Just returned last night from a week in the Bay Area, doing concerts with many of the great musicians who live out there, as well as some other folks who happened to be in town. Started off on Tuesday, October 11th at the Uptown in Oakland – a great venue that fits about 400 with a gorgeous bar. A trio with myself, Darren Johnston on trumpet, and Larry Ochs opened up for the Oakland Active Orchestra, which has their monthly gig at the Uptown. The trio set felt great right from the start, with alot of very thoughtful structures developing organically in the music. I’ve worked with Darren many times on his regular visits to Chicago, but this was the first chance to play with Larry, someone I’ve been bumping into here and there for many years. Quite a pleasure…..
The week continued with another concert in San Francisco on Thursday, October 13th at El Valenciano – a Mexican bar in the Mission. Although the venue was rather odd, and attendance a bit underwhelming due to several competing gigs that night, this was a great reunion with bassist Devin Hoff. Devin lived in Chicago for the last two years, and recently moved out to LA in July, so this was our first chance to play in several months. The first set was a duo with the two of us, then we were joined in the second by long-time friend and fantastic saxophonist Aram Shelton and drummer Sam Ospovat. Aram sounded fantastic, as always. (Having known him since 1998 when he first visited Chicago to see if he might like to move there, his playing always makes me nervous. Time to practice….) And Sam was a pleasure to play with….very understated but on top of everything.
The trio of concerts rounded out on Friday, October 14th at Studio 1510 in West Oakland, with myself, Aram, Devin, old friend Kjell Nordeson on drums, and Scott Looney on piano. Kjell was living in San Francisco for several years, but recently moved to San Diego to pursue a doctoral degree in music composition. This is only the second time I’ve had the chance to play with him, although I’ve been listening to him for years in the AALY trio with Mats Gustafsson, in School Days with Vandermark, Bishop, Haker-Flaten, and Nilssen-Love, and in many other contexts. His incredible speed and fluidity on the drum kit make him a ferocious sparring partner! Scott Looney, who runs the performance space, was a good match for Kjell also. His incredible technique, driving repetitive figures, and sheer energy brought to mind the work of Cecil Taylor. After one intense set of music, I was raring to go for another, but unfortunately it was a one-set night. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to work again sometime though. Thankfully Scott recorded the concert as well, so at least we have a document of it.
Many thanks to all of the musicians who were gracious enough to play with me on this trip, and expecially to Aram Shelton who organized all of these concerts. It seems his energy out there has really helped drive many different things that are currently happening on the Oakland scene.
Next up – Umbrella Music Festival, then off to Europe for a few weeks to work with some fantastic musicians over there including Terrie Ex, Michael Vatcher, Wolter Wierbos, Clayton Thomas, Christof Kurzmann, Franz Hautzinger, and many more. I’ll also be performing three solo concerts in Berlin, Poznan, and Warsaw. Looking forward to this trip – the first time I’ve headed over by myself rather than with a band.