Return to Amazing Grapes

Stone Document returned to Amazing Grapes with a slightly revised approach. After listening to Anamnesis I realized what was missing from our live sound – the synths. The album is drenched in atmospheric synth pads. So it was time to revise the rack (as I seem to do before every show). I went back to the Roland GI10 midi interface (with the treble end of the Stick plugged into the mic input) driving a Kutzweil piano module (that I actually use for string patches). I also put my Oberheim Matrix-1000 into the bass signal chain and controlled it using my little M-Audio Oxygen 8 keyboard. This was a beginning…

After the show Mike said, “That’s the rig! You aren’t allowed to play without it, ever.” I guess the Oberheim was a good choice.

The other thing we tried was running the band direct into my Zoom multitrack and then using the monitor section to feed the p.a. (really just a powered speaker sitting between Mike and Doc). This seemed like an easy way to get a multitrack recoding of the gig and with the exception of a little harddrive noise it was. Highlights of the three sets will be mixed down, trimmed and compiled for possible future release. The other advantage of this set up was having all of the band’s sound coming from a singular central location allowed all of us to focus on the sound of the band as a whole and I think we played more cohesively than ever before.

We also made a conscious decision to take our time and let things build. This also payed off. After our first set one of our audience asked us what the name of the last piece we played was. We explained it was all improvised and wasn’t a formal composition. This seemed to surprise the audient. This is always a good thing.

JTG @ The Matterhorn, Stowe, VT

So the trio of LaVigne, Colbourn and Christensen participated in a fundraiser for s Stowe local (and close friend if Mike’s) who has been in treatment for cancer and is in need of help paying for it. Firstly, let me say it’s nice to actually be able to help someone by playing a gig. Usually it’s just an exercise in self-indulgence.

The gig was at the Matterhorn in Stowe, a place we used to play back in the day (when we had a drummer) and so it feels like being home. That is if your home is filled with a few hundred people. We played fairly early in the festivities and because it was an all ages event and because my family was conveniently on vacation about 20 minutes away my kids got to see the show. They are all huge fans of the band and were very excited. I was happy to have a road crew.

The setlist was pretty similar to the Higher Ground show with a couple covers thrown in. The venue was hot (all that humanity and humidity) and I sweated off a couple pounds by the end.

In the Presence of the Rhino King

So I schlepped down to Troy, NY to Revolution Hall to see Adrian Belew and his power trio Sunday night. Ade is a huge musical influence – his amazing sonic mayhem has graced albums by everyone from Zappa and Bowie to Nine Inch Nails. He’s also a bandmate of that other guy who’s had such an impact on my playing (Dear Old Uncle Bobby).

What made this gig particularly special is the fact that my friend Andre (whom you already know from previous pages on this blog) is working as his guitar tech/tour manager. This meant not only did I get to see an amazing gig (more on that in a minute) but also some hang time with Andre.

So I’m standing there before the show and Andre walks up and says, “I’ve got something for you. Here’s proof of just how well-connected I am.” Then he hands me a CD. Something familliar about this artwork. I look at it and it takes my brain a full 10 seconds to grasp what I’m looking at. It’s the brand new Stone Document CD! Slowly I am realizing he has a copy of my band’s new CD even before I have it! This of course make me ask the obvious: “Wha-, er, um… how? How? WTF? HOW?!”

It seems the previous night Adrian and company played in New Jersey and Doc was in attendance. He saw Andre and remembered being introduced to him by me at the David Torn CD release party in NYC last year. A conversation ensues, Doc gives him a couple of CDs (that had just arrived from the replication plant), and then a mere 24 hours later my mind is being blown. “Did you get one for you?” I asked. “Yes.” I handed the disc back to him. “Good. Please make sure Adrian gets this one.” The self-promotion muscle, while a bit stiff, still has reflexes.

So the band plays. Wow! I’ve seen Adrian many times over the years but this trio is a step above every other band he’s had. The drummer is a kid named Eric Slick and he’s monsterously good. I was already familliar with his playing because he also plays with the bands Project/Object and Delicious (both of which also feature Andre on guitar). The revelation about this band was on the other side of the stage. Eric’s sister Julie on Bass. This was the first time I’d had a chance to hear her. Awe-inspiring. And of course the musical connection between her and her brother was both audible and visible. For a full review look here:
or better yet head over to Adrian’s site (see my links) and pick up their new disc “Side Four (Live)”.

Afterwords I got a guided tour of Adrian’s rig (it’s nice to know the guy in charge of setting it all up!) and at the very end of the night a few words with the man himself. A couple of years ago I bought a guitar from Adrian (a Fernandes Les Paul with all the bells and whistles). He mentioned Fripp wants to buy the other one he has. When will he stop trying to emulate me?! 8^{/}

What’s next?


The Stone Document discs will be arriving soon so the promotional machinery is getting cranked up.  Wanna buy a copy?  Head over to  It’ll also be up on iTunes very soon.

I’m getting back to tracking on my own disc as well as writing for the next SD project.

Trying to clear the path for the upcoming musical adventures with SD, the John Tower Whatever and a new collective of improvisers that is readying for a Middlebury debut.  Watch these pages for more details on all of these (and more).

JTG Experience at Higher Ground

What remains of the John Tower Group reunited Friday night at Higher Ground in Burlington, VT to play a set opening for The Johnny Devil Band.  Arty LaVigne, Mike Colbourn and myself did a set of some new tunes and some old favourites (Arty and Mike on acoustic guitars and me with a scaled-down electric rig).  It was immense fun and the crowd seemed to get into it… mostly.  The mostly-acoustic versions of the songs worked well and the sound was good – the onstage monitor mix was great so we could hear each other clearly.  It was also very nice to be back at Higher Ground.  Alex and everybody who works there are great. 

We’ll be doing a benefit at the end of June in Stowe (more details to follow) and I’m hoping this can evolve into a semi-regular thing.

Amazing Grapes, 5/23

After a half day at the day job I piled myself and my gear into the car and headed south. As this was the Friday of Memorial Day weekend the traffic on the thruway was like a parking lot… thankfully on the other side of the median and pointed in the opposite direction of where I was going. My side was moving swiftly and smoothly in spite of the number of troopers on the road. Got down in good time, arriving at the venue about a half hour before scheduled load in.

Headed inside to loiter while waiting for the rest of SD to show up and we could schlepp our gear in. While waiting the phone rings at the register by the front door. The guy who answers it (Jeff? – sorry, I am really bad at retaining names) says to the guy on the other end, “hang on, I’ll put one of the band members on” and hands me the phone. “They want to know what kind of music you play.” Uh… that’s THE question, isn’t it? I give the guy on the phone what is becoming the standard answer:

“We are a trio playing what might best be described as ‘improvised, post-progressive fusion of experimental rock and ambient music’. We are often compared to early Pink Floyd though I don’t always hear the connection. A blend of all of the incarnations of King Crimson might be a more accurate comparison with a strong resemblance to the King Crimson side project ProjeKCt 2.”

Clear? Easy? You know just what we sound like now don’tcha? Actually, if they are familiar with King Crimson the second half of that above description actually paints a pretty clear picture. If they aren’t – well it’s all just gibberish. And as much as I’d like to think what we do is unique and groundbreaking, we have yet to escape our influences. I wonder if the guy on the phone came out and what his response was.

So Mike shows up, we load in, set up and then Doc shows up and loads in and then the gremlins get to work. This time it is Mike’s turn to be plagued with technical difficulties so we got off to a slower, more ambient start. When Mike finally joined in I think we had enough tension wound up in the three of us we exploded. And then began what might be the eternal pattern for a SD gig. Some audients are perplexed, taken aback and/or frightened and start to migrate away from where we are playing while others are drawn in and actually listen. Then there’s the folks who just don’t want to give up their barstool and weather the storm regardless of their opinion of the music (which sometimes but not always shifts throughout the evening). All of this effects the enrergy in the room in very noticeable ways and in turn informs our musical choices.

The sets went by in a blur. Doc was complimentary of my playing but post-show I have no idea what I really did or how well. Gotta trust the Doc, I guess. Highlights were throwing in random samples of everything from a soundbite of Doc speaking on an old radio interview to samples of Mike’s v-drums to spoken snippets from Fripp, Bennett, and excerpts from a dramatization of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Also at one point there was a cacophany coming from Mike’s corner of a new and unusual tambre. Apparently he plugged his iPod in to his amp and was playing a Stockhausen excerpt. You will never hear the recording of a Stone Document gig in an elevator – unless it’s an express elevator to Hell.

Ed from the Looper’s Delight list showed up and it was really great to meet him. We seem to have a lot of mutual aquaintences. It was also nice to have someone there who understands what we are doing both aestheticaly and on the technology side. There’s talk of a kind of a Looper’s showcase or festival happening somewhere in the Northeast and we’re hoping it wll allow a lot of us to meet and share what we do and what we know.

Also, the folks who run Amazing grapes have been and continue to be very supportive of us and we greatly appreciate that.

Then came the drive home, or more precisely the drive back to Vermont and to work. By the time I get home and to sleep I will have been up for about 33 hours. The things we do to make ourselves available to music…

Stone Document @ Amazing Grapes, 5/23/08

On Friday May 23rd Stone Document will be doing an evening of improvised mayhem (starting at 9 PM) at Amazing Grapes, 23 Wanaque Ave
Pompton Lakes, New Jersey.