I feel excited and privileged to be playing a concert of original piano compositions on November 23, 2016 at Jazz Central Studios in Minneapolis. The compositions include acoustic piano pieces (unaltered by processing or electronics) and a number of electroacoustic piano pieces that will involve manipulating the signal from the piano in real-time. For example I’ll be using an analog delay to create pulsing washes of sound from the piano. There will also be examples of sampling and looping the piano and then manipulating the loops through more processing.
Although ACB readers will be more familiar with my electronic work, acoustic piano is the instrument that has stayed with me since childhood. I even had a weekly jazz piano gig that lasted eleven years! This upcoming solo piano performance will be my first in over a decade and it will be very different for me because I’ll be playing my own compositions instead of a the jazz standards I used to play.
Jazz Central Studios has a really great sounding grand piano in house that I’ll be playing during the show. I have performed at the venue a number of times recently thanks to friend, bassist, and collaborator, Casey O’Brien who is one of the current artistic directors for the non-profit organization. Here’s some more information about JCS:
Jazz Central Studios (JCS) is a tax exempt nonprofit organization committed to strengthening the Twin Cities jazz community by offering a live performance/educational environment that nurtures artistic growth. Our space consists of 1800 square feet which seats up to 50 people. It is complete with grand piano, house drum set PA, and lights.
In 2010, local jazz musicians Mac Santiago and Tanner Taylor established Jazz Central Studios as a rehearsal and recording space for Twin Cities jazz musicians. We encourage jazz patrons and musicians of all levels to become a part of Jazz Central Studios. Whether you want to develop your skills and career as a performing musician or you want to meet other jazz enthusiasts and support the local scene, there is a place for you here.
The music on November 23, 2016 will start at 8:30pm. The suggested donation is $10 for general admission and $5 for students. I hope you’ll join me! Here’s an excerpt from a recording of me (piano, electronics), Cody McKinney (bass, voice, electronics), and Graham O’Brien (drums, electronics) made at JCS by Diego Ramallo. In the recording I’m using a sampler to live-loop piano layers and then run things through delays and other processing.
Bloodline, a trio featuring Cody McKinney, Peter Hennig, and John Keston (myself), has been quietly performing at a handful of obscure venues in the Twin Cities for about a year and a half. On Monday, October 3rd we’ll poke out heads out of the shadows for a set during JT’s Jazz Implosion residency at the Icehouse in Minneapolis.
JT’s Jazz Implosion at Icehouse is one of the hottest jazz scenes in the cities. Featuring bands that study strong jazz composition, the performances consist of a variety of modern jazz songs with an improvisational flair. The bands that perform are emblems of originality in the modern jazz scene, oftentimes receiving national attention for their jazz genre knowledge and assimilation of multiple influences. The series appeals to a variety of listeners, providing multilayered compositions for every jazz fan.
For a taste of what Bloodline is all about, please have a listen to a few excerpts from one of our recent performances at Jazz Central Studios:
Graham O’Brien is an exceptional and inventive drummer, composer, and producer. It has been my privilege to play with him at dozens shows and on at least five separate projects over the last eight years. His latest solo endeavor is a series of five videos titled Drum Controller. Graham had discussed his goals for the project with me, but when I saw/heard the videos I was immediately impressed. I wanted to know more about how he was able to trigger these beautiful and complex electro-acoustic arrangements without touching anything other than his minimal kit of kick, two snares, high hats, and a ride.
Last July I wrote an article titled, How Do You Do Your Live MIDI Sequencing? In the article I expressed my frustration with the ubiquity of step sequencers and lack of modern hardware sequencers that handle live recording and polyphony. In December, 2015 I became one of the lucky few to own a Pyramid sequencer by Squarp. Pyramid is an amazing instrument that does everything that has been lacking from most modern sequencers, plus an ever widening array of advanced features available as MIDI effects. It’s hard to contain my excitement about this machine! Squarp has been extremely communicative with their customers through email and their online forum. New releases have been frequent during its life cycle, and I expect many fantastic new features and advancements in the near future. Here’s a few of Pyramid’s current capabilities that I find exciting:
1. Live recording of polyphonic notes with velocity, pitch bend, channel pressure, mod wheel, and continuous controllers. Notes are recorded without quantization unless the Quantizer MIDI effect is applied to the track. What makes this exciting is that although polyphonic and un-quantized recording is common in software it’s rare in new hardware sequencers.
2. Simultaneous track lengths and time signatures are independent of each other. The track lengths are not limited to bars, but can be adjusted down to individual steps. For example, a five bar and three step phrase is possible. This feature allows for polyrhythmic sequencing which I’m very excited about.
3. Pyramid projects are saved on a standard removable SD card as a collection of MIDI files. Although there are plenty of editing features in Pyramid, if you need to for any reason, the files can be edited on a computer in your favorite DAW. You can also create or import MIDI files from elsewhere into a Pyramid project!
I’ll share some of the music I’ve been creating with this beast soon. I could (and will in future posts) go on about euclidean rhythms, step editing, sequencing tracks, chaining sequences, and CV/GATE i/o – all capabilities that Pyramid has, but for now take a look at this collection of tutorial videos that Squarp shared just yesterday: Continue reading →
On June 13, 2015 I collaborated with a team of nine students and nine musicians on a project I directed for Northern Spark, an annual, all-night, art festival In Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. We titled the project, Instant Composer: Mad-libbed Music and the intent was to engage the audience into instantly writing musical compositions for an ensemble of improvising musicians.
I discussed the concept here in-depth and also announced the project last June. I had no idea what to expect, but was thrilled with the outcome. Around 115 crowdsourced scores were entered into a database via our mobile application. During the nine hour performance we interpreted nearly 70 of those pieces for the audience.
This video should give you a sense of what went on that night, but no media can fully represent an event like this. I can say that it wouldn’t have happened without the student collaborators, our collective of excellent musicians, the Northern Spark organizers, Art Institutes Minnesota, and the hundreds of people in our audience willing to engage in the process. Please see the video for the full project credits.