Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rrake, In Time for Autumn

I've had the great fortune to work with Chris Jonas on a few different vibrant and challenging projects. I first met him shortly after he and his wife, the composer, vocalist, musician, community arts director and conduction expert Molly Sturges, moved to Santa Fe from New York, about 7 years ago.

The first couple of opportunities involved Jonas and Sturges' collaborative band, Bing. Learning their book and then working on music for silent films (the epic The Man Who Laughs and pratfall-laden Buster Keaton classic, Steamboat Bill, Jr.) and accompaniment for Wise Fool New Mexico's Circus Luminous all happened in about 6 months and was like going to graduate school for percussion for a couple semesters.

Then came Jonas' project, Rrake. This called on completely different musical resources for me, pulling together some echoes of Captain Beefheart, Ornette Coleman's Prime Time, some of James Blood Ulmer's and Ronald Shannon Jackson's stuff from the '80s and '90s, etc.

The charts involved sections where Paul Brown and I worked out asymmetrical figures while Milton Villarrubia III and Jeremy Bleich, the other drummer and bassist, played cycles of different, but eventually overlapping, asymmetrical figures. Some of the cue phrases are deceptively simple and oddly catchy, despite also being alternately eerie and arcane. In spite of very limited rehearsal time, with Josh Smith coming in from San Francisco the day before the gig, I think, the ensemble turned in some solid versions of Jonas' demanding charts at the 2006 High Mayhem Emerging Arts Festival. Since then, Rrake has performed a couple other times, including a highly enjoyable show with Joe Fiedler on trombone.

Here's one piece that came out well, in my opinion, in 2006, a piece called Vig.

The other four pieces from the 2006 High Mayhem Festival performance are also on YouTube, thanks to High Mayhem's meticulous documentation and my new YouTube account.

1 comment:

Julia said...

cool! When do we get to see you perform live again?