Thursday, November 03, 2011

A lot of hard sight-reading

No entry for getting lost,
panicking, and soiling oneself.
An interesting day yesterday- I played two sessions in which we played through a bunch of really challenging reading. It's an interesting dynamic when a group of excellent musicians is on the raggedy edge of losing it- not what you would expect.

First, my man David Valdez had a stack of a dozen tunes by pianist George Colligan, who recently moved to Portland from New York. Colligan is a true heavy cat- he's currently in Jack Dejohnette's band, and has recorded with Bill Stewart, Lenny White, Billy Hart, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Al Foster, and... practically everyone else. He's also the author of the Jazz Truth blog- here, you're going to want to read his post on jam session etiquette if you're going to be a jazz drummer.

So, unpredictable would one of the first words that come to mind in reading through Colligan's tunes- they're generally defiant to any kind of comfortable, clich├ęd approach, with very few familiar turns. The melodies were very elusive of the type of support I'm used to giving, and I found myself latching onto the harmonic rhythm for dear life. Many delightful "oh, haha, that was the top of the form- I guess we're in bar three now" and "oops, I think that intro in 9/4 was supposed to be part of the solo form" moments were had. By the time we got to the head out I would be beginning to feel not horribly uncomfortable; I'm definitely looking forward to a second or third reading.

The second thing was a sextet project by keyboardist Andrew Durkin, who moved to Portland from LA a couple of years ago. Durkin is a self-taught (I think) composer and also an occasional blogger- he's the author of Jazz, the music of unemployment. His material is tough for a different reason- in addition to the rampant meter changes and unusual moves, his chart-writing style is a little bit naive, with a complete drum part sketched out note for note, with no indication of whether something is part of the time feel, part of an arranged passage, or an optional fill, making it very difficult to think of anything but the six inches in front of your face. It does encourage you to make a straightforward treatment that is actually very agreeable, once you give up needing to make a big personal statement out of it.

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