The latest album from Tmpf Records features Mike Davis on double bass, Jacob Duncan on alto saxophone and Jason Tiemann on drums. All songs were spontaneously composed by the trio utilizing two compositional concepts created by Davis. The first he calls Fortunes," and the second he calls Hat-tricks."
Fortunes" is a spontaneous compositional concept based on immediate and undiscussed interpretations of evocative song titles. Mike first explored this idea in his band Conundrum around 1999/2000. This band was comprised of Mike on bass, Jacob Duncan on alto sax, for a short while the tenor saxophonist Dave Monsch, and a rotating drum chair including Chris Michael, Bill Campbell and Dan Vonnegut. For an extended time the ensemble played weekly, first at Oasis in NYC’s East Village and later at Nimrod in the Yorkville section of Manhattan. Each night Mike would bring a new list of evocative song titles, and Conundrum would spontaneously compose each song as the title was announced. Among the more memorable titles were Stickers Are a School Girl’s Herione, Whiskey Nightmare and Mike’s Carcass Could Easily Fit Inside Jake’s Carcass (contributed by drummer Bill Campbell). The audience of regulars was never informed that these pieces had not yet been composed, and it seems they never figured it out. Proof came in the form of requests on one week for a particular piece from the week before. The concept for ‘Fortunes’ uses the same basic premise. Mike has collected 100′s of fortunes from fortune cookies over many years. Each member is given a small pile of them. They take turns drawing them. The ‘player’ who draws a fortune reads it aloud and then begins the piece. There is no discussion whatsoever about style, tempo, key, mood. They just use the fortune as a jumping off point and as an evocative title. They listen to each other for the development of themes. Truly the only rules are to listen and compose. Mike uses the word ‘compose’ to suggest that they are not just improvising aimlessly on their instruments, but that they are open to discovering and playing a specific role within each spontaneous composition in order to instrumentally evoke the feeling of the title. Whether they are successful is totally subjective. FYI, they never listened back to anything in the studio. There was no point. Each title is discarded forever once performed live or in the studio.
The second concept employed Mike calls Hat-Tricks." Each player writes some sort of brief instruction for another player on a slip of paper. The instruction can be abstract, musically specific, anything at all. Before each piece, each player draws a slip and reads the instruction to himself. The piece begins when each player agrees that they understand their own instruction, but they do not discuss or reveal them to the others. The resulting piece is a collaborative effort where each player is bound only by his interpretation of the brief instruction he drew. Once again, the only rules are to listen and compose. Mike first introduced this concept on a recording session with pianist Clark Erickson and drummer Paul Stivitts. The session of freely treated standards was feeling a little stale, so Mike suggested the hat-tricks idea to get the creative juices flowing. That session was never released, but it might be eventually. In any case, a seed was planted, and the hat-tricks portion of this album grew from it.
From this particular outing the brooding and intense Hat-Trick #8" is an introspective journey with a kind of blues abstraction happening throughout. Mike seems to be guiding a meditation of sorts on the bass while Jacob is practically crying through his alto sax. Jason interjects with an array of colors, sometimes ethereal and other times rude. The song entitled People In Your Background Will Be More Cooperative Than Usual" begins as a very contemplative group piece but eventually evolves into something bombastic and very assertive. The three musicians move from operating in alternating supportive roles to a unison army of explosive force. Another highlight of this album is Hat-Trick #6". The juxtaposition of each member's distinctly different roles within this piece creates a complex and very satisfying color palette and evokes a raw emotional tension that's both challenging and inspiring.
This album is sure to be well received by fans of David S. Ware
, John Zorn
, William Parker
, John Surman
, Paul Bley
and Jimmy Giuffre
This album is available for pre-order now at Basecamp
. It will be available for sale on iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic, and most other online retailers Dec 3, 2013.