Over five years had passed since Patrick Brennan (1954, Detroit, MI) last graced The Spirit Room in September of 1998. I would have guessed it to be less than half that time, partly because the experience is still vivid for me, but even more so because every time I renew my contact with the music from that duo session (with bassist Lisle Ellis) I am invigorated by its freshness. Good art—allowing for its subjectivity—maintains that quality of renewal. In that meantime, Patrick has played around, released a collaboration with the Gnawan (Morocco) musician M'allim Najib Sudani on DeepDish Records and a set of live festival music on Cadence Jazz Records.
It was the festival material that directly led to this date as not only was I taken by the power of the group that included Hill Greene (1958, Logansport, IN), Newman Taylor Baker (1943, Petersburg, VA), and Juma Santos Ayantola, but I also felt that, given the advantages of time and The Spirit Room, it might be very productive to record them on CIMP. The addition of Steve Swell (1954, Newark, NJ) would not only make for a good blend, but would further help guarantee the finest in creative discovery.
The group arrived midafternoon, following a previous night's gig, in seemingly good spirits. Extension boards to hold what appeared to be 3-foot spreads of music were produced during the sound check, arousing my usual apprehensions about the possibility of the notes interfering with the music and, in addition in this case, in part baffling the sound. As it turns out, it is often the music that is baffling in itsseries of angular turns, breaks, space, and interlacing improvisations. It is the kind of music that inevitably benefits from two takes: one for structure, the second for integrations of individual spirit. Much of this music is orchestral and, in fact, shadow doing sounds at times like it is beingexecuted by a rather sizable orchestra that at the same time contains a comfortably conversant improvising quartet.
The nature of this music necessitated a certain amount of run-through and fine tuning and by 10 p.m., after 2 hours of playing, only 2 pieces (hot red/ shadow doing) had been fully addressed. Rather than tedious, the coordination of the music and spirit evolved as a result of rather conversational discussions led by Patrick, who talked the music almost as a story with interjections and clarification from the group. Patrick clearly knew the course and the group seemed involved andrespectful in the challenge of interpretation. And the rundown and strategy sessions could be long. On rough hue it was over an hour before even the first take was addressed. But when it happened, the take was smooth with the predetermined and the improvised falling complementarily into each otherto form the whole of this episodic piece.
After rough hue it was decided that the recording part of the evening would conclude but the group would continue the musical discussion, this time in regard to permeations gumvindaboloo , which would be part of the next day's recording. Interesting watching an intellectual and technical discussion metamorphose into emotive music. The process thus far had been so successful that it gave me confidence and enthusiasm for the next day's recording. gumvindaboloo, judging from the discussion, was still very much a work in progress. New approaches and structures were being invented to mesh with parts previously displayed publically in concert. Once more I am reminded that there are as many variations to the process of this music as there are voices in the music, and often the process itself is as interesting as the music is rewarding.
The next morning, after having worked on gumvindaboloo for at least 1 hour the night before, the group worked on drums not bombs for about 3 hours before we began the formal business of recording. Again, even without breaks, the mood was relaxed, focused, and conversational with not a discouraging utterance or sense of tedium, even with the repetitious execution of various musical configurations that make up the compositional foundation of the piece(s).
The second day's recording session opened with drums not bombs and all the fragments of the past 3 hours came together naturally and wonderfully as a whole and soon ventured off into Newman's conversation which, consciously or unconsciously, tips its hat to Max Roach. Newman calls it genetic memory, "That's just the way I hit." Coincidentally, Patrick intoned that he had had Max in mind when he first began composing the piece. The first takewas good but I think the group was still on delay, still digesting the 3 hours of rehearsal. The second take (issued here) noticeably renewed itself in focus and clarity of attack.
Finally they got to gumvindaboloo, a piece in 4 parts, some of whose parts and multirhythm time signatures had the effect of giving me audio illusions of stumbling and acceleration.
We finally brought the rather protracted session to a close in the late afternoon and I was impressed not just by the effort and the resultant music but also by the continued resilience of the musicians who, with hardly a break betweenbreakfast and supper, maintained their sharpness, energy, and pride in their musicianship. Patrick chose well and the group delivered.
Robert D. Rusch - February 18, 2004