musically, he phrases freely and is capable of floating long phrases over the time by simply having faith that he’ll figure out how to land when he gets there, while I’m the jackboot-clad rhythm nazi who must ALWAYS know how any syncopation or polyrhythm I’m playing relates metrically to the original pulse. Given this description, you’d think that we would have turned out to be completely incompatible, or worse, might have killed each other by now. Instead, we’ve discovered that we each have something important to offer the other, and over the years he’s become one of my greatest musical co-conspiritors and personal friends. When it’s time to play together, I always know that something good will happen because we are so different from each other that we have to react to what the other one is doing. These samples are from two trio CD’s that are currently available, and are for this reason heavily excerpted.
Early in the first decade of the 21st century, I was fortunate enough to be able to play with several incarnations of the local original music group Java Men. Originally founded by Todd Hildreth, Craig Wagner, and drummer Ray Rizzo, the group eventually added bass to the lineup in order to free up Todd’s left hand, which apparently had been complaining bitterly about having to carry the burden of the bass duties while everyone else’s left hands were free to do as they pleased. These recordings were made in 2005 for an album that was never released before the group disbanded. Creating music with these brilliant goofballs was one of the great highlights of my early musical growth as a double bassist. To this day, I love them all like brothers both on stage and in real life.