EDIT: (While writing this post I am currently listening to the Tim Berne Empire box set, featuring his early recordings, which I have a few LPs of)
I got back a week or so ago from playing some shows in Billings Montana with my good friend Alex Nauman. We were there a year ago with the Reid Poole trio with Britt Ciampa and did some shows with Alex and Erik Olson on saxophone. Alex invited Britt and myself to come up and play, but unfortunately Britt couldn't do it, so I went up myself.
The first show was a jazz duo set at Bones Brewery, kind of wicked with all these pictures of dinosaurs all over, and Montana gambling machines (keno and the like), and a psuedo-sports bar vibe with tvs all over. As soon as we set up we were playing "Lonely Woman" and I knew that my time in Montana would be great. Our night of music consisted of Ornette, Tears for Tears, some funk tunes, Hendrix, Zepplin, Zappa and I think at one point we might have even played a standard or two. We closed with a blues, which Alex suggested we play as fast as possible. I need to check out the recording, but it was probably 20+ clicks too fast for either of us, just silly fast (and all over the place on my part).
After this we had some down time for a few days, played some batchy ball, had a few rehearsals, and in general hung out waiting for the next gig. There was a short trip to Bozeman, in which I dropped $100+ dollars on records finding an old Ashish Khan LP (I can't believe I played with him several years ago), some Oscar Peterson, Sam Rivers, Yusef Lateef, Bill Evans, Steve Lacy, Bob Dylan, Charles Ives, Erik Satie, and more. The Steve Lacy LP was his first release as a leader, with a strange group of Dennis Charles on drums, Buell Neidlinger on bass, and Wynton Kelly on piano, playing a variety of tunes. What was strange was that the rhythm section was Cecil Taylor's rhythm section, but with swingin' Wynton Kelly on the keys!
The next gig was at an experimental venue called simply "Pat's Place." It was a shed/workshop kind of small building right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, that you could fit maybe 20 some people in if you're lucky. Pat Epley ran the place, with (I think) Alex Nauman and Matt Taggart. It was a very supportive environment, and had an small but very enthusiastic crowd there to see us play and hang. The way it worked was the act performing would provide beer (PBR!) and charge a 5 dollar cover, to pay for the beer but also so that the people paying cover would get more than just the music. I thought it was a genius idea and am still looking around in Colorado for a place to try out like this (more on that as I work on it). They expressed that it worked so well because there really weren't any rules, or anyone to tell them what to do, how to run it. Also they were starting to get more bands/acts from all over playing there while on a tour.
Our music for Pat's Place consisted of solo sets with Alex Nauman playing first a piece he had written that day using guitar "bends," followed by me doing improvisations with my cassette players, tapes, radio, microphone, junk percussion, hand fan, and voice, and then Brad Edwards playing Coltrane's "India" using a loop station with pre-recorded music and drum set. Brad is an incredible drummer that has been making music for years, playing with people like Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Bobby Hutcherson, Ray Brown, just to name a few. After our solo sets, we took a break, and came back to play Christian Wolff's "Edges" and an original piece by Alex Nauman, originally written for two basses and percussion, and from the first note I destroyed the hair on my german bow (accidentally!). I figured out different ways to make it work, because I still wanted to bow different things in both pieces, so it was a great "experiment." The recording came out great, and someone was video-recording as well, which I hope to get a copy of.
The next night the same trio played a standards gig at Walker's, a nice restaurant in town, and we got to play standards, but in a louder/freer way than I am used to. We played several tunes from the duo gig at Bones Brewery, but also the Theme from Mash, Four Winds from Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds, Coltrane's India, and just a lot of fun music. I didn't record this night, and am kicking myself, because it turned out great, and I really wish I could go back and hear some of the things we did. After the gig we hung for a bit, gambled at some keno machines, and Alex won $70+ bucks!
All in all it was a really fun trip, Alex and his wife Jill were such great hosts, it was fun playing with their daughter Sami and their dog Molly, and so great to get out of Colorado to play some totally different music. I was really inspired, especially by the experimental venue and the people I met there that I want to start up something like it here. Also, from playing "four winds" I want to bring Nauman to Colorado for a handful of gigs, and do a gig at Dazzle playing a "Conference of the Birds" tribute show, arranged for a sextet of bass, drums, two guitars, and two saxophones. More on both of these projects to come!