Alonzo Holliday: The Archaeology of Out-Bop
"After two years I switched to tenor sax, as that was more appropriate to what we were playing. The tenor has a lot more dynamics than the alto, including that 'growl' derived from the R&B bands like Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson's and Arnett Cobb's. So I really got into all the characterizations you can get from the tenor. All the honking and screaming."
Yes, he can get quite wild in his playing. "My artwork has a lot more control exercised over it, there's more premeditation, whereas the music is about spontaneity. I like that I have those two worlds," he says. Is there any relation between the two? "Well they're both coming out of me. They're part of the same whole."
Many of his artworks are inspired by musicians, including an homage to Ornette Coleman. Pictures from old magazines line a small cardboard box, divided into two levels. Pasted onto the second divider is the text, "Hum Hum, Buzz Buzz," from a children's book. Above that, on the second level, is a toy dinosaur. The piece is titled "The Quietude of a Solitary Soul," a phrase taken from the liner notes of a Coleman album.
There's a photo of two forks sticking into a cork with a nail in it on the back of the box. "With this, I was trying to suggest the balance I find in Ornette's music," he explains.
Turek's music is also intuitive and capricious, though in a different way. A case in point, his solo tribute to Thelonious Monk, Knom (Aria Arts, 2003): all song titles here are anagrams of well- known Monk tunes, e.g. "Little Knerink"; likewise, the songs themselves rework the referenced Monk numbers in unexpected turns and delays of return to theme. After a fashion, you could say he "out-Monks Monk."
In addition to fine arts, he studied 20th century continental philosophy. Martin Heidegger appealed to him the most. A definite part of his message, drawn from Heidegger, is a criticism of a culture that overvalues the technical. Also, he sees in Michel Foucault's role as "archaeologist of culture" a counterpart in what he does. "In my work, I take artifacts. For example, the early jazz I play on the street, and mix it with more recent stuff," he says.
"In Out-Bop music there's a lot of deconstruction going on. You can set up a situation where you're being abstract and you're trying to deny all influences from the past, and on the other end of the spectrum, there's people who play repertoire music and the past is the only thing. My perspective is that the past is an influence whether you want it to be or not, so you might as well take the parts that work for you in making a contemporary statement."
Turek does not use notation but he often has a game plan, sometimes fluxus-derived. "There's one piece we have," he tells us, "it's called 'Conscientious Objector' (from Lagrangian Points (Aria Arts, 2001)), where Kit is playing a standard, walking bass line, and Chico and I are the kids throwing snowballs at the square kid. Doing random things and trying to knock him off."
The Mystic Out-Bop Review's self-titled debut (Aria Arts, 2001) opens with a 49- minute marathon, "Obliterated Destinies." How does he justify undertaking such a bold enterprise to kick off the band's recording career? "I think the way we've evolved as a trioit's like a balance of the three of us finding a natural ending, but at the same time, if one of us has a really great idea, two of us may feel like we've finished that statement, but the first guy can be persistent about it and we keep going," he said.
Free jazz, by its very nature, is about freedom, but discipline, however paradoxically, goes with it hand-in-hand. "There's always a listening going on, for one thing," Turek agrees. The listening includes paying attention to the audience when they play live, as on their double-CD Live at Strange Maine (self- released, 2007), their strongest effort to date.
What is it that gives a live performance its magic? "If there's encouragement in a certain direction, that has psychological impact," he answers. "On the other hand, we might react to a hostile person in the audience. You can read a lot into body language...There are some places you play where there are just a handful of people watching you and the rest are at the bar. One of the good things I learned from playing in rock bands over the years, and also playing in bars, and also on the street, you learn to deal with it, and you can take it or leave it. And because of the fine balance of the nature of the performance, anything can push it in certain directions."