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I’ve never lived in a place where I sensed as much of a collective craving for the thaw as the Twin Cities. It’s not entirely based in negativity (ACK! NO MORE WINTER!) either. Right around the time we recorded this I heard no less than three local bands play songs dedicated to the coming warmth. It’s optimistic and relaxing and sometimes makes me want to cry. It’s a knowledge that you still have this huge weight on your shoulder, but you’ve gone 90% of the way, and you’re gonna make it.

Birth and mud.

I think those ideas came forth in this improvisation. We recorded this at our third rehearsal, basing it on no preconceived themes or key centers, nothing but the idea of “springtime,” having never tried an open ended free improvisation (at least of an entire piece), and still to this day it may be my favorite recording we’ve done. A common theme in some other posts has been how happy we are with our blend, and that is absolutely showcased in this performance. There are a few moments in this piece where I have no idea what sound is coming from which instrument, and our ideas flow through each other in some really magical ways. We had thematic material that was developed and went away and then returned, we had a fantastic metric modulation, a slightly-too-long appoggiatura, and, (with no attempt to discover if this is true) the first ever recorded, possibly unfortunate-and-never-to-be-attempted-again, duct-tape solo (keep working on that technique Adam).

Mind you, it’s a little long and rambles on in a few places, and maybe I suffer here from Midas Syndrome, but I think this is an extremely listenable piece of music. Which is rare for a piece of this type. I’m rather tempted to transcribe it and turn it into a composition.

Oh, and if you listen very closely at the beginning, you can hear a water-pipe that ran through our rehearsal space providing the perfect backdrop.

So grab a glass of wine, read e.e. cummings “in just-” and settle in for some birth and mud. I think you’ll come out of it a little quieter and a little happier.

Springtime, An Improvisation

~Greg

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Boomshakalaka.  This weeks music sundae is a little late, but that couldn’t be helped because the blog was just so recently created.  We spent the first big chunk of rehearsal working on a really cool Shostakovich fugue that Greg transcribed directly from the original piano score.  We’re almost ready to post a recording, but there’s still some balance and phrasing problems to work on (at least this time I’m drowning out Greg and not the other way around – damn accordion).

Anyway – this post is about the piece we did record, which is Stolen Moments, by Oliver Nelson.  I hope the other guys will comment on this post and pitch in their ideas, because this kind of music is far from my specialty.  That said, my take on what we’re trying to do here is kind of a mixture between Footprints (the Miles Smiles version) and Li’l Darlin’ (as played by Count Basie).  What I’m focusing on the most is blending the tone of the cello to disappear into the trumpet sound, which means not only precisely matching articulation, cutoff, intonation and volume, but also feeling the time without any rhythm section (no downbeats!  bah!).  It’s enough to focus on that I no longer feel self-conscious making weird facial expressions (which usually yields the best musical results, in my experience).

As far as form goes, this is the kind of tune that everybody wants to solo on, but we didn’t want it to be 15 minutes long so we had an arm-wrestling contest to see who got to solo – Adam and I obviously won (I only beat Greg because his arms were fatigued from playing accordion, and I p0wned Evan by slapping his new forearm tattoo really hard).  I think it was Greg’s idea to have one solo over traditional minor blues changes, followed by a free solo, which really adds to the “where the hell am I?” vibe of this arrangement.  All in all, I really feel like this piece takes full advantage of the exciting-sweetness-of-sound we’re capable of, sort of like blue velvet charged with static electricity (especially the part where the accompaniment does the chromatic swell).

What we could use the most input on, I think, is the overarching form of the piece: does it keep your attention?  does it feel complete?  are you left wanting more/less of anything in particular?  is the flow of energy natural?  what color socks are you wearing, if any?  your social security number?

Here’s another link to the tune: Stolen Moments (by Oliver Nelson)

Thank you so much, and I hope you stick around and check in on future ‘New Music Sundaes’ with Lulu’s Playground.

-Cory

I thought I might start off with a synopsis of what we’re currently working on and what we’re thinking, or, what I think we’re thinking….  So, from talking with the other guys I know that I’m not the only one who’s thrilled to have this combination of instruments and their respective players.  In fact, the sonic possibilities seem endless right now, and I find myself curiously listening to all kinds of genres of music and imagining the music with our instruments (kind of like picturing your head on somebody else’s body).

It might be better for us to pick one style of music and really stick to a cohesive sound, but I really don’t think we’re considering any limitations at this point – we’ve got a pretty good variety recorded so far, all the way from free improvisation to a waltz by Shostakovich (more of both on the way, for SURE).  Lately I’ve been absolutely hooked on the Shostakovich string quartets (especially 7-9, and 11) and can’t stop thinking about how different lines will beautifully feature trumpet or accordion, and how one part will sound badass on electric guitar…I really think that with our instrumentation it’ll end up sounding like a fusion of Shosti and Piazzolla.  We’re also looking to flesh out the Shosti jazz suite with the remaining 2 movements – Evan and I decided that we should be a Shostakovich cover band and tour Russia for a living.

For a while we were all about arranging pieces by Tin Hat Trio and Dave Douglas, and I’m still way into that direction, but I’m just obsessed with bringing our sound to some more classical music.  The only problem is, and Adam put it really well when he said that, “this crap is really hard to rehearse.”  That is the only specific direction we’re heading: music that’s hard to rehearse (free improvisation with an ensemble is really time-consuming and difficult to rehearse effectively too, turns out).

-Cory

Welcome to our blog!  This is the area where the members of Lulu’s Playground will come to share our music and ideas with all of you.  Since the groups inception a couple month ago, we’ve been updating our Myspace page with new music almost every Sunday.  We started thinking that it might be fun (and appease the inner musicology nerds in some of us) to write down some explanations, thoughts, and reflections on all the music we’ve been producing lately.

Since we just set this up today it may take a little bit before we start posting, but check back soon for more info!

Also one last thought.  Playblog reminds me of either the Playboy mansion or something for the old Adam West Batman TV series.  Both of which are awesome, and therefore this blog is awesome.  Boom.

Although “Welcome to the Playblog” sounds kinda like “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’Roses, which is considerably less awesome.  Therefore this post is not so great.  However, my logic for the initial awesomeness of this blog still holds true.  I think.

~Evan