Posts tagged: Chris Icasiano

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!

Crossing Stylistic Lines

By , February 10, 2010 4:04 pm

I went to the Sunset Tavern in Ballard last night to watch Motorist, a rock band that includes musicians Jared Borkowski, Chris Icasiano, and Luke Bergman, who I met at the University of Washington, and Garrett Sand, who I met through the guys more recently, as well as frontman Robert Dale.  I really enjoyed the music and grabbed a free CD that I’m still listening to right now.

All of these people I met playing bebop-oriented jazz music, but that seems so long ago now, after watching them move on to play rock, as in last night, or more improvisatory music, as I’ve seen them recently do at the Racer Sessions.

It’s exciting and encouraging to know that there are cultural circles in this town that insist on taking in music from all sorts of different categories, no matter where it comes from, and I’m not just talking about musicians.  No matter what the style, no matter how popular it is or how far it is from the mainstream, people can recognize good music, and I think all of us, as performers, can take comfort in that.

Congratulations to Bad Luck

By , November 16, 2009 11:03 am

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Bad Luck is a drums and saxophone duo with Chris Icasiano and Neil Welch, two classmates of mine from the University of Washington days, who have taken off on an amazing path of music-making since then.  Chris has gone on to work in a diverse range of settings, from free jazz to rock to West African music, and Neil has been leading a 7-piece group that fuses Indian music and jazz, releasing an album, as well as playing with Chris and squeezing in a road trip that spanned almost all 50 states! 

That being said, I was very excited to to see the Bad Luck CD release concert on Saturday night and hear what Chris and Neil were up to.  I had not heard the group since Hardcoretet played a show with them months ago at Lucid, which I still look back on regretfully and with some guilt, as the owner of the club asked us to cut Bad Luck short that night, and we did that rather than stand up for them and refuse to do so.

That unfortunate experience has done nothing to slow the duo’s momentum, however, and it was evident at the show on Saturday.  The Good Sheperd Center was packed, and it was definitely the place to be if you were a Seattle musician.  The compositions moved from wildly energetic and raw to achingly delicate and introspective, sometimes in a very short span of time, and Chris and Neil were on the same wavelength the entire night.  It was inspiring, interesting, and new, something any music scene needs as much of as possible.  Congratulations guys!

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