We are Bristle. Take a look around--we've got photos, audio, visual, and news on upcoming shows. Thanks for dropping in. Enjoy!
For the next Bristle gig (Sunday 5/25 at Berkeley Arts), premiering a new piece--still finishing up the form, but drawing inspiration from the Mad Magazine Fold Ins. I loved those things when I was a kid--we had a stack of Mad mags around the house, the fold-in was on the inside back-cover. The image was often some elaborate picture, chock-full of detail, with a caption posing a question or description. When you folded in the sides to meet in the middle ("A meets B"), the picture was transformed into something entirely different, with the ends of the caption also joining to form the answer.
My piece is inspired by ragtime compositions, but been working on and off trying to figure out how to vary the form so it's not just a straight read through of some jaunty syncopated licks. The Fold Ins kept coming to mind, take a straight presentation of some material but then truncate it, pick the best parts, twist it around a bit, try to rejoin it in some novel way, see what you get. Could work it in reverse--the listener hears these not-quite-flush arpeggiated, rhythmic bits, that eventually make some kind of sense when the original context for them is presented. We'll see what happens--I hope to make Al Jaffee proud...
Coming on the heels of the April recording session for our next release, Bristle's playing at Sacramento's In the Flow Festival this Sunday, May 13. Murray and I played last night at ITF with festival co-founder Ross Hammond, as Pluck, Vim, Vigour, a short but inspired set. It was a great turn-out, a real community event--the ITF folks did a great job of programming the locals w/the out-of-towners. People come out for their faves, and get to hear other great music they hadn't expected. The camraderie and the kudos are very heartening--as Phillip Greenlief said last night, it's a really noble thing to do, putting on a festival like this in this day and age...
Sunday is jam-packed with great bands: we're scheduled to play at 7:00 at Antiquite, just after Vinny Golia's Sextet and before Scott Amendola Vs. Will Blades, so many others throughout the day. As they say, show up early, stay late. Bristle's continuing to roll out the newest of our pieces in concert, still somewhat teetering on the edge of playability, but as Alvy Singer said, "A [band], I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies...." Heading to KDVS later in the week for Live in Studio A (Thursday, May 17, at 11 PM PST). Show up, tune in, these are our last shows for a couple of months before we disperse for the summer with other projects.
Looking forward to our next couple of shows, this Thurs 4/19 at El Valenciano in SF, and Sac's In the Flow festival in May. Got a couple of nice write-ups today: Craig @ Memory Select takes an informed listen to the new CD, and Ryan Offield @ In the Flow V made me blush (just a little...). Thank you, gents!
Col. MaCaw features the music of Lemuel Crook (and the dazzling Ross Hammond Quartet): Ludi & I played some Crook classics live on the air, and spun Bristle's rendition of "Revolution" from the new CD. You can listen to the interview here. We had a great time. Thanks to Bruce for supporting the music. Enjoy!
Entry 2 of my Bulletproof Composition Chronicles:
One afternoon a couple of years ago I arrived at the Garrett, one of Murray’s many domiciles. It’s a cool little loft located behind Amber’s sister’s house (and the place where many of the photos on the CD were taken, incidentally). I climbed the steep stairs to the second floor, found Murray entertaining his niece and nephew. We all talked a bit, then the kids left to go play elsewhere. I took my clarinet out of its case, Murray his violin, we began to do some free improvisation. 6-year old niece returned, saw us playing, ran back down the stairs, returning in what seemed mere seconds with toy accordion in hand. She promptly let ‘er rip, fervently matching us sound for sound. We were “jamming”—she knew what to do! Then, just as suddenly, she was gone, the still-smoking accordion resting on the wooden floor. Murray and I exchanged conspiratorial looks—got to somehow capture the sound of THAT! Thus, Wheezy Breezy was born.
Cory and I on tenor & alto, Murray and Lisa on violin & bass: we alternate chords in the beginning section, saxes on the “inhale,” strings on the “exhale.” I wanted to imitate the random tempos, the temporary mania and exploratory, slo-mo swells of someone playing an accordion for the first time. In rehearsal, we worked it out so that I would signify tempo by swinging the sax up and down, pendulum fashion (Muray said it reminded him of the Sippy Bird) and Murray would cue when the chords would change.
For the second section, the saxes are up an octave, seesawing between a tonic/dominant, reminding me of a jack-in-the-box or one of those cymbal-crashing monkeys. (It still cracks us up half the time we try and play it.) Lisa comes in with a quasi-majestic folk line, joined by the violin the second time. We then play the opening alternating chords as solid stacks, chorale style, to end the piece. It just may qualify as my most bizarre piece to date...
This one is another fun one to perform, but really challenging to get right: the trick for me is to keep the tempo fluctuations unpredictable and different each time, all the while giving clear cues; the trick for the band as a whole is to keep the strict alternation between saxes and strings of the opening accordion sound. Guess I just need to get out the old squeezebox and practice my reps!
It’s sneak preview week—thought I’d write a bit about my pieces, one per day, that are on Bristle’s first CD, Bulletproof, that’s due out this coming week on Edgetone and which we'll be featuring at this Friday's Nevada County Composers Cooperative event at the Nevada City Winery.
Notlob kicks off the CD, it was written way back in the 90’s when I was living in Brooklyn. It was inspired by John Zorn’s “cut-ups” pieces, which use series of quick switches between music of recognizable genres or distinct character, which in turn were initally suggested to Zorn by cartoon soundtracks. My idea was to have a series of contrasting musical segments, each new segment interrupting the one that preceded it, almost like a series of Russian dolls nested one inside the other.
The beginning Segment 1 is a short, swinging riff with a bit of a stomp to it. It’s then repeated, but is interrupted at its midpoint by Segment 2, a waltz fragment in a contrasting tempo, after which the second half of Segment 1 is played. These two are repeated, Segment 3 rearing its Ornette-ish head right in the middle of Segment 2, which is still in the middle of Segment 1. Each new repeat introduces a new segment. I tried to make each one sound really different from what preceded it to help delineate the process—one’s a graphically-notated bit, another an intricate “music box” segment, another is Ayleresque, and so on.
With 7-8 segments of music it soon became apparent that if everything was written out, on regular 8-1/2x11 staff paper, each player’s part, at 5-6 pages, would be a page-turning nightmare. As I was looking at the score, I flashed on a visual shortcut: I could just stack the segments vertically, aligned along a centrally-drawn axis, and direct the players to move down the page that way: first time play all of Segment 1; second time play first half of Segment 1 to the line, jump down and play all of Segment 2, then back up to second half of Segment 1. Third time, play first half of Segment 1, first half of Segment 2, all of Segment 3, then second half of 2, second half of 1, etc. Each part had to be score-size at 11x17, but this way the segments only have to be appear once on the page, and the centrally-drawn dividing line is the navigation point. I’ve always liked the economy of presentation for this one, and always strive for the least amount of moving parts for the maximum amount of music in my pieces.
I thought of the piece as a kind of a messed-up palindrome, one that keeps getting longer with each repeat. To be a true palindrome, the second half of each phrase would have to be a retrograde, or mirror image, of the first half, but that was not the case. A line from Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch popped into my head, when shady pet shop owner Michael Palin is trying to confuse complainant John Cleese by saying Ipswich is a palindrome for Bolton. Cleese: “No, it’s not. The palindrome for Bolton would be Notlob. It don’t work.” I hope this one works. Guess I'm not the one to judge...
As I said, the piece has been around, I’ve played it with many groups, but Bristle really nails it, it’s fun each and every time we play it, and listening to our rendition on the new CD always brings a laugh—the culprit is usually Segment 4, my micro-Zorn tribute. Thanks to Mr. Z and the Pythons for this one. We're planning to play this Friday at the winery. I hope everyone can make it out!