Thursday, September 2, 2010

More 2nd Clarinet, Please.

So, three months and 21 days later, I have finally returned to the keyboard, computer keyboard that is, to update my two or three followers about what has been happening since May 12. I suppose I should actually start with what did happen on May 12. As you know that was the big day of the premiere of my version of Rite Of Spring and in a nutshell I would have to say it was fantastic. We managed to get the whole band there on time and get a sound check and clear stage in time to open the doors 30 minutes out. That in itself is no small miracle. Getting 17 musicians to one place in the city on time is a major feat. And when the doors opened there was a good line going down the block waiting to get in for the first show. This on a night when there were some major rainstorms. It seems to be common for me. My big CD release concert many years ago at Blues Alley in DC was hampered by snow. Only about two inches. But if you know anything about the DC area, two inches of snow means go to the store for bread and milk, get some movies and wait for spring. (The season, not the Stravinsky work) But I digress.
So, we get a good intro from Brian Sacawa, the concert series curator, and kick it off. The audience is on the edge of their seats but probably not as much as the band. This is very tricky material and we have had very little rehearsal. We made it through without any major wrecks. I think I conducted everything right. There were a few bleeps and blops in wrong places. A few hairy moments. Oh yeah, I goofed the end of the last piece. Supposed to be "off on three". I gave a hold. Some went with it, others didn't. And I forgot to turn on my mic for my solo on the last number. Oops. Even so, the place went bonkers after that show. Tim Smith from the Baltimore Sun was there and wrote a glowing review. The show was also attended by a gentleman that writes for DMV classical and he wrote an amazing review. They are posted on my Facebook page. (Again, you may friend me if you want, just mention something about Stravinsky in the request)
The band was very relieved to get through the show and was wondering how they would endure a second one. A beer did the trick for many of them. And the second show was definitely more relaxed. A mixture or relief and alcohol is a good thing. And, both shows were recorded to 24 tracks so.......
.....we have finally begun to mix the performance. And a difficult task it is. This is really, really hard music to engineer and recording live in very close quarters makes it even harder. For instance, mixing a Basie recording would be quite simple. Once you have a good mix/balance/EQ for the sax section you would barely have to touch it the entire time. You can leave it there for the length of the album. The instruments don't change and individuals very, very rarely end up in a combination of horns from other sections. My arrangement is totally the opposite. The sax players change from saxes to flutes, to clarinets, to bass clarinets. Brass change to various mutes and the tumpets play flugels as well. All in many different intrument combinations. A tutti figure might get played by a combination of one sax, one clarinet, two flugel horns and a trombone in a bucket mute. So you mix those eights bars but have to change everything after that because now the bone takes the mute out and plays with his section, the sax switches to a line w/ trumpets and the clarinet plays a different line, joined by a second clarinet. And we need more of the second clarinet. But we can't boost him too much because he sat right next to the bari player and he is bleeding heavily into the 2nd clarinet's microphone. Me:"More second clarinet, please." Mack McLaughlin: "Can't, that boosts the bari too much." And so it goes. Thank God for automated boards, too. Otherwise we would need four guys on the board with their fingers on all the faders pulling things up and down over the course of a tune. Engineers and their staffs used to actually "rehearse" doing that to mix a tune down to two track.
Anyway, the recording is not without it's faults. In this day of pro-tools one can make all kinds of amazing edits and fixes, provided you have good seperation with your tracks. That's one thing we don't have. So we will have a very honest recording. A rarity these days as everything is so "fixed" in the mix that it isn't really at all reflective of what was actually played by the musicians in real time. We'll have some warts. But it is a recording of the world premiere. How often does that happen?
Anyway, word has slowly spread about the project. I was contacted by some people from The San Francisco Conservatory about the project. I sold a copy of the arrangement to a guy in Australia. By the way, anyone else interested in purchasing the chart? I am selling it for those that would like to perform it with their own band. However, not everyone is so enthused about the work. I applied to do a presentation/clinic about my project at next year's JEN (Jazz Education Network) conference but they didn't want it. Tried for a performance too and they didn't want that either. (This is the organization that has risen out of the ashes of IAJE) They'll probably have yet another Yamaha artist presenting something he prepared just two days before the conference. Ah,...the benefits of corporate sponsorship.
So, I'll try to post again soon and give any estimates I may have about time lines for mastering, producing and releasing the recording. Until then, keep swingin'.

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