Hearsay

3.4.11
This site has been sitting on the web like a forgotten relic for some time now, so I thought I’d slowly redesign it and start writing some to reminisce about things that have happened and talk about some of the things to come.

This site was originally made bymy friend Christen Napier (check out her experimental folk band Cutleri) to coincidewith the release of my first CD, “Hearsay”, about ten years ago. Strangely enough Ergo just went back to the same studio to record a new album with guests Mary Halvorson, Sebastian Kruger and Christian Fennesz, almost ten years to the day.

So for the ten year anniversary I thought I’d talk a little bit about the experience and share some music with anyone who’s interested.

Hearsay was, in retrospect, the culmination of my goals and interests while at Manhattan School of Music, I can hear a lot of my favortie influences from those days in the compositions, which I’ll talk about more in later posts. The recording included my MSM classmates Jason Moran and Eric Harland, who were already rising jazz stars then, but agreed to let me take advantage of our friendship and play for very little. After I graduated I lived in Boston for a while where I met bassist John Sullivan, who was then my roommate for a while when I moved back to New York. His friend trumpeter Avishai Cohen lived nearby, so we spent a lot of time hanging out, getting into trouble in those days. I didn’t know Aaron Stewart very well, he’s sort of elusive, but I had heard him a few times and met him through Jason.

When I was in college I was obsessed with Duke Ellington’s music for a few years. There’s just so much of it, with so many different moods, colors, personalities in many different era’s and phases. I tried to get my hands on as much as I could find, and there are some amazing little obscure gems in his fifty year output. One of them being the title track, “Hearsay”, from the “Deep South Suite”, which also included the Ellington blues epic “Happy-Go-Lucky Local” (later ripped off and made into a hit called “Night Train” by Duke’s saxophonist Jimmy Forrest). Hearsay was said to be about the unspoken things that happen in the deep south. Duke’s version is much more elaborate with no improvisation, and a highly orchestrated overture section and exposition surrounding the melody played by trumpeter Shorty Rogers with a hauntingly beautiful tone.

For our version I only used the melody and it’s form for improvisation, for the intro and outro I adapted a canonical ostinato from an earlier piece I had written. Listening back to this now, my tone seems very strange, sort of muted and froggy, I think it’s opened up and improved a lot. I no longer really attempt to play in this bop-based way, these days I play in a simpler way that has more to do with texture and melody I think. I think that’s positive though because I feel like I’ve progressed. I especially love Avishai’s solo because it’s both beautifully structured and unpredictable, and the adroit, timbral shift by the rhythm section at the very beginning of it is so hip too.

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