Back Home Blues
Well, it’s great to be back, even though I came down with a cold just in time for the flight. But I had the good fortune of needing an unforeseen root-canal that had me nearly upside down in a dentist’s chair for two days. What with all the scraping, poking, and stabbing, my cold has left me, possibly in search of a quieter host. My performance at the Stone with Denman Maroney and Bob Meyer went very well. I had hoped to make up for missing Mark Dresser in San Francisco by attending his Cornelia Street performance, but the group that I’m bringing into Cornelia Street at the end of the month (Monday, June 27th) landed something for the same evening. My wife and her friend went to see Mark, but were sent to stand across the street by the establishment because they didn’t have reservations and decided to leave. So, if you’re planning on attending on the 27th and would rather not stand in a separate (but possibly equal) line, call for reservations!
The remainder of the International Society of Bassists convention was both stunning and anticlimactic. I listened to bassist Gene Perla play a fabulous set of music with locals pianist Sean Gough and drummer John Arkin and joined by vocalist Viktorija Gecyte. Wayne Darling followed by displaying his flowing over-the-bar approach to jazz improvisation with pianist Bill Mays. Again, I couldn’t see Mark Dresser’s lecture/demonstration on bass pedagogy (room was too full), so I went to veteran bassist Putter Smith’s performance. I met Smith years ago in Los Angeles and had a ball hanging out and talking about strings and rosin, but never heard him play until then. His technique, while absolutely unorthodox, is flawless and facile. He was accompanied by multiple woodwind player Gary Foster and together they played a set that conjured memories of the Red Mitchell and Warne Marsh duos of 1980. Putter, who many know as Mr. Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever, also authored a book, The Improvising Handbook for Double Bass, which I couldn’t find at the convention. The next bassist, Jiri Slavik, wasn’t from America, but he did play a great American work—Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence”—fifth in his impromptu program’s line up. He was so good that his peers couldn’t applaud until then. Keep your eyes out for the Czech-born, Paris-based 25-year old’s future releases.
That was stunning, the anticlimactic part was the end of the affair. Most of my colleagues had left for home by the time Michael Manring performed the closing concert. Sadly, he was also the only bass guitarist at the convention, something he remarked about at the onset of his performance. He followed a wonderful performance by Nicholas Walker (accompanied by Bill Mays) whose self-composed “Grease Fantasy” far surpassed my initial skepticism. It was a tour-de-force of upright bass playing that opened a diverse program that featuring the music of J.S. Bach as well as Bill Evans. Ithaca College made a good choice in adding a virtuoso like Walker to their faculty.
I posed a question last week about whether or not the sound reinforcement engineer should be included as a partner in performances of improvised music. So often the attitude is “He vs. We” when it comes to live performances and recording dates. I only had one off-blog response from someone who prefers to remain anonymous:
The separation between artistic and technical will never be fully resolved, because everybody’s experience in grappling with that dichotomy is based on stressful events. I think that other than technical comments, I would say that if the players do not regard the sound person as a musical partner, they shouldn’t expect musical results.
I think this gets right to the heart of the matter. I have had both good and bad experiences with sound engineers. Some of the worst and the best have been with the same one! I hope you’ll share your thoughts about this rather important and vexing aspect of music performance, especially as it applies to music that is largely indeterminate as to form. In the meantime, I go back to my prolonged antibiotic-induced nap.