Thursday, January 27, 2011

Aeroplane Trio Gig Review

Aeroplane Trio was the featured band last night at Presentation House Studio.  The band has been around for about 10 years now and features some very fine musicians:  JP Carter (trumpet), Russell Sholberg (bass), and Skye Brooks (drums).   The music last night was very carefully and slowly constructed, mostly arising from very small, delicate and gentle sounds.  Using free improv as the basis for much of their playing, the group creates extended drone-like textures and repeated rhythmic patterns which evolve very gradually.  JP has an extraordinary range of extended techniques on the trumpet: digeridoo-like, circular-breathed pedal tones and all manner of squeals grunts, and squelches in combination with various mutes.  He seems to carefully ration his use of his remarkable sound arsenal, squeezing every possible variation out of each texture while avoiding repetition and recycling.  When he finally lets the trumpet speak in a conventional way, the sound is very fat and brassy and he diplays his gift for lyrical and poignant melody.  Russell and Skye not only have a great rhythmic 'hookup', but also have developed a common vocabulary of unique grooves and clever ways of cueing and altering these in subtle ways.  I thought Russ' new bass sounded especially great.

I have played with all of these guys in various settings and what always strikes me about them is that they are great listeners.  Of course a lot of musicians are great listeners, but these three are special in that they each seem to approach the bandstand without preconceptions and with a willingness to contribute only what naturally arises from a group's musical dynamic.  One never gets a feeling of ego or musical 'selfishness' when listening to them or playing with them.

I had a great time listening and especially liked hearing a band that plays completely together in such an organic and unified way.  It is obvious that they have played together a lot and have worked hard to create a cohesive group sound and aesthetic.  Unfortunately, the turnout was the worst we've had at the concert series for several months.  Maybe there was a hockey game?  It was a shame really as I think the music was of a very high calibre and also that the band was one of the best-suited groups we've had there in terms of the acoustics of that room.  Presentation House Studio can feel a little small when a band gets loud, but these guys had a such a great control of the dynamics that you could hear every detail with wonderful clarity.  Whether for good or ill, some of the best music in the jazz and improv traditions seems to be made for small but appreciative audiences in do-it-yourself conditions.  This has been true for many gigs that I have played and also many where I have been one of the few listeners.  I think perhaps the sense of intimacy and trust which is more natural under these conditions helps to feed the music in a different way than the energy of a big crowd. Those of us who were there had a special experience.  Thanks guys!

The band has a new CD out on Jesse Zubot's fantastic dripaudio label.  Check it out.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gig with Dylan Van der Schyff and Clyde Reed

I'm playing Wednesday evening at Presentation House Studio with Dylan Van der Schyff (drums) and Clyde Reed (bass).  I've known Dylan for over 20 years now.  He was the drummer in a band called Sound and Fury that I co-led with Len Aruliah in the early 1990s.  We worked together in a number of other ad-hoc musical situations around that time and then, in 1997, I left Vancouver for a few years and only saw Dylan on occasional visits back home.  While I was away, Dylan kept very busy making very fine music with other great players all over Europe, the US and Canada.  He is an extremely creative and intelligent musician with a tremendous capacity for listening and intense interaction.  These are also qualities shared by Clyde Reed.  When I moved back to Vancouver, I somehow started playing a bit with Clyde and now we have become very frequent collaborators in music, academic writing, and as co-presenters of the Presentation House Series.  Clyde has been playing improvised music since before I was born and has turned out to be a very important mentor for me in many ways.  I'm looking forward to continuing my musical explorations with Clyde and reconnecting with Dylan. Music starts at 8:30pm.  Address is 333 Chesterfield St in North Vancouver.  $8 at the door.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Collaboration with Jason Thornton

I'm playing at Presentation House Studio this Wednesday evening with Dr. Jason Thornton.  Jason is a very fine saxophonist and music educator from Sidney, Australia.  He's up in these parts skiing with his family and enjoying what in Vancouver passes for a Canadian Winter.  Jason contacted me through my website and we decided to set up a gig while he's here to try making some music.  I just rehearsed yesterday with Jason and the band (Brent Gubbels on bass and Joe Poole on drums) and it looks like it will be a lot of fun.  He has a very thick and warm sound, a very direct and emotional approach to the tunes, and seems comfortable playing just about anything. Like a lot of Australians I have known, Jason is a very friendly and gregarious type and seems really to enjoy life.  On the gig we'll play a few standards, a few of my tunes, and do a little free playing as well. 

I especially enjoyed hearing Joe and Brent yesterday.  Their approach is very different from the players in my quartet, Stan Taylor and Al Johnston, but it is great to try some different sounds and grooves with such fine musicians. They are one of the best rhythm sections around and make it very easy to play music.   Brent has one of the best upright bass sounds I have ever heard and seems to be able to amplify the instrument in a very 'transparent' way.   Joe has recently acquired a bunch of cymbals that belonged to Elvin Jones and boy does Joe know how to make them sizzle.  At the rehearsal he was playing the ride cymbal that we are fairly certain was played on Coltrane's "Crescent".  For a Coltrane nut like me this was a magical sound and feeling!

Joe and Brent and I have been friends for years and they are also great guys off the bandstand.  As I said in my last post, the friendship and community feeling with other players is one of the big rewards of being a musician.  I really love the fact that the jazz tradition provides these opportunities to play with people from anywhere in the world with very little notice or rehearsal. People who have never met before can become fast friends in just one gig when the condifitons are right.  I always enjoy making these connections with visiting musicians and when I'm abroad I do my best to do some playing.  I'm looking forward to this one!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


I've been thinking a lot about how I have become the musician I am and what kind of musician I'd like to be.
with Len Aruliah at the The Cross Kings, Kings Cross, London.
Last week, I started writing arrangements of some tunes by my great friend, Len Aruliah, and it was very striking to me how much I had learned by playing his music.  Though we have both had many important teachers, I  came to the realization that Len and I really taught ourselves and each other to play by writing tunes for our various collaborative bands and playing a lot of gigs together.  This was especially true when I was in my early twenties, but continues today.  A lot of musicians talk about their influences only in terms of the famous musicians to whom they listen.   This is quite right of course.  My musical direction has been deeply affected by recordings by Jim Hall, John Coltrane, Django Reinhardt, Kenny Wheeler, and a big list of others.  Nevertheless, it seems that the older I get, the more I see the influence of my friends as paramount for my musical growth.

This is quite a natural thing, I think, and very much a part of the jazz tradition.  At my quartet gig this week, I really noticed how we are starting to play certain kinds of phrases and chords in more and more unified way.  I'm not just talking about playing 'tighter' as a band, though that is part of it, but that our playing is actually influenced and developed by the music we have made together over the years.  You notice this kind of thing in some families where certain unique phrases, expressions, or ideas are shared.  I'm deeply grateful for the musical and personal influences of my musical family: Rob Kohler, Len Aruliah, Stan Taylor, Brad Muirhead, Clyde Reed,  Daniel Heila, Al Johnston, Lorne Kellett, Joe Poole, Tim Barrett, Bill Clark, Dave Robbins, Al Matheson, Dave Branter, Coat Cooke, Hari Pal, Karen Graves, Tommy Babin, Stephen Robb, Curtis Andrews, Pepe Danza, Brent Gubbels, Ed Orgill, Kevin Hoferer, Sonya Lawson, Ross Bliss and so many others.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Jared Burrows Quartet Gig

My quartet is playing tomorrow night at the Jazz at Presentation House Studio series in North Vancouver.  The band is Lorne Kellett (piano), Allan Johnston (bass), Stan Taylor (drums) along with yours truly. We'll play my tunes and a few by the other band members.
 This is an artist-run weekly series embracing the full spectrum of jazz and improvised music from trad to post-bop, free improv to world music fusions.  Clyde Reed and I founded the series and do the booking.  Presentation House Studio is an historic former church with excellent acoustics where the audience can be up close and personal with the musicians. The series has been running since April of 2009 and it is starting to become an important part of the scene here.  I have really enjoyed playing with a lot of different people on the series and, equally, have enjoyed hearing some of the great bands that have come to play.  Come on out!

333 Chesterfield Avenue (3rd St. one block west of Lonsdale) 
North Vancouver
Wednesday, January 5, at 8:30pm.
Admission $8 at the door. Free tea and cookies.