Posts tagged: andrew swanson

Sasquatch/IO Awards

By , June 18, 2010 8:58 am

I’m back with another double post that I’ve been wanting to do for a while, a recount of and some thoughts about Memorial Day Weekend. 

I was very excited for this weekend for several reasons.  There would be great camping with some of my favorite people, a full day’s worth of music that was largely new to me, and then the IO Awards at Benaroya Hall to cap it all off.  First, Sasquatch.

When my sister Emily first suggested a bunch of us buy Saturday Sasquatch tickets, I probably was familiar with 3 or 4 of the bands out of the 12 hours of music that would be happening that day.  Part of the great birthday present my girlfriend Brittany got me was a package of burned cds of almost all the bands playing at Sasquatch when we would be there, a primer of sorts so I knew what to expect, and listening to these just got me more pumped.  As I’ve said here before, I pretty much come from a jazz background, and haven’t listened to very much of anything else, although my horizons have definitely expanded in recent years, and this was an opportunity to open my ears even more.

Saturday at the Gorge did not disappoint.  Artists like Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, Miike Snow, Broken Social Scene, Vampire Weekend, the National, and Brother Ali all were top notch, and obviously seeing all of them at the Gorge in beautiful weather was an amazing experience (camping was incredible too, but I’ll stick to the music here).  From noon to midnight, I can’t remember a single act that I was honestly disappointed with, and they all had their own style and sound, not to mention incredible amounts of stage energy.  I was really impressed with all the bands’ ability to put on an awesome show and really get into it, often with little or no pageantry or flash.  Everyone seriously rocked their sets, but there was nothing lost in the execution of the music, and these are things I think I could think about more often when I play.

Monday night was the first ever Inside Out Awards.  All in all, it was an immensely impressive event that Lucid’s David Pierre-Louis pulled off, and it was fun, at least for a small part of the night, for Brittany and I to feel a little fancy walking around the Benaroya Hall lobby.  Hardcoretet didn’t win, but there was even some fun in that; after hanging out and joking around with our friends in Gravity, who beat us out for the mixed-genre album award, a tongue-in-cheek feud was born, and I hope it goes for a while.  You win this round, Gravity, but next time!

Most importantly, I hope that this first time around for the Inside Out Awards was an experience that can both be improved on as an event as well as a catalyst for increased musical activity in Seattle.  It definitely gave a snapshot of the incredible musical diversity here, and if listeners continue to seek out new venues, new bands, new artists, and new music, the scene will benefit.  I think it’s important to recognize that one of the possible negative side effects of emphasizing any particular community, whether it’s jazz, rock, sculpture, poetry, or anything else, is that the circle tightens, and even though the bonds inside that community get stronger, it begins to isolate itself.  That being said, the Inside Out Awards event was a fun celebration of what we have going on here in Seattle, and I for one was energized to look ahead to the future!

So that was Memorial Day Weekend.  Stay tuned for another post soon about the Polyrhythmics, the band I’m in that recently took an Oregon mini-tour of our own, and come celebrate Solstice this Saturday the 19th at 7:30 at Cafe Solstice(!) with Dead Zerious featuring Andrew Swanson, IO award winner and subject of this week’s Better Know a Badass on www.hardcoretetmusic.com.

Art

Speak

By , February 26, 2010 11:48 am

speak

Speak is a 5-piece band that plays creative instrumental music drawing on a wide variety of influences.  Some of the members, like Chris Icasiano and Luke Bergman, I’ve mentioned in this blog before from their work with other groups like Bad Luck and Motorist, and I work with Aaron Otheim in Hardcoretet.  I’ve known saxophonist Andrew Swanson for several years, the same amount of time as the rest of the guys mentioned above. 

I realized that it was quite difficult for me to talk about the music and the band in a satisfying way, so I went to Aaron for help.  After all, if I wanted to put out a truly accurate description of Speak, why not go to the source?

As Aaron tells it:  “I think it’d be good to mention that Speak began as a straight-ahead-sounding jazz group that was originally Andrew, Chris, Luke and me, but that our sound evolved to incorporate elements of classical music and rock – the music each of us grew up playing and listening to.  This shift in sound was definitely strengthened when Cuong Vu joined the band as his musical aesthetic and playing style reflect a similar trajectory.”

Before Cuong Vu began teaching at the University of Washington and playing with the group, he had already become fairly well known in creative music circles.  The Trio had come to Seattle a couple of times, including a show at the Tractor featuring Bill Frisell that saxophonist Stuart McDonald told me was one of the best shows he had seen in a long time, and Vu had begun touring with Pat Metheny.  So it was very exciting to hear that he would be teaching in town, and then even more exciting when he started playing with Speak.  The result of the year or so that the quartet had put in combined with this later collaboration that has now been going on for longer than that has resulted in the band’s self-titled debut CD, available here.  Aaron went on to talk a little bit more specifically about the music:

“Another important component: most of the “solos sections” actually consist of collective improvisation, meaning that everyone is improvising together… no real soloists. The heads of the tunes themselves all have very specific parts worked out, however, much more akin to a classical composition or the way a rock band might rehearse. This provides a very strong structure that frames each improvisation, giving us a clear focus on where the improvisation should go, but not necessarily how it should sound.”

The CD release show and the album itself put all of these concepts on display, moving from sections of pointillistic modern classical music to free improvisation to experimentation with electronic sounds and the layering of indie-rock. 

Speak will get a chance to showcase their sound outside of the Northwest soon, at performances in Colorado, the Stone in New York and the Saalfelden Jazz Festival in Salzburg, Austria.

Congratulations, guys!

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