An odd exercise…

Fortunes_006The following is my review of my own album, Fortunes and Hat-tricks, Vol. 1.  I’m aware that it’s a little odd to write a formal review of your own album, but my hope is that it will entice a few people to give a listen who had not yet done so.  So, without further ado…

If you’ve ever been on a crowded subway car you know that things usually goes one of two ways.  The first and most likely scenario is that most everyone seems to take the crowd as a personal affront, and they aggressively assert themselves.  They tend to obnoxiously claim as much space for themselves as possible, totally disregarding everyone around them, ignoring the fact that they are all going through the exact same thing.  This approach makes the experience more difficult for everyone.  Truly no one wins.  The second way things can go is that most of the people on this crowded train car realize they are not the only ones experiencing this, and they work together leaving as much free space for others as possible, treating those around them with respect and humanity.  They take off bulky back packs and put them on their laps or between their legs.  They hold the pole so others can too, instead of leaning on it, leaving room for no one else.

Metaphorically apply the first approach to handling the subway situation to a jazz ensemble freely improvising.  Most times free improv = every-man-for-himself type of mayhem.  Each musician is so concerned he won’t have space of his own that he never leaves any space for anyone else.  Even if what each individual player is doing has musical merit, if no one is listening to anyone else or willing to leave space, the result is unmusical, the result is cacophony.  For the audience the result is, almost without exception, an aggressive and exhausting aural attack.  The audience is excluded from the performance, and honestly, so are all of the players.

Now  imagine the second approach to the crowded subway conundrum applied to free improv, and that’s what you get with Fortunes and Hat-tricks, Vol. 1.  On this album, Davis, Duncan and Tiemann cooperate in the truest sense of the word.  Here you have three musicians who are acutely aware of the space they occupy…constantly listening to each other, looking at each other, respecting each other.  In the end what you are left with is an improvised work that, though completely unplanned, has all the most important elements of composition – direction, focus, melody, development, dynamics, contour, space.  Utilizing this rather selfless approach to improvisation, everyone is serving the music and the spirit of the moment and the ensemble…and the reason for doing this in the first place.

It is near impossible to believe the first track, Good Sense Is the Master of Human Life, is the one and only take of a completely unplanned song.  So strong is the conviction of each player, so quick is each player’s ability to recognize his role and refine his approach, that the listener is positive there is at least a lead sheet or a sketched theme.  Surely there were rehearsals.  Surely there was discussion of vibe or cues at least.  Not so –  nothing of the sort in fact.  Track 2, the pensive and well-crafted The One You Admire Would Welcome a Gift, like all the other pieces on this album, had never even had its title uttered before the tape began to roll.  Even a rambunctious explosion of a song like It Is a Silly Fish That Is Caught Twice With the Same Bait, as busy as it is, has a kind of clarity that only comes from a uniquely deep level of musical coexistence.  The three improvisers work as one composer – defining and refining roles, themes and abstractions, while simultaneously leading and submitting, creating canvas and paint and piece all in a moment.  Other highlights include the dreamy and at times eery Someone Dreams of Being With You and the abstract yet playful Hat-trick #9.


Truly unique and uniquely true…

Fortunes and Hat-Tricks, Vol. 1 is available today on iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, CD Baby, Spotify, Mog….you name it!  You can also go directly to the Music Store on the Tmpf Records Facebook page to listen and purchase –

here’s a little about it:

This is an album featuring me on double bass, Jacob Duncan on Alto Sax and Jason Tiemann on drums. All songs were spontaneously composed by the trio.

There were 2 compositional concepts employed. The first I call Fortunes. I have collected 100’s of fortunes from fortune cookies over many years. Each member is given a small pile of them. We take turns drawing them. The ‘player’ who draws a fortune reads it aloud and then begins the piece. There is no discussion whatsoever about style, tempo, key, mood. We just use the fortune as a jumping off point and as an evocative title. We listen to each other for the development of themes. Truly the only rules are to listen and compose. I use the word ‘compose’ to suggest that we are not just improvising aimlessly on our instruments, but that we are open to discovering and playing a specific role within each spontaneous composition in order to instrumentally evoke the feeling of the title. Whether we are successful is totally subjective. FYI, we never listened back to anything in the studio. There was no point. Each title is discarded forever once performed live or in the studio.

The second concept employed I call Hat-Tricks. Each player writes some sort of brief instruction for another player on a slip of paper. The instruction can be abstract, musically specific, anything at all. Before each piece, each player draws a slip and reads the instruction to himself. The piece begins when each player agrees they understand their own instruction, but they do not discuss or reveal them to the others. The resulting piece is a collaborative effort where each player is bound only by his interpretation of the brief instruction he drew. Once again, the only rules are to listen and compose.

here’s a sample track…enjoy: It Is a Silly Fish That Is Caught Twice With the Same Bait

here’s another: Hat-Trick #3


OK, so I’ve been a busy bee

Well, 2 out of 3 of my new albums are out there in the online digital downloadable world now.  I See Better With My Eyes Closed and It Won’t Get Dark are both available wherever fine digital representations of music are sold.  Seriously, though, I’m excited and proud and really having fun with my new baby, Tmpf Records.  I created this label to help me organize my releases and give them a conceptual home.  I have every intention of being obnoxiously prolific, and I also plan on being equally eclectic in terms of musical style.  Tmpf will be the perfect place for my artistic pendulum.  At the moment I just have a Facebook page for the label, but it’s already decently put together and offers a place to sample some of the music and buy all of it.  Here’s where to go for that:

Soon I should be sharing some press as well as some show dates.  That’s next for sure, but meanwhile I hope you’ll go and check out the music available so far.

happy listening, people!