Friday, May 18, 2007

Stepping, and Rocking (and Jammin' Java)

The DC Improvisers Collective just played our second show backing Joe Lally. This little project has been just great... I think we're getting the hang of Joe's songs, and actually starting to figure out what this material - and ensemble - should sound like. And more importantly, it's been fun fun fun.

We played last night at Jammin' Java in Vienna, Virginia. It's a funny little club / coffee-house in a strip mall in the suburbs. I hadn't played there before - it turns out that it's quite the plush venue. There's like a green room and stuff. And they have music stands, and some nice microphones - and the sound guy was terrific. Sadly, the vegetarian chili is not vegan. Cameron and I walked across the street to Amma - a vegetarian Indian restaurant - and they botched up our order (by not actually cooking our food) so we had to leave without dinner, since I had to be on stage. Soft pretzel and beer for dinner at the club. Why do Virginia clubs only sell the meat-food? (Besides Galaxy Hut, are there any other veg-friendly rock clubs on that side of the Potomac?) I shouldn't be so complainy - the club was quite nice and the people there were very friendly - and I did mention the good sound, right?

Anyway, the show went quite well. I think Joe is writing some excellent songs, and I think the combo of his composed music with our improv group is really clicking. I actually "composed" quite a bit of my own parts, so I'm not really improvising all that much - but there's still plenty of room in the songs to let them go where they seem to want to go in the moment. Joe is heading off to Japan for a month of shows - but (please keep fingers crossed) we hope to be playing at Fort Reno with him in July.

After our last rehearsal, he gave me a CD of rough mixes of nine new songs that he's recorded - and he invited me to work up some guitar parts and come down to the studio and see what happens. I had to act all cool and collected and professional, and respond like, "yeah, of course, I'd be happy to," like this sort of thing happens all the time. But really I'm like a giddy little kid jumping up and down and hooting and hollering (on the inside). I've listened to the new songs - and have LOTS of ideas, hope to begin working them out in earnest later next week. His songs are really spacious. One of their greatest charms is all of the open space - so I have to try not to clutter them up. But you know, I'm a guitarist, so I want to play all over everything. Let's see how well I'm able to practice restraint. His songs are also very minimalist - with lots of simple (in a good way) riffs that repeat and repeat. I think it's a good fit for me these days - I'm enjoying playing only a few notes over and over and over lately. For the dance piece I just did with the Playground, there were several sections where I played for three or four minutes at a time with only three notes to choose from.

And in a totally different musical universe, I've also begun rehearsals with Step Afrika for our upcoming shows at Atlas (May 30 - June 3). We're re-mounting a piece that we performed last November at Dance Place - with some nice improvements. I spent the last two days in rehearsal with them, and head back on Monday and Tuesday for more. They're loads of fun to work with, and it's an interesting challenge for me. It's kind of hilarious that this professional step company hired little white jew-boy with glasses to write and perform the music for their Big Ambitious Major New work - but I'm loving it. There are a few sections where I get to rock out with the heavy distorted guitar. With all the steppers, it's like playing with a whole percussion section (that happens to have crazy moves as well as chops). Someday I'd love to work this piece up for a larger instrumental group - it would be super cool to do with the Low End String Quartet... But that's just pipe dream for now. This time around I'm keeping it all solo, you know, so I can eat.

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