Friday, May 20, 2011

Blast from The Past: My First Gig At Smalls in 1995



1995: The year I moved to New York City. I would have moved sooner; getting attacked by a lunatic on the 2 train in 1990 made me hold off for a while. Apparently, riding the subway after dark in the 80's and early 90's in New York was a gamble. Things have changed dramatically; the subways are relatively safe (although they say in New York, "anything can happen". So if you are on the subway, just try to look like you are from New York, or you've at least lived there for more than 3 years. Don't stare at anybody, and don't draw attention to yourself and you'll be ok.). But I was afraid for a long time, until my desire to play jazz with the best players outweighed my fear of being attacked on the subway. And eventually, I could ride the subway at all hours; even after a Bradley's gig, which would end at 3am, I would take the subway to Brooklyn.

Gary Thomas
That year, even though I was new in town, somehow, I was able to get a gig as a leader at Smalls.The band I chose was pretty odd for the room: Gary Thomas on Tenor Saxophone, Ed Howard on Bass, and Falk Willis on drums. Small's then, and somewhat now, tends to lean more towards bebop and more mainstream jazz, more than say a place like The Stone, or like The Knitting Factory (which was active in 1995). I suppose I was a bit stubborn back then, and I really wanted to present my music in a particular way. I heard later that many of the Small's regulars were, shall we say, critical of the gig. However, I also remember that Kenny Garrett came to the gig to check out Gary Thomas. I only had one more weekend at Smalls in 1996 before a hiatus of at least 10 or more years. Now, thanks to the graciousness of proprietor Spike Wilner, I am once again playing gigs as a leader at Smalls.( The next one is in July, I'll keep you posted!)

Falk Willis
German native and drummer Falk Willis recently sent me a link to a 4 audio file set from that performance. I think he or I, I don't remember, made a cassette recording of this gig. The audio quality is not outstanding, but the music, in my opinion, is pretty interesting. Thomas is ferocious, and Willis drives the band with crispy passion. It's revealing to hear myself at age 25. Have I improved? Maybe the better question is, have I regressed? It seems like another lifetime ago, but it also serves as a reminder that becoming a jazz musician is a lifelong process. You want to know where you are going, but also know where you've been. ( I made that up just now! Ha ha...)

So here is the link to the music. The first tune is called "Ultimatum", the second tune is called, "Ancestral Wisdom", the third is " It's You Or No One," and the last is an incomplete take of "Hyperspace", which is a pretty challenging melody. The first two songs I ended up recording for Criss Cross in 2001; they appear on a CD called Ultimatum. It's available on Itunes. "Hyperspace" was recorded in 1996 on one of Gary Thomas' CDs called Found On Sordid Streets. That might be on Itunes also, it's on the Winter&Winter label.

Enjoy!

http://soundcloud.com/falkwillis/sets/gary-thomas-sax-george-colligan-piano-ed-howard-bass-falk-willis-drums-live-at-smalls




25 comments:

  1. I give you the link to my new blog because I talk about you in it http://acaddyfordaddy.blogspot.com/

    good trip around europe.Infortunately I miss you at Le Mand in France which is not far from the city where I live. Maybe the next time...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I remember being on the receiving end of that less-than-approving Smalls vibe once myself. Thanks for the tunes, been really getting into Gary T. lately!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This gig actually took place in January of 1996.

    I recorded it with my little mini-disc recorder (remember those?), with one (rather cheap) microphone sitting on the band stand floor somewhere.

    And you sure played the hell out of that upright piano (no grand at Smalls back then), George!^&*()

    Thanks for the gig!!

    This was the most intense music making I ever experienced. And I am not saying that lightly.

    Plus, I had carefully listened to and admired Gary's music for many years before that, so, despite that we had never met/played together until that afternoon, I felt I "knew what to say". ;)

    It also astounds me how I kept thinking "ok, now he is DONE, but he just kept going and pushing it to yet another level".

    Good memories.

    Falk

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