Duology went remarkably well. Steve Schmidt from Fly on the Wall Productions did a digital recording and burned me a copy on the spot; haven't heard it yet. Somehow zeroing in on six different performers in six back to back duets worked out; especially cool because I had never done a duet with any of them. Ruth Zaporah and I met for the first time at 7:15 in front of the performance space. She called it a blind date.
I got comfortable eventually with the Yamaha grand. These expensive pianos are not properly maintained very often. Uneven action, in particular. There's a lot of great piano tuners around here because of the classical scene but where's the techs to build an even action across the octaves? Also, the preferred tuning locally sweetens the upper-mid register too much, again a reflection of classical priorities. The intonation of the lower two octaves is often so sloppy it's embarrassing. Finally, Yamahas are designed to cut through behemoth orchestras; the upper octaves are brighter than polished silver. It's a shame, because the quality of the box itself is high-- would a little warmth kill anybody? It's got that horrifying music box sound up there. I guess I need to win the lottery and buy a Bosendorfer.
Each duet presented unique opportunities and challenges. I drew the names out of a hat and Mark Weaver on tuba came up first. It's a shame anyone has to go first, really. But Mark wrestled that sucker to the ground. I had trouble hearing him for a bit and realized two things: I was playing too loud. I was in the low end too much. We locked eventually. Ruth Zaporah started behind me, out of my sightline, and yet I could feel the sphere of her energy radiating out, could listen and respond, intensely tuned (at one point the hair on the back of my neck stood up). Chris Jonas tore off the top of my head and handed me a new pair of shoes. Jeremy Bleich's oud playing brought tears to my eyes. Paul Brown's bass shifted, turned, elbowed angular lines. Mike Rowland played with astounding dynamic range and ferocious energy throughout...even in the quiet sections. I owe all of them a debt of gratitude.
Here's the thing: it's been a good while since I performed completely improvised music, especially so focused on the piano. I intentionally did not practice leading up to the show. I know that might sound strange but I decided to get in fresh, try not to bring anything at all (other than a pre-existing 25 year relationship of sorts with the piano). I had never performed a duet on piano with any of the artists and had never even met RZ. Needless to say I was completely and totally absolutely freaking out in the days leading up to this, especially yesterday afternoon. I used to drink a lot in an effort to manage those feelings of horror, nakedness, anxiety; the different thing is being with that set of demons and just riding it out. I kept chiding myself for not being able to center, to be peaceful and serene, and then I realized that was pretty damned funny.
Anyway I had a great time and the players and audience seemed to as well.
Duology Two in the works already. Jeremy suggested we try Triology One. What I wanted to do was call everyone up on stage and do a septet piece, but I didn't want to create an opportunity for noodling and aimlessness, which was mostly (miraculously) absent up until then. Maybe we can try a group piece next time.