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Live & Unreleased

November 19, 2010

The Imperial Hotel Tower, Hibiya Centre

I’ve been good/lucky enough to play music in a whole bunch of different groups lately. Here’s some recorded evidence:

First, a piece by New Zealand Gareth Farr (Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award winner 2010) called “Tango – Un Verano Passion” (tr. “One Summer Passion” I think?) for sax quartet. This piece is fairly simple, dramatic, and fun to play, and judging from the applause it was a good choice for the crowd. Mark (the soprano player in the video) claims to have seen Mr. Farr perform “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” dressed in drag and strolling along the top of a bar. Apparently a good drag queen can earn plenty of cash to pay his/her way through the Eastman School of Music, NY.

The performance was all the way out in West Melton at a gallery named “Nut Point”, which is run by a very friendly but slightly odd guy. The cassette tape collection in the back room included Barbara Streisand, Bach, Count Basie, Mozart and a bunch of things labeled in Hebrew.

We only played two pieces to fill out the program of Mark’s more traditional Tango band, and we were a fairly late addition to the program, so we got to the venue about 5pm and had a quick extra rehearsal. While the bandoneon player was tuning the dodgy piano (which also required running repairs after one of the dampers got stuck and a very conspicuous G acted as a drone note throughout one piece and continued to ring after everything else stopped) I strolled around the partly-mown grounds enjoying the calm and clarity of early summer evenings in the country.

I didn’t expect that many people would drive half an hour out from town to pay twenty-odd dollars for tango music at a gallery in West Melton on a Saturday night, but the place ended up being practically full. Not a youthful crowd, but a healthy one. After the intermission we followed up a serene Piazzola “Ave Maria” for clarinet & piano with this:

Having had only three brief rehearsals there were a few sections I was slightly worried about, particularly in the other piece we played, an arrangement of a Piazzola tango that is much longer and slower (and therefore trickier). By the magic of the performer/live audience psychic link the performance went much better than any of our rehearsals. The presence of the crowd seems to make a big difference to how concentrated on the music I feel. It’s as if by focussing entirely on the music I can make everything else vanish and not think about the audience at all until the piece ends. Just the little dots and listening hard, with a few sideways glances for cues.

I sometimes wonder whether in this trance-like state the unimportant parts of my body go off and do embarrassing things but doesn’t look like there’s too much to worry about from this video.

Item the second:

Mount Pleasant is a local one-man ‘band’. The other day this guy turned up at my house and was like “Giles come and play a sax solo for this track I’ve got but like maybe tomorrow, not now cos I’ve got a date” and then left, but then soon came back (silly girls) and so I went round and had a bit of a jam with the rhythm track on the MacBook and then basically played a track-length solo for one take and a few other bits on a second take, then had to run off and watch NZ solidify a draw with India in the second test. So about 5 minutes of recorded sax tracks on top of piles of synths and who knows what else. Next day this was the result:

“Like Hibya Station” – Mount Pleasant

I’m most impressed by the abilities of the tiny MacBook mic and the production/reverb. If I can bear to listen to my own playing on the track is that a good sign? I like the way the sax/vocal moods seem to play off each other a bit.

Never really had the experience of recording something and having someone tinker with it, usually my solos are lost instantly (for better or worse). Like Eric Dolphy* said: “When you hear music, after it’s over, it’s gone, in the air. You can never capture it again.”

Also been trying to figure out who I sound like tone-wise, can’t really figure it out exactly which is probably a good thing as far as “developing a personal saxophone sound” goes.

*Read a comment last week: “Used to be that if you were a ‘hipster’ it meant you owned at least two Eric Dolphy records.” I’ve got at least ten…

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