One of my favorite ways to express myself in music is through my solo guitar work. The technical and creative challenges of being a ‘one man band’ have always inspired me. But like some of my solo artist heroes who also can thrive in group settings (Fats Waller, Jaki Byard, Roscoe Mitchell, Steve Lacy) I have been finding of late some deeply rewarding experiences through the art of collaboration. I am very excited to be a part of the Pablo Ablanedo Octeto
This group features the original work of Pablo, an Argentinian born composer and pianist which is rooted in the traditions of Argentina, American Jazz and 20th Century classical music. His music is a challenge to me in the best sense, always there is something new to learn especially in terms of the rhythmic vocabulary of Argentinian music. The melodies are elegant and often sweet but the harmony can be surprising dissonant and is indebted to Stravinsky. Perhaps this is why I have such a strong connection to the structure and mood of Pablo’s music for we share similar harmonic palettes, both born from the music of the Russian Maestro we both love. The band is also inspiring because of the unique perspectives and personalities that fill out the roster. The rhythm section is from Argentina (Fernando Huergo, bass and Franco Pinna, drums) and Fernando Brandao, flute, is from Brazil. The rest of the band is rounded out with players from around the U.S. We all bring our own conceptions of improvisation and groove and find a way to blend it together to make the music come alive with personality. Isn’t that obvious, but in the post-music-school professional world in which we live you would be surprised to know just how homogenized jazz is these days. Everyone knows the same scales, the same tunes, the same way to take things ‘out’ or ‘in’, they play with similar grooves etc. But this group is different. There is a fair sized age range along with the added international perspective that heightens the contrast of stylistic approaches to Pablo’s music. The result is a tight knit unit that thrives on individuality even within the confines of some very specific writing. Kudos to Pablo for finding players like Kelly Roberge, Daniel Ian Smith and Phil Grenadier who all have unique narratives to share in their solos. To see this band in action I recommend checking it out on Oct. 11th at the Regattabar in Harvard Sq.
The other collaboration that has captured my imagination of late is closer to home, The Infrared Band, however, not the quartet version but the sextet version. I have been working on a few grants recently, pitching big ideas for a song cycle derived from themes of American Mythology and the myth cycle of Joseph Campbell. In the meantime, while I wait to hear if my dream ensemble of a nonet can be funded, I am reworking the IRB repertoire for sextet with the addition of Jerry Sabatini, trumpet and Joel Yennior, trombone. You may recall my blog from June about the IRB playing the night the Bruins won the Cup. That night, the IRB’s second set was all sextet pieces. It was just too much fun, a sextet in this day and age may as well be a big band because it is so rare to see working ensembles larger than quartets. It is usually too expensive to run a large group, but luckily the IRB is blessed with being able to play at Johnny D’s, one of the few NON-pay-to-play venues for independent artists on the east coast. Come see us stretch out on some new arrangements on Nov. 2 at Johnny D’s. We are sharing the bill with another cool collaboration, a quartet with myself, Pandelis Karayogis on fender rhodes, Luther Gray on drums and Jacob Williams on bass. The group plays all new original pieces with lots of room for group and solo improvisation.
All this collaboration this fall is keeping me busy and truly inspiring me to arrange, rearrange and compose new works. But… I am also keeping my solo chops up too and taking my ‘American Fear’ repertoire on the road to France in October to play the Atlantique Festival de Jazz. If you happen to be in France, come to Brest and check out a show or two, I am playing Oct. 16th and Oct. 19th.