In nine compositions by Gress, Olin and Frisk the four musicians play with unconditional sensibility seeking the soft poetry of Cradle Song as well as the roaring intensity of New Leaf. Blue to Pink allows for melodic beauty and Vesper hard swing, while Removal by Suction shows dark and secret undertones. The dynamic mix between Nilsson’s powerful drumming and Gress’ solid bass lays down a rhythmic foundation for Olin’s harmonic complexity and Frisk’s tenor saxophone.
The CD was recorded in December 2015 following a tour in Sweden. Vesper by expEAR and Drew Gress is released on November 15, 2017. It is released on the Swedish label Kopasetic Productions.
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Press release for Vesper
Of all the projects we have done this is perhaps the most traditional in the sense that we got together and played compositions. Some of Gress’s, some of Maggi’s and some of my tunes. Nevertheless, we approached the task in the same manner as in our previous collaborations. From my own point of view playing with Drew was both the easiest thing I’ve ever done and also the most difficult. Playing with Katt Hernandez, for example, was easy because there is a relative openness in the approach. Not that anything goes, but almost everything is negotiable. Drew comes out of a long and strong jazz tradition that has its rules and its traditions and out of that tradition he has established his own aesthetic in a way that is very specific yet very open. In order to fully understand his approach, I felt I had to also understand where he was coming from.
Luckily, Drew was easy to work with and shared a lot of stories about his past and current musical collaborations. Also, through his music the process became more and more transparent. For myself one of the key clues came when he brought in a hand written tune titled Vespar. Not only was it a clear reference to a more jazz oriented aesthetic, it had a clear reference to one of the key figures in re-structuring jazz in contemporary harmony and melody, namely Kenny Wheeler. Hence, to me this tune brought a understanding to, not only how to play his compositions, but also to how to play with him.
Thanks to support from Musikverket we are able to invite the fabulous bass player Drew Gress to participate in our ongoing exploration of what jazz is, what it can be and, most importantly, what it is for us.
We are currently booking concerts in Sweden but as usual, our fokus is on the process rather than the result. On finding out what Gress’ concept is and how we can learn from him while staying true to our own aesthetics.
This is a recording of a concert we did at IAC in Malmö. The concert was very informal and we set up in a circle, facing each other with the audience behind us in a circle. Hence, we were playing to an imaginary centre to which the audience was also turned. Simply put, we as musicians, had the same visual focus as the audience. Which is a bit strange since it also meant that we had our backs turned towards the audience.
Following the concert was a talk with the audience. A bit hesitant to begin with but eventually this chat turned out to be a very valuable discussion on the means of communication possible in the context of a concert. The actual conversation is not part of the video here with respect for the participants, but I will discuss the impact the discussions had in a separate post (they are also brought up here: croneholm, day 2: listener experience
One of the main points brought up however, was the importance of the staging of the event. Not only the way we set up but also the meta communication concerning the concert. The hint at it being informal, the fact that we set up in a circle, the communicated condition that we were experimenting with the forms of communication and style, all of these items set focus on the situation rather than us as a group, or even as a jazz group. In the end this allows for a different kind of interface for the audience to approach the music that we do. And, in this context, perhaps most importantly, it allows us to stretch beyond our comfort zones and ignore otherwise quite important factors in improvisation.
On the second day of the workshop with Josefine Peter was unfortunately sick. Though we could still play and rehearse the music we decided time was better spent to focus on talking. One of the things we started thinking about, and discussing, was the question: “What does the listener express?”. The idea that the listener is part of the act of creation is not very new but even if we do involve the listener in our playing I think it’s safe to say that this listener participation is a passive participation in the sense that the expression is still somehow centered on the performer. This idea should be challenged.
The question concerning the listener expression is actually spot on for this project. Dismantling our own and others’ musical expectation as well as the theoretical frame that they share we can no longer stand before the listeners expecting them to silently accept what we are saying. First of all, chances are they will not understand, secondly, it doesn’t make sense. What we are doing is pointless without an active relation to the listener.
What’s interesting is that, judging by the result of the final concert, we actually managed to listen to the expression of the listener. We had communicated and they had responded in a way that led us through the program. A different audience would without doubt have resulted in a quite different concert. Standing in a circle with the audience around us contributed to the feeling that we and the audience were united.
Perhaps the best proof of this is that one member of the audience gave a complete analysis of Yeats poem The Cradle that I had set to music. Of course, she herd the text as it was sung but she didn’t know the poem from before and she claimed that her source for this reading was as musch the music. But not only did she provide an anlysis, she also related it to her own emotions concerning the same topic, and related our music to all of this. That was quite remarkable.