Christy Doran: New Bag, New Tricks

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Mainly through Urs Leimgruber, the members of OM listened to saxophonists John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
, Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
b.1937
saxophone
and Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
Pharoah Sanders
b.1940
saxophone
. "That brought the element of free jazz into the band," explains Doran. Though none of the members of OM could have imagined it when the band started out, their fourth album would be a collaboration with former Weather Report percussionist Dom Um Romao, who brought the sounds of the Brazilian rainforest and berimbau to the session. "George Gruntz, who used to manage Berlin Jazzfest, and who unfortunately died just a few months ago, made the contact, and Dom Um agreed," says Doran.

The Brazilian also toured with the band. "It was a lot of fun," recalls Doran. "Dom Um was also a good showman and could reach the audience very easily. With Dom Um, OM really got accepted internationally. I later played duo and trio concerts with him."

OM is a band that Doran remains proud of. "OM was a real band, coming out of the cellar clubs of Lucerne, growing and learning together. It was a collective. We were young and somehow naïve, but there was plenty of individuality. I've never had such an intense band feeling since those days, and I am glad to have experienced those ten years. Those ten years were my musical schooling."

In 2007, 25 years after OM disbanded, the director of a museum in the band's hometown of Lucerne invited the four band members to reunite to open an exhibition about the youth movement of the 1960s and 1970s, in which OM was documented in photographs. "We liked the idea; we thought it would be fun," recalls Doran. "All four of us had been working on our own projects for the last 25 years, and we were a bit worried what we'd sound like, but the concert went well. In the first half of the concert, we played the old tunes, though of course as musicians we had all improved, and in the second half of the concert we just improvised."

The success of the concert and the fun the four musicians had playing together once again was sufficient that they didn't have to think twice before accepting further offers to play festivals in Zurich, Willisau and Schaffhausen. The four members took the next step of recording again, its sixth CD, Willisau (Intakt Records, 2010), effectively relaunching the band. "We've started working together again," says Doran, "but just free improvisation."

Another Doran band that has grabbed fewer headlines was the short- lived Red Twist & Tuned Arrow, with Fredy Studer again teaming up with Doran and guitarist Stephan Wittver. The band only ran from 1985 to 1987, recording one CD, Red Twist & Tuned Arrow (ECM, 1986). For Doran, it was an important association. "Red Twist & Tuned Arrow boosted my compositional abilities and my improvising. Stephan Wittver was a classically trained guitarist with a lot of experience on the free-improvisation scene. It was a completely unique band and very successful."

In more recent times, Doran has worked with Irish bassist Ronan Guilfoyle, putting music to the words of Irish writer/playwright/poet Samuel Beckett. "[Drummer] Steve Argüelles introduced me to Ronan Guilfoyle in the 1990s, and we played some concerts as a trio in Ireland, Switzerland and Germany. Then Steve moved to Paris and got into the drum-and-bass/dub scene, and we lost contact," relates Doran. "Later on, Ronan came up with the idea of composing music with lyrics, and I started checking out Swiss poets like [Friedrich] Durrenmatt.

"Then with Samuel Beckett's centenary, the Kilkenny Arts Festival and the Guinness Cork Jazz Festival jointly commissioned a Beckett program with Swiss singer Isa Wyss and Irish drummer Sean Carpio ," says Doran. We would have liked to record the program, but there were problems with the Beckett estate. I don't think art should have borders or containment."

The Beckett project, though regrettably unrecorded, is indicative of Doran's openness to new musical possibilities. Doran also works in an improvisational ensemble of classical musicians with viola player Walter Fahndich. "He has his own vision of what improvisation entails," says Doran. "For two years, we've played together at least once a month." Though Doran isn't a classical musician, he has a healthy interest in classical composers. "I especially like Luigi Nono, the Italian composer from Venice," says Doran. "I have been to Venice a few times as Artist in Residence and have visited the Luigi Nono Archive, managed by Nono's wife, Nuria, the daughter of Schoenberg—who I had the pleasure to meet there. It was great to be able to listen to his works and have the original music sheet to look at."

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