The relationship between Pierre Dorge (1946, Frederiksberg, Denmark) and John Tchicai (1936, Copenhagen, Denmark) goes back to the late 1960s when Pierre first recorded as a member of John's group. By this time, John had already established himself as one of the original cast in the 1960's Creative Improvised Music Revolution, appearing on a number of benchmark recordings with John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Roswell Rudd, Archie Shepp, and Misha Mengelberg. Pierre is probably best known for putting together the New Jungle Orchestra (1980), one of the finest post Bop big bands and of which John has been a charter member. Over the years, John and Pierre have collaborated on a number of uncompromised recordings in a wide variety of contexts that have been eclectic, fun, and inspiring. And, while they have recorded in duo and trio formats before (notably in duo at Denmark's Louisiana Art Museum [1981, Steeplechase]), this is the first time with a drummer.
Lou Grassi's (1947, Summit, NJ) connection is more recent and was first documented in January 2002 when John appeared as guest artist with Lou's Po Band, a group that was established in 1995. When John began discussing this session with me in the Spring of 2002, one of the things that interested me most was how the freely associative combination of Pierre and John would respond in trio with a drummeras grounded and propulsive as Lou. Reservations regarding this combination were tempered by my previous work with John and Lou, where I had found them to be remarkably open to suggestions, confident of their abilities, and supportive of the music—as opposed to defending one's ego. Part of the appeal of this type of music-making – besides the inspiration gotten from listening to the music itself – is the strategy and placement of creative artists in dealing with various colors and personalities. Going into this situation, I really had no idea what direction it would take, but I had absolute confidence in the participants' artistry and ability to create interesting tales of the moment.
But before these tales of the moment began, I was confronted with an unusual sight: Lou, sitting behind the drums, peering—professorially through glasses resting halfway down his nose—at a music stand piled high with sheet music. It's not the first time Lou had read music at a CIMP session, but seemingly never this intently. During the second take of Biciclo, John had called for a more energized attack and increased interplay between drums and sax. The results you can hear. What you can't see is, as the music increased in energy, pieces of music continued to float away from Lou's music stand, gently gliding down to the base of the drums and building up at John's feet. The take which opens this recording is actually take 3 of Biciclo. Its aim: to present a softer, shorter and more lyrical interpretation of the tune.
The middle of the first evening's work was given over to group improvs, unwritten but with clear set-ups and designs suggested by John; organic threads that more often than not made for rewarding listens. This included the wonderfully dreamy but yet highly energized Farewell Wilber and the arrhythmic rhythmic 3 + 2. The remainder of the night was spent working out more of John's and Pierre's compositions, including Loop for Susan R. and Sumolle.
The heat, unusual for a northcountry fall day/evening, coupled with the extensive incomplete takes,re-takes, and playbacks was wearing me out, but the trio appeared to maintain its vigor through it all. We stopped recording around midnight. However, the trio stayed up and rehearsed for the next day's recording. About 40 minutes later, John said, "Good. Now I can sleep well," and brought the musical day to its conclusion.
By 9 a.m. the next morning, John had again assembled the trio into rehearsal and at 10 a.m. we began recording, opening with Claira to Claremont, a wonderful feature for Pierre, who, just prior to this, had managed to get a sliver of guitar inlay wedged in under hisfingernail. I suggested to John that calling this number in light of Pierre's injury seemed almost sadistic, to which John laughingly replied, "He asked for it. Said it would make him forget about the finger (pain)." Also unveiled at this time was Lou's recording debut as a composer, Balladof 9/11 (which refers to the compositional structure which in turn was inspired by the infamous date), which he modestly offered up to the trio who cooperatively ad-libbed an arrangement and gave birth to a nicely developed and involving listening excursion and a fine vehicle on which to extemporize.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent revisiting earlier material, tweaking construction and maintaining strong levels of statement. This is strong music in statements and composition. It is also generous music, with the artists giving extensively of their energies, minds and souls, and with plenty of space to feature all the personalities. Much is given by a few for the benefit of so many.
Robert D. Rusch - October 2, 2002