Gutbucket: Cascades and Collisions
Ken studied classical clarinet, but taught himself alto saxophone, and has developed his own voice on that over the years. He also plays bass clarinet and baritone saxophone, and you hear all of that on most of our recordings, although he doesn't travel with those instruments most of the time. He's a wonderful improviser.
He's another person who has a very eclectic musical background. When he was in high school he played in rock and roll cover bands playing keyboards. As a very young child he would play around on the piano and write songs, and the way he tells it it was unfortunate his parents then decided to get him piano lessons because that frustrated him, someone else trying to define or direct something he was just naturally experimenting with. He started playing jazz saxophone, I guess as a teenager. Like me he has experiences with rock, with classical, with jazz. And he studied music in college. He's an interesting composer. He's written a lot for Gutbucket but he's also very connected to the Bang on a Can new music scene. He's gotten composer commissions from Bang On A Can, he teaches music at the Bang On A Can summer music institute.
AAJ: Eric seems very modest.
TC: Ken and I are the voices on the stage, more directly, verbally interacting with the audience. Eric may come across as being more modest, but I don't think he's modest at all! He's a great musician. His parents are both musicians, he started out as a saxophonist and switched to bass as a teenager. He just really worked at it and developed a sound and identity with the instrument that was really amazingand at the same time has always had a love of songwriting, a great appreciation for popular musicThe Beatles, the James Jamerson bass lines and Motown catalogue. But at the same time his dad was a classical trumpet player so Eric knows classical music pretty deeply and also started to get into jazz as a late teenager. I know he points a lot to the bass playing of Scott LaFaro as something that was very influential because LaFaro took the bass in a new direction: rather than the bass holding down the rhythm, playing four noteswalkinghe was more of a melodic voice, and one of the earliest proponents of the bass as a melodic voice in modern ensembles.
A lot of the music he wrote for A Modest Proposal (Cuneiform (2009)) he wrote in the middle of the night when we was trying to soothe his then-infant daughter back to sleep. I too have a daughter and couldn't imagine writing any music in that situation. We thought that when his daughter Lucy was born he would have to back up a bit, but he showed up a few months into her life with all these new tunes for us to play, and it was kind of a wonderful thing.
AAJ: Eric seems to be a very active bassist, but it's like a rushing riverit's almost like it's in the background even though it's so loud and so present. It's a good quality. It's unobtrusive. He's there all the time and supporting the band.
TC: I think a lot of that comes from his choice of instrument, which, rather that playing an acoustic bass with a microphone or a pickupor a standard solid body electric bass which he plays in other situations; but in this band he plays a semi-hollow, bodiless, upright electric that has five strings, so it has this lower b-string. I think the sound of the instrumenthe's developed the sound of it with this band. I think he actually got the bass a few months before he auditioned for the band in 1999. That instrument has this really wonderful combination of tone and depth and warmth but it also doesn't sound like a [Fender] Precision bass. And he can play arco, with a bow, and I love writing arco parts for him.
AAJ: Now earlier you mentioned "Murakami," from Flock. It's reminiscent of Wayne Shorter's "Nefertiti" [from Miles Davis' Nefertiti (Columbia (1968)], the way you reverse the roles of the upper and lower instruments, and it sort of begins and the end and ends at the beginning...