You can hear music in the making, this Tuesday and Wednesday, in an art space in downtown Gatineau.
Ottawa jazz musician Linsey Wellman will be recording a new solo saxophone album live over two evenings, and is inviting jazz fans to listen for free. The only requirement: show up on time – in fact, early – so you don't disturb the recording.
Wellman performs in a wide variety of contexts, from mainstream jazz to Punjabi folk/fusion to calypso to Balkan marching band to prog-noise, but is best known for playing avant-garde or free jazz and as a co-founder of the Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais (IMOO). In 2010, he released his first solo album, Ephemera, a suite of guided improvisations for saxophone.
The working title for this new CD is Manifesto, and Wellman says it reflects the solo performances he's been doing over the past few years. It's a “culmination of a lot of performing and a lot of ideas and a lot of the things that I've been doing. I don't think people will be surprised by what comes out. People who have heard me play a lot – there's some stuff people will have heard. There's at least one or two things that I haven't recorded but that I've played in solo saxophone settings.”
At least one of the pieces is a natural outgrowth of the material on Ephemera, he said, and the format is similar: both solo alto saxophone pieces of about the same length.
“But there's a lot of new material. I'm going to guess that this one is a little more 'out'. There's a little bit more textural playing than this one than on Ephemera, which had a lot of shifting tonal centres, whereas this one there's going to be a fair bit of textural playing. Clicking keys, a lot of multiphonics, and extra extended technique-sort of sounds. But not all that: there's definitely going to be some melodic sections, too.”
On both Tuesday and Wednesday, Wellman will play two approximately 20-minute sets, performing “Manifesto”, the material which he has been composing for the album. He will follow that with a third set, of about the same length, which will be entirely improvised.
That third set could go anywhere. “Who knows? If it's good it might find its way onto a recording. Or maybe it's so much better than the other stuff, that that's what I want to put on a recording. I'm excited about doing that, because my solo playing to date has been very scripted. I mean obviously there's a lot a freedom in what I've written and a lot of it is more guidelines but it's been very scripted and I'm excited about the idea of just playing free for at least a section of the show.”
“It will be interesting to just go for about 20 minutes and see what happens.”
After the performance, Wellman will also host a short discussion period each night. On the first night, he'll start by talking about the recording set-up and process. On Wednesday, “I'd really like to talk about the role of recording in a music career and in the industry as it is now – and sound people out about what they think about that, because I think it's a really interesting topic.”
“We'll see where the discussion goes. I don't really want to guide too much.”
The project will be recorded by Montreal jazz musician Craig Pedersen, also an IMOO co-founder and a long-time musical collaborator with Wellman (they both play in Pedersen's more mainstream-oriented quartet, which will release its second album this spring). “We're going to record onto his computer and we're going to drop it down to an external hard drive. We've got a couple of stereo mics and a really nice close ribbon mic that we're going to use.”
This one there's going to be a fair bit of textural playing. Clicking keys, a lot of multiphonics, and extra extended technique-sort of sounds. But not all that: there's definitely going to be some melodic sections, too.
– Linsey Wellman
It will be held at the Daïmôn Centre de Production Vidéo Photo Nouveaux Médias, at 78 Hanson in downtown Gatineau (a few blocks west and north of Terrasses de la Chaudière.) Wellman played there last April with Pedersen and other musicians, as part of a short musical residency hosted by Daïmôn, as well as in earlier solo and group performances. Daïmôn regularly holds music events in this large room, he said, as well as hosting visual and video art projects there and in the attached art gallery.
He picked the space “because I think the saxophone sounds really great in there. It's very reverberant, which is nice. When you're playing solo saxophone it's nice to have a little help from the room, especially with the circular breathing stuff. Also, there's enough definition in the sound – it's not like playing in a cathedral. There's also curtains that we can play with, too, to affect a bit of the dampening effect. And I think it's also a good size."
Maybe a little edgy?
Wellman said that Manifesto, his working title, had the advantage of being bilingual and was “maybe a little edgy.”
“A lot of what I've been thinking about in the last number of years and especially as a musician living in Canada – or anywhere – is the idea of creating alternative cultures. I think in a sense I've been very affected by just reading things that are going on around the world. There's an interesting manifesto called 'Indignez-vous', which was very defining in the Indignados movement in Spain and with the cutbacks that happened in Europe and the protest movements around that.”
There are interests in the world. he said, which promote “accepted ways of being in the world and currently a lot of those things involve buying things and watching television and sitting at home a lot. Part of that title comes from the idea of artists, in our small way – this is a very small way and it sounds very pretentious to me when I say it – trying to create alternative spaces.”
“That's a bit of a side thing to what I'm doing in a sense in that I think it informs the music that I'm playing, but I don't know that that's necessarily what that performance needs to be about. But I'd like to be part of that scene in a sense. But it's just a working title, so who knows, but that's what I've been thinking of as a title for it.”
"An exciting place to be"
Wellman has had many interruptions while preparing for this recording – especially his first child, now almost two years old.
“I've been working on some new stuff for a while, but ... I've been scrambling to get ready for this in a lot of ways. And it's a pretty exciting place to be, because I've been working on things, but maybe not as fully as I did with Ephemera. I think I like that space – it allows me to go a little more freely with some of the material but still have a lot of very defined things that I want to do.”
A lot of the music has been “written in the last couple of weeks because I meant to get to it several months ago. So a lot of whatever polish there is which is very, very little is in the last little bit really. And that's exciting too. It's an interesting place to be.”
He said he hoped to have the CD ready for release in the fall, depending on recording technicalities and whether he can get a grant to help with manufacturing costs.
“But I'm not in a rush. And there are many ways to do this thing and I'm happy to do it whichever way it happens.”
– Alayne McGregor
Linsey Wellman will be recording his solo saxophone album on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 27 and 28, at Daïmôn, 78 rue Hanson, in Gatineau. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the recording starts at 7:30 p.m. Please do not arrive late because the sound of opening and closing doors will disrupt the recording.
By OC Transpo, you can take route 8 to the Terrasses de la Chaudière stop in Gatineau, and then walk two blocks west along Boulevard Alexandre-Taché (across Brewery Creek) to Hanson, and then four blocks north to 78 Hanson.
More OttawaJazzScene.ca stories about Linsey Wellman and improvised music being made in Ottawa art spaces:
- Linsey Wellman: a jazz improviser explains how he constructed his CD
- Local improvisers put on the spot at IMOO season opener (review)
- Linsey Wellman's Wedding and Funeral Trio melds Balkan rhythms and jazz
- Gaby Warren hosts a baker's dozen of Christmas jazz jams
- IMOOfest 2013 Night 1: a huge dynamic range (review)
- IMOO: Still making it up as they go, two years later (video)
- Where there's no smoke there's Fire