In stark contrast with my last entry (a piece of music I finely tuned for 17 years and played all the instruments on), today I’m showing an entirely improvised piece of music that doesn’t feature me very prominently.
Paul Wertico made a project in 2009 that was a mashup of his trio (John Moulder and myself) and two Israeli musicians he was in a band with (Dani Rabin and Danny Markovitch) and called it Paul Wertico’s Mideast/Midwest Alliance. The record label paid for us to go into a nice studio to spend two days recording whatever we wanted.
On the first recording day, I was running really late for a number of reasons, and while I was stopped at a stop sign, I was rear-ended by another car, which promptly sped away. Flustered while calling Paul to tell him I’d be late, I promptly locked my keys in the car. After retrieving the keys with the help of a Fox River Grove policeman I knew, I drove to the studio in Evanston (and got lost- this is pre-smartphone era) and then eventually found the place and set up my usual 10 people’s worth of equipment in an entire corner of the studio while Paul was recording some drum solos in another room on the opposite side of the control room. When I was done, the producer came out and asked us what we had prepared to record, which was a mistake. Paul and I almost always just go in to a studio to start creating from scratch, and didn’t really think of this experience as any different, and we just told him we were going to improvise for two days. He seemed a bit shocked, but Paul reassured him that I would cut those two days down to 60 min and mix the album for him and that it would be great, so, he agreed.
John and I had actually never played a note of music with the two Israeli guys until the red light was on, but it came together perfectly and we played for maybe 30 minutes while adjusting our instruments and monitor mixes. It was some amazing stuff (parts of that first recording made it on the final CD.) The producer wasn’t entirely sure if we had just taken a 30 minute soundcheck, or if we were being serious. He couldn’t find words to ask us directly, but eventually Paul told him that we were going to do that for the rest of the project. The producer looked blankly into space for what seemed like an eternity (but was probably 4 or 5 seconds) and then said he needed to go to his car for some reason and left the studio, which had turned to an awkward silence. I said, aloud, “I think we broke his brain.” and the two Israeli guys fell on the floor laughing, recognizing the Simpsons reference. “But that’s exactly it! He just got stuck and kind of shut down!” Dani said.
So, we just committed to recording like that, and we made a really good record. In naming the album, Paul told us to open a random book to a random page and read the first phrase we saw, which was “Better Than Windsurfing”. We all decided that would be a perfect title for the album, and even had ideas for all the art, but Paul wanted to name it “Impressions of a City” instead, so, that’s why it’s named that.
This section of that improvisation starts at 0:00 with John Moulder playing my fretless guitar, and Dani Rabin and me making background textures on guitar and violin, respectively.
Around 0:41, Dani turns on an octaver and starts playing bass parts while Danny Markovitch starts playing soprano sax.
I walk across the entire studio, put one of the room microphones on a piano that happened to be there (praying it had been tuned recently) and start playing little piano things at 1:21 (although I clearly can’t decide if I want to play the inside of the piano or not.)
John Moulder picks up an acoustic guitar around 2:00
Danny Markovitch turns on a harmonizer for his soprano sax at 2:52 while I seem really fascinated by the note E on the piano.
Then I guess it ends.