Archive for the ‘Your Anecdotes’ Category

Third Stream

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Hi Friends, For the past year and a half, I’ve been playing with a
very talented group of musicians, consisting of Dave Cheli – Bb
clarinet & tenor sax; his sons, Dominic Cheli – piano and Kevin Cheli
- drums and percussion; and Chris Landers – guitars.  The members have
gone their own ways now, but this summer we made a recording of the
two pieces I wrote for the group, “Islands” and “The Next Curve”,
which I uploaded to my MySpace site:
http://www.myspace.com/tompkinsjazz
I hope you’ll give it a listen and post a comment on the MySpace page, if you’d like.

The music is characteristic of much of our playing together – some
free sections, some composed sections and some a combination of both.
For example, “Islands” has a form based upon chords and modes but with
absolutely no melodies written out, all improvised; “The Next Curve”
has sections written out but with totally free improv. sections
inserted in between the solos.

Enjoy, and I hope to see many of you at New Music Circle concerts this season!cheli-group.jpg

standing (L.-R.) – Chris Landers, Fred Tompkins, Dave Cheli;       seated – Dominic Cheli, Kevin Cheli

Third Stream

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

For our final New Music Circle regular season concert, we have a very special event taking place. It will be a collaboration between acoustic instrumentalists, Rich O’Donnell (percussion); Dave Stone (reeds); and synthesist, Tom Hamilton – taking place on Saturday, 5/8, 7:30pm at the Kranzberg Arts Ctr. (501 N. Grand).

Tom Hamilton has been perfecting this collaborative approach to music making ever since the 1960s, so his rapport with live musicians is now intuitive and the resultant language very personal. While shaping the direction of his works, he also allows the soloists a wide range of latitude for their own creativity. Dave Stone and Rich O’Donnell, two of the top improvisers around, will not disappoint or hold back. For more on the event and the artists, visit: http://newmusiccircle.org/ and Tom Hamilton’s MySpace site: http://www.myspace.com/dataday

Third Stream

Monday, January 18th, 2010

To help  SAVE KFUO!, scroll down 5 entries.

Starting this Wednesday, 1/20, the Vijay Iyer Trio will be performing at Jazz at the Bistro and playing through Sat. I’ve heard most of his groups recently, and they really shine, with very creative ideas coming in from all members of the group.

I especially like the way the group will lock into certain rhythmic ideas and transform the whole texture of the ensemble; and you know those interesting altered scales and chord substitutions that the more exciting and advanced pianists exploit occasionally? Well, Vijay will often use those structures as merely the starting point for his explorations; and it gets more involved as it goes along. The rhythm section flows, and the music has form, but it’s intense, so don’t think you’ll be able to catch up on your favorite column in the N.Y. Times from breakfast.

Enjoy, I’ll see you at the Bistro!

Your Anecdotes

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

There are some people we try to avoid (sometimes unsuccesfully) and other people we are very happy NOT to avoid,  who keep catching up with us wherever we happen to be. Thankfully,  this is the case with my old buddy, Glen Velez, who’s group, Trio Globo will be performing and giving workshops this Thursday & Friday at Meramec College, and in collaboration with the Meramec Orchestra and Choir are sure to produce two really amazing days of music. (See info. below)

To make a very long story not too long, in the early ‘70s, Glen and I both happened to be assigned to the same Army band, touring various beer festivals in Germany. (Here’s where you DON’T need all the details) – only to know that it was usually Glen, myself, and sometimes a few other guys who would leave the group to visit the Cathedral at Ulm or the Kunst Museum in Munich while the others stayed back and had that second or third really thick, German beer.
Before that, we were both at Ft Hood, Texas, he in the 1st AD, I in the 2nd, and one thing does stand out in my memory: Since there were not a whole lot of cathedrals and museums around, Glen could usually be found hanging back in the bus, before and after the gig,  practicing alone with sticks or a frame drum, not to waste a minute of valuable time, and when we were stuck on the post in Germany, Glen could usually be heard off in the corner of the band hall practicing arpeggios incessantly on a marimba or vibraphone. In other words, if you can project this image of his work habits and enthusiasm from way back then to the present, you do NOT want to miss the workshops and concerts coming up at Meramec College!

So to continue (I’ll be quick),  just a few years after our stint in Germany we both wound up together in New York (That’s not quite as coincidental. You know how the saying goes,  “If you just stand on the corner of Broadway & 48th St., you’ll run into everybody you’ve ever known”). I was recording my pieces with Elvin Jones, Rick Cutler and Billy Mintz (and occassionally borrowing one of Glen’s very special cymbals), and Glen was just starting out with Steve Reich and Musicians. What a thrill it was to hear that group premiering all those early minimalist works in lower Manhattan lofts! The spaces may have seated only 50 – 75 people, but many more would be crouched tightly on the floor and pressed up against the walls, Steve Reich playing Djembé (or some other drum); Glen, fronting a row of mallet players; Jay Clayton blending in with a trio of singers; and after a while you just thought you might float away to a very special place….. and maybe even forget about that cramp in your right knee!

So be sure to come out (There’ll be seats, I promise.) and hear this latest incarnation of his long and varied musical career. Here’s a link to his website to keep you entertained until Thursday:  http://www.glenvelez.com/ It has a great video of Glen playing a frame drum; also, Google in his other videos with longtime duo percussionist, Layne Redmond.

Thursday, April 23
Noon    Trio Globo Opening Concert in the Meramec Theatre
1:30      Choir rehearsal, Eugene Friesen, HW102
2:30      Overtone singing, Glen Velez, HW102
3:30      Harmonica Workshop, Howard Levy, HW102
3:30      Improvisation/spoken word- Eugene Friesen, Theatre
7:30      Dress Rehearsal, Trio Globo with the Meramec Orchestra and
Choir, Theatre

Friday, April 24
10 a.m.-noon     String Workshop, Eugene Friesen, HW102
10 a.m.- noon    Improv and Movement, Glen Velez and Howard Levy HE131
1:30 p.m.             History of Harmonica, Howard Levy, HW102
2:30 p.m.             Percussion workshop, Glen Velez, HW102
3:30 p.m.             The New Cello, Eugene Friesen, HW102
7:30p.m.              Trio Globo Concert with Meramec Orchestra, Concert
Choir, Arts students, Theatre

Trio Globo
Residency at Meramec Community College next week
For information on the following workshops and concerts please call the
Community Relations Office at 314.984.7529 or the Meramec Music
Department at 314.984.7639.

Your Anecdotes

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Just a quick follow up to our NMC concert (see previous entry). The concert was great!, and the next day I took a flute lesson with Robert Dick. That was great, too, so I’d like to pass on a word of advice here: Great performers are great performers for a reason, and if you ever have the opportunity to study with one or even just talk to one, never pass it up! Without going into detail….. I learned things during that lesson that have altered my whole approach to playing, and I picked up tips on practicing that I am applying now every day to my work.

Leave a comment and let me know about your experiences, too.

Your Anecdotes

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Recently, I saw a review of what appears to be an exciting new jazz film, called My Name is Albert Ayler , a documentary portrait by Swedish director, Kaspar Collin, shedding new light on the controversial, avant-garde saxophonist. Screenings appear to be limited, but I’ve heard that it will be out on DVD soon. (for more info, go to: http://www.mynameisalbertayler.com). I can’t wait to see the film, myself, but meanwhile I’ll have to be satisfied with my own fond memories of the man.

One memory involved an encounter with Elvin Jones at Slug’s Saloon, a jazz club in downtown Manhattan: I was lucky enough to get a front row table to hear Elvin’s group that night, but at the end of the set, as the players were walking off the stand, Albert Ayler popped up out of nowhere and asked if he could play a piece, solely as a duo with Elvin Jones. So Elvin, being keenly aware of Albert Ayler’s reputation as a brash egomaniac, made the somewhat defensive and sarcastic remark, “OK, Albert, just come on up here and play all night.”

The music which then ensued was some of the most inspiring that I’ve ever heard. You would almost have to classify it as a kind of internal Third Stream music, within the jazz avant-garde idiom. Albert counted off a medium-up tempo and both of them started swinging furiously with Albert playing basically in his style of tonal wailing and harmonic abandon while Elvin built up waves of driving rhythm behind him.

Well, the piece didn’t last all night. In fact it was rather well contained, and when it wound down with just one, final cymbal crash, Elvin looked up at Albert with a big smile and said,
“Hey, Albert, that was really good!”

Moral of story: Never be afraid to experiment with a new idea, especially in the unpredictable field of music, you never know when grace will happen, and………be sure to see the new documentary film about alto saxophonist, Albert Ayler.

Your Anecdotes

Saturday, November 17th, 2007

HOW I GOT TO KNOW PEOPLE – As promised, here is another (sorry, not really “shorter” as promised) story: A few months before my future wife, Odile, and I moved to NYC, we took a brief trip from St. Louis up to Chicago to see the Joffrey Ballet. This would be back in about 1971. Well, it was sensational! At that time, many groups were experimenting with Jazz/Rock Fusion, and the Joffrey Ballet was presenting a choreography to Rock music, featuring a “live” Rock group and a precocious, young, left handed drummer. (I didn’t register on his name at the time). However, I was pretty thrilled by this event, and just joking around with Odile on the drive back, I said something like, “Wouldn’t it be great if my next Rock piece could feature a drummer like that!” About two years later, after our move to the Big Apple, I went to the Village Vanguard to hear Chick Corea’s exciting but controversial new group, called Return To Forever, featuring a super fast, high register electric bass player named Stanley Clarke and a talented, young, LEFT HANDED drummer named……….. Lenny White!
At least as far as my music is concerned, the rest was history. I employed him immediately to record on my newest piece, Septet Extended, which came out later on my album “Somesville”.
Just a brief footnote: It was inspiring at the time to listen to Lenny White and Jan Hammer talk about the new Fusion groups that they were instrumental in forming then (Lenny White – RTF, Jan Hammer – Mahavishnu Orchestra). Lenny would rave on about the high level of group interaction and intensity, comparing it to the Knick’s basketball team of the day, and Jan could barely hold on to the steering wheel as we were driving up the F.D.R.,
talking as if this would be the next great event in history, and that John McLaughlin (group leader) knew in advance exactly what he wanted with his new group, Mahavishnu Orchestra, as if born spontaneously from the head of Zeus! (not those exact words, but definitely the feeling).

Your Anecdotes

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

HOW I GOT TO KNOW PEOPLE: One thing is certainly true, at least in the field of music – It can be a very small world! For the next several entries, I’ll be telling stories about how I got to know some of the players on my recordings. For example, imagine an historical connection between the obscure St. Louis drummer, Lanny Bowles, a much less obscure drummer, named Lenny White (Return To Forever), aspiring Texas politician, Kinky Friedman and Mahavishnu keyboardist, Jan Hammer. Having a hard time with that one?
I’ll try to sort it out for you:

In the year 1970, a year before I moved from my home town, St. Louis, to work and record in New York City, I often would try out new pieces in cafés or in my own basement. During one summer month, a local Rock band virtually lived in our house, and the drummer’s name was Lanny Bowles. The piece I was rehearsing happened to be a Rock version of Keep Changing, a tune which ultimately wound up on my Fanfare 8 cd and featured Elvin Jones, David Liebman and others.
Time went by; I went to NY; I met Jan Hammer, who then was playing acoustic, jazz piano with Elvin’s group shortly before Jan would leave to join Mahavishnu Orch.; I tried out the piece at one of their rehearsals at Jan’s loft but with only limited success, then shelved it until I did finally record my version, in a Latin/Jazz style, with guitarist, Roland Prince, as the chord player. At that point, I thought I had cut off all ties with St. Louis.
Well, who do I run into walking down 6th Ave.? Lanny Bowles! “Lanny, what are you doing here?” – “I’m playing with [country group] ‘Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys’ “ (curious title for a band)
I told him that it was too late for Keep Changing, but I really needed a drummer to fill in a short phrase on a Rock piece of mine, called Septet Extended, for which Lenny White played 95% of the drum part but could not be in town for the recording of a short section in the 2nd half of the piece (I would tend not to use Elvin on Rock pieces). Anyway, Lanny’s a fine drummer and did a great job, so that evening we all celebrated by going down to CBGB’s to hear Kinky’s group with Lanny on drums, and thus completing the rather unlikely (unless you’re a musician) timeline of, get ready: Lanny Bowles, Elvin Jones, Jan Hammer, Lenny White, Kinky Friedman, and back to Lanny Bowles. Yes, it’s a very strange world (unless you’re a musician).
Tune in for my next entry in about 5 days to a week when I’ll tell you few (and hopefully shorter) stories about HOW I GOT TO KNOW PEOPLE.

Your Anecdotes

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

If you have been involved with writing and/or performing Third Stream Music, I’d be interested in hearing your stories.