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Stanley Jason Zappa's Epic Gig Trek

Chris Rich By

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Zappa and colleagues mainly incurred travel costs as a financial obstacle. This sort of thing is as far away from the high compensation glitz of a modern bloat fest as you are likely to get.

"Almost all the money went into the gas tank. (Insert rant about the paucity of mass transit infrastructure here). It was a 10 hour drive to get to the festival. Despite it being a largely beautiful, peaceful drive, it takes it out of you."

This was all a personal effort with minimal compensation and no public funding.

"Canada has a grant for travel, provided you are travelling 800km or more. My town to Prince George is about 795km and as such, I don't qualify. That's official culture for you..."

Stewart indicated the lack of any specific funding for events in remote and under-served locations but it might be a useful facet for a proposal.

"Not specifically, but it doesn't hurt your chances with the grantors to serve under-served areas. However, Casse-Tete has not to date received any government funding."

Zappa provided valuable insight into his devotion to music inspired from his encounter in college with the late Bill Dixon. It isn't exactly touted or held in high regard in the usual suspect jazz biz circles.

And most of the swells now working the angles on the high end band side wouldn't consider the effort this modest tour took for all involved in addition to the work undertaken by the festival.

But when asked about travails, Zappa shrugs them off while expressing regrets at the transience and infrequency of it all.

"Nothing was especially exasperating. At worst there was melancholy in the knowing that this wasn't likely to happen again anytime soon and the travel time (and the lack of mass transit in North America, in the 21st century)."

For Jeremy Stewart, the irritations were the usual things one runs into when trying to be adventurous in a skeptical place.

"The logistics of The Piano Drop were beyond exasperating, partly because we needed a huge crane to get the piano onto the museum's roof, and partly because we were pushing the piano off a public building into a city park. Insurance, permissions, permissions, licenses, and insurance."

The chance to seek some transcendent sonic moments animated all and there were many high points to counter the low as Zappa notes.

"Nick [Skrowaczewski] is a walking high point. Nick and Catherine makes two. It was a joy being with them both. Hearing the trio's musical language develop was also deeply gratifying."

Sikora concurs.

"The performances were the high points for me; the resonance of the vaulted space in Quinta Ferreira's cellar was a lot of fun to play with, and allowed for very effective use of a huge dynamic range, which I always love. The concert at Prince George was also a joy to play."

For Jeremy Stewart, the unfolding of it all breathed added life into his year and suggested fulfilling ways to create in days to come. "We did a panel discussion on the Friday night of the festival following The Piano Drop. The topic was "The Importance and Unimportance of Technique: Technique(s) and My Artistic Practice." The participants were Stanley, Catherine, Nick, Jose Delgado-Guevara, Dave Ito Chokroun, and Jonathon Wilcke."

"After that discussion, everything in the festival seemed to point toward it, especially a theme that emerged in the conversation that could be summarized as "technique is important, but it's only a means to an end; when it usurps the place of the end, it becomes dead." It's not exactly a revolutionary idea, but it asserted itself as the organizing context of this incredibly diverse body of musics."

Keeping in mind that the core trio here rarely performs together and the whole thing is akin to parachuting into an unclear situation, there is ready agreement about the complementing capabilities and intrinsic coherence rising from alert and gifted participation in the collective trio sound with satisfying and memorable experiences for all.

"Everything flowed smoothly," Zappa notes, "as the tour progressed, structures emerged, syntax was tightened, plots thickened. At the festival, Catherine started with a solo. Next we played one of her pieces, then ended with a Japanese folk tune. Everyone had ample opportunity to stretch out and respond to the stimuli, as it were."

Catherine Sikora agreed and provided a succinct stream of details to further convey the sense of it all.

"The ensemble worked beautifully; we had a few rehearsals at the start of the trip, and I brought some written music for us to work with, though I was not fixated on using it. Initially in rehearsal we played free, and after a while I brought in the music (one Japanese folk song and one of my own tunes).

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