It was so nice to hear these musicians tonight. This band was a formative part of my early musical life, and I am so grateful to still be able to hear and talk to them.
I hope your summer is coming together in ways that bring you peace. Mine has been a bit restful so far, and looks to have some excitement upcoming. Part of that excitement is these two upcoming concerts.
Thursday, July 1, 2021 from 7-9pm CDT: Stellar Spells (Rob Mazurek, Jeff Albert, James Singleton, & Mikel Patrick Avery) at The BroadSide (600 N. Broad Ave, New Orleans, LA) presented by Scatterjazz. This is an outdoor venue. Advance tickets are recommended and available from the venue’s website.
Sunday, July 25, 2021: Jeff Albert, Katinka Kleijn, Chris Alford, and Will Thompson at The Hungry Brain (2319 W. Belmont Ave, Chicago, IL) at 9pm.
Rob Mazurek will only be in New Orleans for one concert, and it features some of my favorite people to make music with. Rob is making video to go with the music, so it will take full advantage of the Broadside’s theater projection screen/stage. I am confident that Stellar Spells is the proper name for the band. I will be in Chicago in late July with Will and Chris for a private function, and while we are in town the fine folks at The Hungry Brain are hosting us for some public sound exploration, and we are honored to be joined by the marvelous Katinka Kleijn on cello. Both of these concerts are singular happenings, so please join us for some music and fellowship.
As always there is music to hear and buy at https://store.b4d-records.com, and I will have a concert at a great new venue in Jackson, MS in August. More on that next time.
Thanks for listening.
This is a new track by Mahmoud Chouki that features the rest of the Unanimous Sources horn section along with some other great New Orleans musicians. I mastered the audio. Enjoy.
Here are a few new (or new to me) things I have been listening to. Some jazz and some indie rock.
Happy April! I hope the vaccination angels have been to visit you, and if not yet, soon. It seems that things are starting to open up a bit, at least here in New Orleans. It will be great if we can all be patient enough to navigate this part of the pandemic successfully.
April 2 is Bandcamp day, so of course I have a couple of releases to bring to your attention. I am very happy that some new music that I made with Dan Oestreicher, Jesse Morrow, and Mikel Patrick Avery is officially released. You can get the music at https://breakfastfordinnerrecords.bandcamp.com/album/oma-h-a.
I also made a track for Stay in Shape, Vol. 3. It is a compilation of music to raise money to support repairs to the Sun ra House in Philadelphia. As Sun Ra said, “I am doing my part, I am making music.” You can get that and the other two volumes at https://bradfarberman.bandcamp.com.
I was interviewed by Emily Fransen for her podcast Welcome to My Nerd Brain. That episode will be out on Monday. You can get that at https://welcometomynerdbrain.com.
I also have a few public performances coming up:
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 from 7-9pm CDT: Unanimous Sources at The BroadSide (600 N. Broad Ave, New Orleans, LA) presented by Scatterjazz. This is an outdoor venue that requires proper pandemic protocols. Advance tickets are recommended and available from the venue’s website.
Tuesday, April 27, 2021 from 7-9pm CDT: Mike Dillon, Chris Alford, and Jeff Albert at the SidePorch (425 S. White St, New Orleans) presented by Scatterjazz. This is an outdoor venue that requires proper pandemic protocols.
Friday, April 30, 2021: Luther Kent & Trick Bag at Monkey Hill (6100 Magazine St, New Orleans) at 9:30pm
Thanks for reading and listening. Stay safe and I hope to see you at a gig.
Let’s be honest, this is a weird time to make a record. The pandemic has everyone hunkered down and avoiding one another, and the live music scene has slowed nearly to a halt. But there are pockets of energy still to be found, and one of those pockets contains adventurous improvisers like the ones found on this album. People who are dedicated to the music, sure, but also dedicated to the bond between musicians.
“Any time I have an excuse to spend time with any of the people in this band, I will take it,” says trombonist Jeff Albert of the ensemble on the album OMA(H)A. “One of the things I look for in a band is people I want to spend time with. The music part’s important and it’s cool they play good music, but who do I want to hang out with? And these people are definitely the people I want to hang out with.”
That camaraderie flows throughout the music on OMA(H)A, named after the musicians: saxophonist Dan Oestreicher, bassist Jesse Morrow, drummer Mikel Patrick Avery and trombonist Jeff Albert.You’ll hear it in the interplay of the instruments, in the shared energy of improvisation, in the generousness with which the players treat one another in the soundscape. It’s a bond born of long years playing together for Albert, Oestreicher and Morrow, plus the energy of newcomer Avery.
Says Oestreicher: “I like to play specifically with Jeff and Jesse together because I feel that we have a decade-plus shared language developing from doing so many things in so many combinations together. [As for Mikel], every time we’ve hung since he moved to New Orleans has been really easy and fun, so it just seemed to make sense to try to throw that into the mix.”
The music on OMA(H)A is a combination of improvisational vehicles created by Albert and Oestreicher plus completely improvised pieces by the entire quartet. The tracks combine the two writers’ trademark senses of humor and draw on the group’s shared appreciation of the Chicago free jazz scene, from the heyday of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) to the present.
“Dan had mentioned an AACM vibe as we were talking about what to do with [the album],” says Albert. “Alvin Fielder was on my mind. Alvin was very influential for me and a super cool dude. He was very warm and inviting and open to all the young guys. Alvin had this thing where even when he was playing super noisy and out, the stuff was always swinging.”
Like most ensembles of hard-charging free improvisers, this one came together around a shared love of … often struggling baseball teams.
“Dan and I are both baseball fans,” says Albert. “I follow the Kansas City Royals and Dan is originally from Pittsburgh so he’s a Pirates fan. One of the things we do is commiserate over our teams stinking most of the time. We have those glorious moments in our history, each of us, that we can celebrate, but most of the time they’re not that great. Over the summer, the Royals signed free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, so I texted Dan to say that either the Royals are trying to be good or that Santana’s career is over. That text conversation continued into ‘I miss people and playing music and I would love to see you and hang out and make some music because that would be a lot of fun.’ So we started figuring out ways to do that.”
The album was recorded over two half-day sessions at House of 1000Hz in New Orleans. Goat, the engineer, created a space for the musicians where they could feel safe to improvise in the same room despite the pandemic, and everyone could feel the excitement of making music with other human beings again for the first time in a long time.
“The recording process was very relaxed,” says Oestreicher. “We did two days at Goat’s studio. Mostly single takes of the songs. It was just good to be in the room with everybody doing it. Playing with Jeff is just really easy. It seems like I play whatever kind of nonsensical bullshit I want to play and Jeff is going to find a way to fit in with that.”
The admiration goes the other way, too. Albert says: “[Dan] will poke at my musical conception in ways that I won’t do. I feel like he brings better things out of me than I get to on my own.”
With titles like “Red Scare,” “9th Ward Trotsky” and “Debs In The Dining Room,” it’s reasonable to ask whether political ideology and activism play a roll in the making of the album. Both Albert and Oestreicher are clear on this topic.
Albert: “I feel like we’ve reached a point where artists have a responsibility to address the world we live in. It drives me crazy that it looks like society is falling apart and as a musician I’m not sure what to do about that other than make music. I feel like all of the music that I make at this point, on some level, is about how do we respect each other’s humanity and try to be just and equitable with each other.”
Oestreicher: “Jazz and politics have always been, in my opinion, inextricably intertwined. The development of jazz was a political statement from the very beginning. And anyone who says that jazz is not political or that their jazz is not political is wrong, and their saying that is a political choice, even if they don’t see it. Choosing not to engage in that way is a political choice. Art is inherently political. Doing something not because it is value-generating in a capitalist sense but because you think it does something for yourself or others outside that system is inherently political and all artists do it.”
Take the New Orleans feeling, add in improvisers steeped in the free improv scene, toss a baseball into the mix and stir in some good old-fashioned lefty thinking. It’s OMA(H)A, and it’s the good kind of vibey.
Here are a couple of new videos of my solo trombone and computer project that I call Phantom Trombones. “Probable Pathology” is my contribution to Stay in Shape, Vol. 1. “General Specifics” is an outtake from that same “session.” I think both videos have guest appearances from Ollie the dog.