STORIES

5 or 6 Things I Know About Her

This video was shot in my apartment in one take on a September afternoon in 2013.  The filmmaker A-Dub Andy Warren had come by to discuss some video ideas and we ended up trying a few things on the spot.  5 or 6 Things I Know About Her is an impromptu performance of a piece I had been working on.  As is often the case with first takes, it was the most interesting, the most ‘truthful’ one.  I say truthful because there is something innocent, almost naive, in the initial search for form and meaning.  Andy allows the camera to linger on various objects in the room – the instruments, photographs, household objects, music papers, the hands of the piano player – while the music unfolds, drifting in and out of range.  The camera is improvising, following an instinctual path – and then, a slight shock as the camera guides us through the window and we gaze out on the dock and railyard activities down below.

 

The Wounded Quartet

The Wounded Quartet is a suite of four pieces which developed from a session of piano improvisations recorded in the late fall of 2010.  After adding the bass parts I invited Peggy Lee to come in and do her cello performance.  Instead of having her study the pieces and prepare, I wanted her to react with a minimum of preparation.  I allowed her to listen to each piece just once, and then had her respond immediately with a recorded performance.  One take only.  I’m not sure why I insisted on these restrictions.  Peggy and I had already worked on a few pieces and I was excited by her skill and remarkable intuition.  Also I believe there is potential delight in the act of searching for things, and great value to be found in the singular, the irretrievable…

 

The Captive Road 

The Reader was brought to me one afternoon in the summer of 2010 after watching the film of the same name.  I was moved by the story’s portrayal of how the past lives on inside us and how certain events will remain with us until the end.  Of course, how these events manifest themselves is one of the enduring mysteries of our lives.  I spent the next couple of hours at the piano, playing the changes over and over – transfixed by the beautiful sorrow I found in this simple theme. Eventually my playing became too exuberant for the many items sitting on top of the piano and down came an African stringed instrument, a large unframed painting and a white orchid in full bloom.  Miraculously I was able to catch both the neck of the instrument and the painted canvas, but alas, the orchid was sacrificed to the gods of song.

This piece was the first collaboration with cellist Peggy Lee and I was instantly struck by how her playing lifted the song to another level.  My original intention had been to collaborate with a different instrumentalist on each piece – however, after this experience with Peggy I was suddenly sure I had discovered the sound I wanted to get on this record.

 

Cairo April 1983 attempts to capture the feeling of travel in foreign lands.  The listener (the traveler) moves among the sounds of children in the streets, passing vehicles and the muezzin’s call to prayer.  Insistent horns ride alongside a dubby opium noir feel, setting the stage for Haile Selassie’s anti-racist plea.

This piece was recorded at the end of another era – I had been working under the name The Bedouins along with guitarist Forbes MacKay.  We recorded three albums and an EP between 1984 and 1991 at a variety of makeshift recording facilities, eventually setting up shop at 11 West 2nd Ave – there was little attention paid to this material at the time and the project became untenable by the mid 90′s.   A fire in the bodyshop below in the fall of 1996 put an end to any hopes or desires for revival.

The pieces of this era were highly influenced by a number of things – film noir attitude, Italian cinema of the 60′s & 70′s, classic reggae and the remarkable explosion of musical expression coming out of Africa at that time.