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Gutbucket: Cascades and Collisions

Gordon Marshall By

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Over its 12-year career, Gutbucket has resituated its various musical parts like the pieces of a Rubik's cube. The elements of that cube, the sonic strains, have remained similar—an amalgam of fuzz rock, jumpy jazz, post-serial classicism—but its panoply of shifting color has been redeployed in unique ways on each of the Brooklyn-based quartet's five CDs, starting with an emphasis on improvisation but gradually incorporating greater degrees of composing.

It is not that it never arrives at a satisfying formula. Each effort has opened up new paths of aural adventure for its followers. But Gutbucket is about more than art for art's sake. For its four members, the way they explore the properties of their instruments, and the modes of communication that reveal themselves as they interrelate while playing them, point to new ways of forging social interaction on a larger scale, toppling old orders and shaking things up.

Guitarist Ty Citerman spoke with All About Jazz about this search and aim, as well as Representing, by proxy, the band's three other members: Adam Gold (drums), Eric Rockwin (bass) and Ken Thomson (reeds). Speaking in slow, measured tones and choosing his words carefully, he reflected the methodical conscientiousness that goes into the process of making Gutbucket's music—scientific but very listener-conscious as well; and, to be sure, belying the apparent chaos of its promiscuous genre crossing, which on closer study has an order along the lines of an atomic orbit cascading through space with its colliding electrons.

All About Jazz: You have mentioned that you want to end global capitalism... I would like to know how politics plays through your music. Are you the leader of Gutbucket?

Ty Citerman: All good questions. I play a leadership role in the group, but the band is a collective. And I don't want that to sound like a cop out. We actually do function as a collective, which doesn't mean that everyone does the same thing. We all share writing duties, we all write music in the group, so there's the composer collective aspect, and then the actual functioning of the band, from scheduling rehearsals, running rehearsals, booking tours, or organizing the details around what our booking agent does for us—we do different stuff in that regard. Our saxophonist, Ken, and I do all the booking that's not done by our agent. So, back to your question: yeah, I play a leadership role but I'm not the leader.

And yes, I was serious about wanting to end global capitalism. Although that's a debate we have within the band. It's not a mission statement of Gutbucket. But I do think our music is political, both in its aesthetic and in how it falls outside of the mainstream. And I do think that human beings can come up with a better system than capitalism.

AAJ: You always seem to be searching, jutting from one style to another—cut- and-paste. Does the mix-and-match style of your music say something in itself, politically?

TC: I think our music has actually gotten less mix-and-matchy or cut-and-pasty over the last couple of years. And that I think varies from one writer in the band to another. Our bassist Eric, I think he was very much into the jump cut sound and structure for a while, but I think less so now, although his music still might hint at that. I think my music in the band tends to be more singular in terms of digging into one thing.

AAJ: You seem to be the rock link in the band. Ken is a very jazzy saxophone player.

TC: In some ways, although Ken wants me to play power chords a lot of the time. He gets excited about that. I think "Murakami" [Flock, Cuneiform (2011)] in some ways sounds more like a lot of free jazz in terms of pastiche and texture, and real thick, dense tones that are then covered by an improvised drum solo throughout the first three quarters of the song. So that's new terrain and more unified than a lot of other stuff.

It's interesting, what does it mean for a music to be political. Any time you get people together where the goal is to create something interesting and compelling—that by nature is political. And I guess it's political for people to sit down and say, "I want to write a hit song in order to make money..."

AAJ: Do you feel you are successful?

TC: I'm pleased with what we've done, and with what we're continuing to do. I think we're high profile in a certain music community. In a larger scheme of things we're not as high profile as a lot of equally compelling, interesting bands.

AAJ: England's Led Bib comes to mind.

TC: Yes. I think they're great... That stuff, it's funny. It's hard to measure. We can go to one city and have a very appreciative audience and then be relatively anonymous in another.

AAJ: The Honey Ear Trio has a similar approach, but with a swing and bebop base.

TC: With Allison Miller on drums... Her other group played at our CD release party. She's great.

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