Monday, March 8, 2021
Developing as an artist requires an incredible amount of study and hard work honing skills. During this process, the burgeoning artist will naturally begin to find areas in which he or she feels more comfortable, their comfort zone. This concept reaches beyond a physical location. It can also apply to material and communal elements in the creation of art.
Saxophonist/bass clarinetist/composer Michael Thomas seems to have found his musical domain once he settled in New York City. His new recording, Natural Habitat, illustrates how his path to the City has placed him in a perfect spot, both physically and mentally, to create the best art that he can.
Originally from Florida, Thomas grew up playing classical saxophone and picking up clarinet and flute as doubling instruments in high school. He pursued music as an undergrad at the University of Miami and then went to Boston to get his masters at the New England Conservatory. His three years in Boston would be the most important years in the young reedist’s development. The inspiring tutorship of saxophone legends George Garzone and Jerry Bergonzi and the sweeping breadth of Miguel Zenón’s lessons bridged the gaps between many of the musical elements Thomas was juggling.
Thomas dreamed of reaching New York City, and the Artist Diploma program at Juilliard gave him the opportunity. His immediate contact with some of the best musicians in New York who were involved with the program, including Ron Blake, Steve Wilson and Frank Kimbrough, helped him break into the scene quickly. Working on Zenón’s Identities are Changeable large ensemble project really cemented his credibility, as he worked with a generation of musicians he had previously looked up to, as an equal.
In the summer of 2018, while in Rome, Carlo recorded a long-form improvisation inside an old grain silo. For the recording he solely used found objects that were close by: branches, bricks, logs, metal pipes, stones, gardening tools, etc. The piece explores the reverberant acoustics of the silo and the interaction between Costa’s gestures and the sounds of the surrounding environment: cicadas, passing vehicles and planes, dogs barking, etc.
Carlo Costa has been performing solo percussion concerts since 2012 and has had the opportunity to present his solo project in Switzerland, Germany, France and the US. In the fall of 2018 he released his first solo album, Oblio, on Neither/Nor Records.
1. Silos (excerpt)
Carlo Costa - found objects
Recorded by Carlo Costa in Rome, Italy on July 28, 2018. Mixed by Nathaniel Morgan and Carlo Costa. Mastered by Joe Branciforte. All music by Carlo Costa. Cover photo by Carlo Costa. Inside photo by Georgia Fraleigh.
This concert was the first-time meeting of this particular quartet, a group of musicians who until then had all played together many times in various settings but never in this configuration. Ward and Kirchner having worked together for over a decade, first in the group blink. and then in Ward's first Quartet, Fitted Shards, continued to share stages regularly. Ulery and Kirchner had played together for years in Kirchner's long-working 5 piece as well as in countless other bands, including Ward's latest project, Rogue Parade, and Ulery's own Delicate Charms (with Ward). Bedal had joined Ulery and Kirchner as the main house pianist at their weekly jam session for over 2 years while also choosing Ulery for his own Quartet and joining Kirchner in Ulery's brass band project, Pollinator. And yet, even with all of those connections and many more to list, the performance in this recording was and remains to be an entirely unique experience for everyone.
It was the final concert in a week-long Chicago festival called Chopin In The City, curated by singer and presenter Grazyna Auguscik. While the festival invites musicians from across various stylistic genres to present their own original music, it also aims to honor the legacy of the great pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, native of Auguscik's home country of Poland. It was for this reason that Kirchner decided to bring arrangements of two Chopin Nocturnes to the band, and attempt to showcase the great composer's work through a context of their own.
On the afternoon of Sunday, March 1st, 2020, an enthusiastic and attentive audience packed into the intimate surroundings of the Pro Musica showroom in Chicago, completely unaware of how unusual such an act would soon become. Revered audio specialist and recording engineer, Ken Christianson, the owner and founder of Pro Musica, arranged his trademark AKG stereo pairs in front of each member of the band to capture every moment in startling detail, especially the house grand piano which has been played and recorded countless times in the space by many of Chicago's greatest pianists. The results are an incredibly dynamic and detailed reproduction of the performance allowing the listener to feel as though they might be inside that very space sharing in every moment with both the band and the audience.
In addition to the two Chopin arrangements, the group presented a varied repertoire that included extended renditions of both David Murray's tribute to Albert Ayler, "Flowers for Albert," and the meditative piece "Ababcas," by Paul Motian. Alongside those stand a fiery version of Ward's "We Are Still Here" and a delicate rendition of Kirchner's "Lucid Dream" from his latest album, The Shadows and The Light.
1. Intro/Flowers for Albert 13:35
2. Nocturne No. 20 in C-Sharp Minor 08:51
3. Abacas 07:00
4. We Are Still Here 08:38
5. Lucid Dream 04:52
6. Nocturne in F Minor, Op. 55, No. 1 08:07
Greg Ward - Alto Saxophone
Paul Bedal - Piano
Matt Ulery - Bass
Quin Kirchner - Drums
Recorded live at Pro Musica in Chicago as part of the 4th Annual Chopin In The City Festival. March 1, 2020 at 3pm.
Recorded, Mixed and Mastered by Ken Christianson