All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

Serving jazz worldwide since 1995
All About Jazz: The web's most comprehensive jazz resource

On and Off the Grid

Anthony and Me

By Published: April 26, 2012
A few weeks later, Jon called and said that Anthony was interested and I should send him some CDs. Very happily and excited I immediately sent him Takin' The Duke Out, Goin' Out Again and The Vampire's Revenge. A year went by and I hadn't heard anything. I emailed Jon and he said that Anthony was going to be performing and recording at the Iridium (New York) in a few weeks. He suggested I go there and introduce myself and talk to Anthony.

I did just that. Anthony was so gracious and welcoming. He told me he listened to my work and couldn't wait to record. I went home very excited, knowing that in a very short time I would be recording with one of the greats in the avant-garde world.

Two years later I still hadn't heard anything. I called Jon and he said he would remind Anthony. In the summer of 2010 Anthony was performing and recording for four days in a performance space in Brooklyn. I went to see him. He was happy to see me. We decided then we would record after New Year's, 2011. In January, 2011 the three of us started emailing back and forth till we decided on March 12th and13th, and everything was set in motion.

The morning of March 12th I met Jon at Grand Central Station. We took the train to Hartford, CT, and a cab to the hotel. Anthony picked us up and brought us to the concert hall at Wesleyan College where we would record. The auditorium is large; it seats about five hundred people and is mostly made of cinder blocks except for the stage. We set up. For me it was simple. All I needed was one amp, a digital reverb pedal and two chairs: one chair to sit on and the other to place my picks and a small towel on. I usually go through 4 to 10 picks in an hour set. I also placed a pack of gum, not to chew but to use as my 'special effect.' At times I take the hard gum casing to slide over the strings. In the last ten years, the only effects I use are the ones I can get naturally out of the guitar or anything that happens to be near me, like paper or a bottle. Anthony set up facing me about eight feet away with his various reeds in front and back of him. After the sound check we were ready to go.

Anthony took out this gigantic hourglass filled with sand, turned it over, put the alto sax in his mouth and we began.

From the very first note we were in sync. I just closed my eyes, listened to these wonderful lines Anthony played and I responded in kind. We played for an hour straight, never stopping. The only time Anthony stopped was to switch to another reed. The only time I stopped was to change picks and I could only do it when Anthony played solo for a few seconds. Playing for an hour straight is not only difficult, it can be physically and spiritually demanding. In the last few years I started playing sets that were an hour long non-stop, but it was always with a group of musicians, which is easier because you take short breaks while the other musicians play. But playing duo non-stop is very challenging because you want it to be musical while keeping the energy going.

I was surprised how fast an hour could go by, but it did. I very rarely opened my eyes. The few times I did it were only because I did not hear any sounds coming from Anthony's side. Then I knew I had to solo while he switched reeds. After the last note was played we both laid back for the silence to take over and then we smiled and hugged each other. The music was more than I hoped for and Anthony was so joyous and kept telling me how much he loved my playing—so much so that I got a little embarrassed. Here was this musical genius praising me. It was overwhelming, to say the least. We took an hour break. I just sat back and relaxed in the comfort of the music that was still surrounding my aura.

An hour later, we did it again. The hardest part about playing two one-hour sets of free-form duets is trying not to repeat yourself. You must live in the moment and let your creative instincts take over. It is a marriage with a give-and-take and leaving your ego at the door, because your prime concern is the music, not yourself.

When we finished we were exhausted. Anthony took us back to the hotel and graciously treated us to dinner. This is where I got to know him and enjoy him.

Anthony is such a good guy. That night he was joyful, and happy. At dinner we laughed and had a good time together. We talked about our favorite science fiction movies and TV shows and musicians we knew and admired and our favorite recordings. I was surprised how much alike we are.

comments powered by Disqus