Thursday, December 24, 2015

January 2016

You can see below what we have cooked up for January at Space Exchange:

January 5 will be a particularly intense night for me. I'll first be playing at the Backstage Bar (first time in several years) with Thoth Trio, that's 5-8pm. Then I pack up head over to the Thunderbird Cafe to blow out the night with Sound/Unsound Trio, my group with Josh Wulff on guitar and David Throckmorton on drums. And of course, Thoth Trio the following week at the TBird. We premiered a couple of pieces on our last gig and I hope to have a few more pulled together for that one.

And it's all free.

As noted on the bottom of the image, this starts our fifth year of Space Exchange concerts. What a time it's been! I'd hardly have any work at all were it not for this. That makes me a little concerned that I'm being too complacent in locating more performance opportunities, but on the other hand it's been a great place to develop ideas and work with new people. We believe we've maintained a pretty high standard for our concerts and we intend to continue that for as long as we can.

Looking to the future, I have another performance of my Concerto for Orkestra planned for April 12 at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. I want to first of all get it performed at least once more, but also hopefully record an even sharper performance for possible release. Mark your calendars (or whatever the digital version of that action might be) because, who knows if I'll ever get it played again?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

December Space Exchange

December 2015 will see the end of four years of Space Exchange concerts. (Not that we're stopping!) I'm sure many would be surprised we've lasted this long. If you attend these shows, first of all thank you for your patronage. I'm happy that we can bring you this series and hope to keep it fresh and interesting. Many many thanks to John Pergal and the Thunderbird Cafe for supporting this idea. And not to lecture, but if you do come to the shows, remember that the Thunderbird is there to sell you food and drinks. It goes a long way if everyone attending buys at least one thing. The shows are free, after all.

December will see more appearances by me than usual. On the 1td, I'll be in the saxophone seat with Blink; we'll also be playing Friday at the James Street Speakeasy & Gastropub. The 8th is Space Exchange standard bearer Thoth Trio, me with Paul Thompson and David Throckmorton. I'll be sitting in on a few things with Ian Gordon on the 15th, and playing here and there on Chris Parker's 2nd annual Chrisparkermas show.

Apart from that, not a lot of things for me to mention for the time being.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

November part 1

I'm just on Nov. 17 but check out everything if you can.

Monday, October 5, 2015

In case anyone is paying attention...

Here's the Space Exchange schedule for October. I'll be playing the first two, and happy to have Matt and Chris back in town again. It'll be the last time for Matt for a while, Chris will be returning at least by December. I gave up my leader night to Lina Allemano. This group is her more Ornette-ish combo.
I'll also be playing with Matt and Chris in Silk Sound. We're playing a free concert at Bellefield Hall in Oakland on Oct. 9, 7pm.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Billy Strayhorn and OPEK

Billy Strayhorn famously grew up in Pittsburgh (although, he was born in Dayton OH!), and this year is the 100th anniversary of his birth. So, you don't hear much about Pittsburgh-based tribute concerts, do you? I've known of one or two, with no doubt more planned for his November birthday.

The First Fridays concert series, associated with the Frick Museum, wanted to have at least one concert dedicated to Strayhorn's music and legacy. So wouldn't you know it, one of the people in the organization is an acquaintance, and dropped my name as a possible participant. When contacted and asked if I could do a Strayhorn event, my response was like any good musician's offer of a gig: "Yes, I can do that."

Truth is, I've been a defender of Strayhorn's work for years. That's not hard to do, but there are those who still feel he basically copped Ellington's act. There's probably no question of Duke's influence on Strayhorn (though no more so than Gershwin or Romantic Russian composers). Research has finally started to untangle Strayhorn's works from Ellington's, as Strayhorn was often not given credit in recording notes. I recommend the great book Something to Live For if you're interested, and David Hadju's biography Lush Life is essential reading. While a great contributor to the Ellington organization and legacy, he was in many ways his own man as a composer.

So, Sept. 4, OPEK will play a program of mostly Strayhorn compositions. Follow this link while it's still relevant, for information. Get there early! These events are always very busy.

Did I mention it's free? Or at least, a requested donation. See you there, I hope!

Space Exchange, Sept. 2015


If anyone is paying attention, you'll notice I haven't posted here for some time. August saw some Space Exchange cancellations for reasons I won't go into, but we're back to almost-full force on September. (Fishbone is booked at the Thunderbird on the 8th, I could hardly stand in the way of that.) I myself will be just playing the 22nd. You can see for yourself what a great lineup this is, including the return of Colter Harper after two years in Ghana.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 11 2015

Ornette Coleman died today. At 85, it shouldn't come as any surprise, no matter how much longer I wish he could have been around.

I saw Ornette play twice, both times in Pittsburgh at the Carnegie Music Hall. The first time was in 1982 with the original Prime Time: Jamaaladeen, Dernado, Bernie Nix, etc. He stood in the center with a guitar/bass/drums trio flanking him on each side. I barely knew who Ornette was at the time but the tickets were cheap, the location within walking distance, and I was always looking for concerts to attend.

It was loud, much too loud for that particular room. It was a polymetric, polytonal funk attack. The records largely don't do the group justice, the exceptions maybe being "Dancing In Your Head" and some of "In All Languages" (though those cuts are much too short). A friend said afterwards, "I didn't expect Ornette Coleman to play disco!" (Hardly qualified, by the way.)

Whatever chaos was happening around him, Ornette was always calm and in charge. Without any firsthand knowledge, I suspect he was a very good and benevolent bandleader.

I saw him again in the 90s, I can't recall what year. That group had a tabla, a fusiony keyboardist, a fusiony guitarist. I didn't like the band at all. But Ornette was worth seeing for Ornette, he played fluidly and was in complete control.

I think of two things first and foremost with Ornette. First, there's Ornette the melodist. He could write an instantly recognizable tune. Many have an almost folk-like character, even if they don't seem to be referring to any particular folk tradition. Oh, there are those tunes, especially when you start hitting the third and fourth Atlantic LPs, that seem to be almost a blur of notes. But listen to pieces like "Lonely Woman", "Kathelin Grey", "Peace" (one of my all time favorite melodies), "Blues Connotation", "Sadness", and so many others, you should be able hear what a gift he had for creating a very direct melody.

The other thing about Ornette...let me put it this way: he was so controversial for (largely) dispensing with standard chord changes for improvised soloists. Many musicians and fans at the time thought he was a fake or charlatan, that it was cheating, that he was just doing whatever he wanted and who cares about the rules.

Here's the greater truth: if you're a musician, try working without chord changes. Try playing an improvised solo without having a particular sequence of chords, or even a defined modality, to support you. You'll find that in fact it can be very difficult to do. It's hard to play a cohesive statement without that proverbial safety net of established harmonic content. One of the things chord changes do for jazz soloists is provide drive and direction; you know a certain harmonic shift will happen at a certain time, and it provides structure for what you spontaneously play.

It would be too simple to say that Ornette made things harder by freeing himself of chord changes. I think he was following his muse, as they say, and that's as much of a  model as anything else he did. It is not fair to say that he made things easy for himself though.

I'm grateful for this music, to Ornette himself, someone I'll never get to meet unfortunately. I think I would have been too nervous to say anything to him anyway. Let's continue to study and celebrate Ornette's music, just as we make room for subsequent generations who have learned from him.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

June Space Exchange

Hope to see you this month!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Looking to May

Space Exchange this coming May:

So this month I've willingly given over my slot to Lina Allemano and her quartet, making their second appearance on the Space Exchange series. They're a great free jazz group from Toronto and should not be missed, particularly at the price.

I will be joining Matt Booth with Palindromes, with the two saxophone/two bass/drum lineup we did a few months ago.  That should be a lot of fun. It will also be Matt Booth's final appearance on the Space Exchange series as a regular contributor, as he is moving to New Orleans on June 1st. No doubt he'll be back for various visits in the future, but otherwise he presence will be sorely missed. Looks like Throck and I will have to double down our efforts to keep the series as fresh and exciting as we believe it has been.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

A glacially increasing international presence

Blogger lets you see the countries of people who have browsed your blog. (Not to mention things such as OS, browser, etc.) So, nineteen hits from the Ukraine?

I suppose there's a comment in there somewhere about not only how ubiquitous our data network is, but how anything posted publicly online can travel around the world and be seen by anyone. (Note to my college students: always keep this in mind and don't post embarrassing things online. Be mindful of your digital footprint.)

So, to all my Ukrainian, German, Romanian, French, Australian, Canadian, British, Indonesian, and Polish friends, here are a few things happening in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, North America.

April at Space Exchange

Here's how our current month's schedule will look. I'll be on the hit for the last two, though who knows? Chris might ask me to stop by on the 14th, we'll see.

Of course Thoth Trio is my long-standing group with Paul Thompson and David Throckmorton. The "electric" version means Paul might bring electric bass, and I'll definitely bring things like my laptop and other gadgets.

Matt Booth's Palindromes on the 28th I think will be the mighty version with Jeff Grubbs playing bass along with Matt. At least, I think I have that right.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Space Exchange, March 2015

I'll be on three out of four of these. Note the gap for the 17th, where the Thunderbird (rightly) wants to make more serious money on St. Patrick's Day. Palindromes is led by Matt Booth, with John Petrucci and David Throckmorton, playing pieces by Matt and other things he's chosen, often from the Paul Motian book. Thoth Trio is of course my group with Paul Thompson and David Throckmorton. The Synthesis Quartet is basically the same lineup as Palindromes, only this time I'm leading and it's an all Anthony Braxton-themed performance. We hope to see you there!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Three gigs, three days

Tonight! (Tuesday Feb. 17) Space Exchange presents Book Exchange: Ben Opie, Jeff Grubbs, and David Throckmorton. It's a great rhythm section and a fun opportunity for me to blow on some pieces I like. Thunderbird Cafe, Butler St near 40th in Lawrenceville, 9-midnight, free.

Tomorrow! Thoth Trio at the Pitt Student Center, Nordy's Place. Noon-1. Matt Booth ably fills in the bass seat this afternoon.

Thursday! Matt Booth and I will play duo style, opening for the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble at the Aesthetic Parlour in Lawrenceville. Contact me for more details.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sunday, Feb. 8

I got the call from Jeff Berman...he needed me to fill in at the James Street with his quartet again, so I'm there. 6-9pm.

While we're at it, this is happening earlier in the day:

I intend to be there.

Plus, support the Hollywood, they're a great institution.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

This Saturday

Hey hey,

This last week was busy and I hope you were around to check things out. This Saturday, Matt Booth, David Throckmorton and I will be blowing some tunes at the UUBU 6 Restaurant on the Southside Slopes: 7-9pm.

Here's a very brief bit of the Hollywood gig on Sunday:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

This week's events

Saturday, Jan. 24: 4th Call will be appearing at the James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy 9pm-midnight. ( The listing will be for "David Throckmorton's Quartet", though we'll be five in number: John Petrucelli, Reggie Watkins, Matt Booth, Throck and myself. Mostly or all Thelonious Monk.

Sunday, Jan. 25: 3pm, I'll be in a duet with guitarist Josh Wulff, playing live accompaniment to the film Nanook of the North. I'm told some "oohs and ahs" went up when this was announced at the previous "Silents, Please!" event, so we're hoping for a good crowd. Would love to see you there!

6-9pm: I pack up my gear and head over to the James St. again, to play with Jeff Berman's Blink (with Jeff Grubbs and Throck again). Two gigs in a day is not a record for me, but it is unusual. Especially two really fun events, for me at least.

In case you're interested, the debut Silk Sound CD is now available: It's an edited version of our debut concert, and sounds quite good.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Thank you Australia!

Early January addendum

To add to a previous post, I'll be playing with George Jones' New View Trio (+ 1) at the James Street Speakeasy and Gastropub this coming Sunday, January 11 at 6pm. I'm happy to just be blowing some tunes sometimes, and George is one of the few guys who call me for a gig of any sort.

Tomorrow (Jan. 8) I'll be over at WESA answering questions about Silk Sound again. Don't know when it will be broadcast.