For the past 18 months I have been ruminating on a new project concept and it seems the time has come to stop ruminating and start working. I am happy to announce the formation of a new 20-piece ensemble featuring my original compositions, The Saturn People Sound Collective . . . . (please don’t get too attached to the name as I am currently testing its stick-factor).
13 years ago, I left viperHouse after about 5 years of touring and recording. The driving vH musical mission was a “party for the soul . . . a party for the mind” In other words bringing jazz and creative music back to the dance hall w/o compromising the groove or the musical integrity. I loved it. And of course so much of who I am as a player and writer is thanks to the guidance and leadership of Michael Chorney. His expert leadership and unsurpassed creative vision was and has been incredibly formative for me.
Shortly after departing viperHouse, I put together a 6-piece original jazz group called TALA. I think that much of the TALA material was a response to playing groove music for so long (prior to vH I got my start in the Vermont music scene playing with the Plainfield funkmachine Mr. Dooley). So after vH I was ready to get back to the notorious “music for music’s sake” thing. For several years I exercised my writing chops and put together a number of pieces that I am proud of. TALA put out two CDs and did a feature performance at the Flynn Space. Despite this success, something about TALA never really sat right with me though. Looking back on it, I suspect that it was inexperience and still feeling compelled to make audiences happy with some kind of tangible groove.
From there I moved onto Money Jungle, a septet performing the popular dance music from unusual eras and places (1930’S Jungle Swing , 1950’S Jamaican Ska, 1970’S Nigerian Music & The Occasional Not-So-Well-Known-Cover). MJ really helped me to refine my arranging skills and to fine tune my playing. At some point there was some overlap that eventually led to Zach Tonnissen and I putting together Movement of The People: The Fela Kuti Project. As a result, the MJ and MOP era reflected 7 years of more dance music. (Great, interesting, creative, worldly and super fun dance music though!)
So, although my work has (almost) always fallen comfortably within the groove realm, I have always had a foot firmly placed in the experimental and improvised . . . not to mention the global influences that continually inform my playing and writing. But nonetheless, the music has (almost) always been defined by the groove thing.
Eighteen months ago I had the pleasure of guest conducting the Winooski Valley District Jazz festival. For the festival I put together an arrangement of my original work from the TALA repertoire. While working on the piece with central Vermont’s finest high school jazz musicians, I was struck by the composition’s undiscovered potential in the context of a large ensemble. While groove certainly had a place in the sound, it didn’t dictate the approach. Rather the music was guided by long-form phrasing and form.
Although I have been composing and performing professionally for 20 years, practicality has prevented me from writing for a large jazz ensemble. Once I was able to arrange for a large ensemble and hear the results, I felt a completion that I had never experienced with my smaller ensembles. It was a perfect confluence of my musical progress over the past decade. It was a bit of an “ah-ha” moment for me.
Since then I have been going back and forth in my head about putting together a professional group that would allow me to further explore the potential of my compositions. So here we are: The Saturn People’s Sound Collective.
The repertoire for SPSC is being written for 20 musicians – some of whom will double on voice and percussion. Sonically, the music is coming from a creative music – chamber-new music–global-big band kind of aesthetic (think Steve Reich meets Sun Ra and Sonic Youth in the Middle East).
Specifically the instrumentation will include 5 reeds (saxes, clarinet and flutes), 2 trombones, 3 trumpets, 2 cellos, 1 violin/viola, mallet percussion, guitar, piano, modified drum kit, and percussion (tabla, cajon, middle eastern frame drums ).
I am confident that this is my best work to date and I quite excited to see it come to life. We’re hoping to debut the group for a series of early November performances . . . . stay tuned.