This session was originally scheduled to start on February 17. The plan was for the group to drive over the day after a gig in Rochester, NY. Unfortunately, automotive problems stranded Billy and Barry in Albany, NY, and by the time they finally arrived in Rochester all opportunities for rehearsal and gig were lost. They all got some sleep and arrived in Rossie in the late afternoon of the 17th and spent the entire evening rehearsing the music before getting some sleep in preparation for an early morning start, giving them, in Barry's words, "an opportunity to sleep with the music in (our) heads."
A good night's rest (Bang said he thought he was in the North Pole) accomplished, the group was anxious to get to work and, indeed, sound checks were underway before 9 a.m. When I asked Joe if he had slept well, he respondedwith typical Fonda exuberance, "Yeah, but when I get excited about the music, it's hard to sleep. I know something's up and I know it's good to be alive."
This was a group in good spirits. Barry clearly enjoys his renewed involvement in the random challenge of the music, and Billy, invigorated by the acclaim and attention his Vietnam recording (JustinTime Records, through whose courtesy he appears) received and by his quest to pay greater attention to his health, seemed at the top of his game.
The session opened with Billy's Softness..., which I felt began a bit cold. I was set togo for another take after the first one ran its course, but within moments the magic of the personal creative involvement took hold and, by the end, whatever indifference I had felt in the beginning was unimportant. Once again, it is the imperfection of this art that so often plays such an important part in the perfection of the whole.
Barry's Be Out... was next, a tricky line the group had worked on extensively the night before. Bang—now warmed up from his workout on Softness—removed his sweater and announced, "I'm ready to get it now. Let's pop it." Pop it he did and then, after his solo, sat open-mouthed and amused while Barry and Joe went at it. Finished, Billy said, "OK, Barry, I nailed the shit out of it." And with that, the energy in The Spirit Room was exhilarated by the heat and hum of people deeply involved in a process bigger than the sum of their own personal spheres.
Fonda's Song For... was up next, one of Joe's multifaceted journeys. After a quick strategical game plan was laid out by its composer, this piece quickly took flight, musically unfolding much like the life cycle of a flower. Joe calls it "transforming the space."
Next up were acouple of takes on Barry's tribute to past masters (For Papa...), Billy's account of his (and Barry's) boyhood home (Tales...), and then—as an encore—Coligno Battatta, a free jam. Just prior to getting into the encore, with everyone in place and ready to go and with the "tape rolling,"Joe began reacting to Bang's spontaneous laughing during a previous take. The trigger for the giddiness occurred when, during the previous piece, Bang looked over at Joe (a diminutive fellow who plays his bass without any extension of the bass peg) who was hunched over his bass, playing the strings at their furthest end (closest to the floor, well past the bridge), giving the visual effect of a person bent over and sweeping material into a dustpan. So, just before Coligno Battatta began, Fonda good-naturedly admonished Billy, "Don't stop if I do some stupid shit, ‘cause that's me, Billy." Billy laughingly said he promised, Barry added his editorial comments from the drum chair, and they then went into the music. I've left in this exchange as it's representative of the relaxed but spirited involvement shared by the trio's members.
And, with the conclusion of that piece,this FAB fest was finished.
Enjoy the concert.
Robert D. Rusch - February 18, 2003