Unlike the Classical player, the jazz artist must achieve a technique that uncovers the self, that answers the question that Ellison says is the question of American art: Who am I?
-Robert G O’Meally, from the introduction ‘Jazz Shapes’ to Ralph Ellison’s “Living with Music”
(header photo by Bryan Mir)
I am musically restless. Sometimes I feel unsettled, unprepared, uneasy – maybe a sense of searching is a more appropriate (positive?) way of putting it. There are times when I think this is a good thing, other times – maybe not. I get bored with myself.
Many of my favorite musicians possess this quality of searching and evolution in their music. I am fascinated by musicians who started out playing a certain way, but evolved their style, sound, vocabulary, and musical identities. Keep pushing, keep moving, keep creating.
Maybe this is the way? Maybe this is a way. Maybe this is my way? I am finding my way.
I am excited about this most recent project, KASE. KASE is myself on trumpet/electronics, John Christensen on bass, and Knowsthetime (Ian Carroll) on turntables and electronics. We will be inventing textural soundscapes – incorporating live beats, turntablism, electronic elements, and extended improvisations into the music we create. References for this project run the gamut from the contemporary mainstream to the avant guard to the classic … mixing jazz & hiphop is like mixing jazz and jazz – different branches of the same tree. That said, we hope to create something new and unexpected with this band and invite you to join us on that journey.
Every musician has a number of experiences that form who they are to become, from inspiring teachers or performances, to one-time live concerts that leave a lasting impression.
I was fortunate at a young age to have teachers that exposed me to great music at key points in my development. My 7th grade guidance counselor gave me a copied cassette tape of 60’s-era Miles Davis, when he saw and heard that I had an inclination toward jazz music. My private lesson teacher in middle/high school and I would often spend our entire lesson trading choruses and fours along with Aebersold records – absorbing the feel and spirit of the music, not worrying about licks and patterns. One particular college professor and I would spend entire lessons playing a single tune, him accompanying beautifully and artistically on piano, with only a few words of advice… Professor: “Did you realize you were breathing every four measures?” Me: “No. No, I didn’t” Prof: “Well… don’t do that. Don’t let your ideas be confined to just four-bar increments.” All of these things were important guide posts along the way to me forming my identity as a musician.
Around 1997 or 98, I was invited to attend a rehearsal with a band that was looking to add a trumpet player. Being about 18-19 years old, and not having had worked a whole lot, it was an exciting proposition. I only knew the saxophonist and trombonist casually, having played in the University Big Band with them for about a semester. The first rehearsal was in a dingy basement in a mysterious house shrouded by overgrown bushes and odd/abstract homemade sculptures – this itself was an eye-opening experience. I entered the rehearsal space cautiously and I walked in on an incredible thing – a deeply organic, earthy, spiritual – thing. I looked around the basement and saw six musicians who cared deeply about music… upright bass, hollow body guitar, drumset, congas, baritone saxophone, and trombone. I remember timidly playing through a couple charts before launching into an Afro-Cuban arrangement of “Stolen Moments” by Oliver Nelson, which I knew well. We played through the head per usual and hit the solo section into a raging 12/8 percussion deluge. My mind and soul was instantly blown wide open. Everything I knew about music was about to change.