Steve Gauci (1966, NYC, NY) says he caught the Jazzbug when he was 16."I was 16 and immediately became obsessed and from 18 to 25 I generally practiced eight hours daily, six days a week." He studied with Joe Lovano for three years and, as a "straight ahead player, with no interest in avant stuff," began touring with big bands, played cruise ships, and, in general, paid those working musicians dues. In 1994, he moved to Seattle and "decided that straight ahead didn't make sense in a place with snow peaked mountains and started experimenting" with a variety of genres: African, Rock, hip hop, Funk, and ... Jazz. During that time, he met bassist MikeBisio who "really ... showed me how to let go of form, how to improvise without a net." In 2000, he moved back to New York City, got his master's, and studied with George Garzone who "realized that I already had my own thing going on and helped deepen that." Since then, he's gigged with,among others, Garzone, Steve Swell, Roy Campbell, etc., and teaches private lessons to make the nut. In addition to all this, as the result of sickness at age 9, Steve suffers from a severe hearing impairment "... but it does have a focusing effect for me. I'm very concentrated when I perform."Steve says he doesn't take hearing/playing for granted. "I don't know how long I'll be able to play for, could be 20 years, could be 10 years... It's a gift that's been given to me ... and I have to honor the gift and use it wisely and generously... I'm grateful, no complaints."
I was not aware of all of the above when in July of 2004 Steve contacted me about issuing a trio date with Mike Bisio and Jay Rosen (Cadence Jazz #1180). Since then there has been a lot of Steve Gauci in my face, all of which was also set in motion prior to my awareness of his history; quite simply itis not the circumstances but the music that interests me. From my first exposure, Steve's music has spoken clearly and directly to me.
With my ears in his corner, Steve—in short order—began sending me other projects. One of those was a project with his New (York) trio (Jeremy Carlstedt and Terence Murren), and I agreed to issue that as well (Cadence Jazz #1190). His first trio date featured a nervous investigative quality with lines darting this way and that. The second date showed a more timed assurance and was a tad more dwelling, which gave greater detail to his compositions but still contributed an abundance of ideas, range, and
energy as he leaned into the solid rhythm support and blew tough. It was another worthy listen and showed a progression. It was my intention to expose further developments with a fresh focus on a CIMP session and so this date was set. By January 1st,2005, Steve informed me of yet another development in the trio. As he had come to feel that the trio was growing and moving in a particular direction, Steve was led to bring in bassist Todd Nicholson whose "deep swing and huge sound" he felt allowed the group to move "us to that place we werefeeling" and brought the music to an even higher level. Having already experienced a reality between Steve's "hype" and musical abilities, it struck me as simply the next development in the music of Steve Gauci. A few weeks later, Steve was in The Spirit Room as part of a Mike Bisio Quartetsession (CIMP 323) and, in that setting, going one on one with saxman Avram Fefer. Nothing from that first personal experience suggested that this date was not merited.
All of this has come about so fast that, as I write this, none of those other projects has had time to be released yet all of themwill be available within a couple of months. Poor marketing, perhaps. But, again it's not about marketing demands, it's about the demands of the music.
Jeremy Carlstedt (1976, Manassas, VA) and Todd Nicholson (1972, San Francisco, CA) are both new to The Spirit Room. Jeremy has been establishing himself in the New York City area, playing with diverse groups including Arnie Lawrence, Ken McIntyre, Daniel Carter, Sabir Mateen, and Andrew Bemkey. Todd has been based in New York City since 1997. Often associated with Frank Lowe, Billy Bang, James Zollar, and Steve Swell, he also leads his owngroups.
Steve's choices for rhythm turned out to be good ones, not just for the musical support but also for the fellowship they brought to the leader and, in turn, the group. It's that "unheard" support that can add substantially to faciliating the music and directing and focusing the thoughts and energies on the music. How valuable they are to the music is evidenced by From the First, Not a Thing Is, the only total improv of the evening. Steve had the rhythm lead off. Their choices of direction, structure, and pace developed interesting lines and sections and presented a wonderfullistening trip—a fine example of instant composition.
The trio arrived a bit after 5 p.m., set up, and began playing literally within minutes of arrival. In over 200 sessions here, no group has ever set to the music this quickly. About a half hour later, I had to convince Steve to put the sax down and eat. After a couple hours of relaxed dinner, the group went back into The Spirit Room for a soundcheck, exhibiting the same energy they demonstrated prior to the meal.
Steve is very much a man with a mission, chomping at the bit to get going, to the point that even I felt pressure to accelerate my pace and get the session underway. This is a pretty focused cat who covers all the details, including going so far as renting a spare sax, fearing the possibility of his vintage tenor breaking mid session. A good example of Steve's energy, insistance, and focus suggests itself on Neither Free Nor Bound.
In quick succession, they whipped off four takes, put their instruments down and grabbed some water, at which point I asked Todd if it's always so focused. He said their rehearsals tend to be like that. Because of the limited time when they all can get together, it tends to be very focused and concentrated and, as a result, it's kind of a habit they've gotten into. While I found the music exhilarating, the down time was so little that I felt rushed in dealing with the next tune before the previous one had even settled in my head. On the other hand, Steve's style of banking levels of statements brings an optimism and renewal effect to the music that uplifts and refreshes.
With the bulk of the recording sucessfully completed, we called an early evening, leaving some space for a morning perspective.
In the morning, I asked Steve for a piece with a certain color and tempo, at which point he asked for a pencil and began sketching out compositions. About 2 1/2 hours later, after rehearsing it with the trio, The Reaper was recorded. Thought to realization—nice.
I'm often suspicious of recording sessions that proceed so smoothly or seem too easy, and somehow equate stress and strain with substantial art. This session belies that notion. A smooth experience, it produced substantial music for those who choose to listen.
Robert D. Rusch - March 4, 2005
Steve Gauci can also be heard on CIMP 323.