“Please Excuse the Mess”

Last night was a special treat for me.  My friend Brian Robison did a Theremin recital at Middlebury College (the program of which was rather eclectic – spanning from the Baroque period to Yes).  I was part of a quartet at the end of the program that did an improvisation we dubbed “Please Excuse the Mess”.  The quartet was Brian on Theremin (one of the first electronic instruments that is played by moving your hands in proximity to the instrument instead of actually touching it), me on Stick and electronics, Tristan Axelrod on electric bass and Kareem Khalifa on electric upright bass.  We had improvised as a group last Fall at the first of Kareem’s monthly improv jams and it all seemed to click then so we decided it was worth a try again.

The improv was divided into movements with each of us stringed-instrument guys taking the lead and setting the tone for one of the movements, first as a solosit and then the group would join in.  After an inital catterwauling intro Tristan began his section by bowing his Fender Precision bass and getting some really interesting overtones and harmonics out of it.  We then slowly joined in and I set up a loop in the background, which came to the foreground as the rest of the band backed off.  This lead into my solo “The Nyquil-Ritalin Cocktail”.  It was mostly just me solong over the loop with Brian and eventually the other two joining in.  When Kareem’s solo came around he exploited the sesitivity of the piezo pickup on his electric upright bass by tapping, scratching and eventually vocalizing into various parts of the instrument.  I think my favourite sound he got was by exagerating the creaking of the hinge on it’s tripod stand which sounded remarkably like a sax player overblowwing.

Did it push some musical boundries?  Gently.  Was it music?  Mostly.  Was it fun?  Hell yeah!

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