ITunes Shuffle Madness!!!

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Greetings from Alabama! I’m in the South for the weekend for a friends wedding.  It was a smooth trip down here and the weather is in the 70’s.  Such a nice break from the past few months crap weather in NYC.

Things are winding down for the evening, so I’ve decided to do some pre-bedtime listening, courtesy of my computer’s ITunes Shuffle.  I’m going to listen to whatever pops up, with no exceptions! Here’s the list of what came up…my library on my hard drive is kind of limited, because I store most of my music on an external drive, but (deep breath) here goes.

1.  Kneebody, “Wide Open,” from Kneebody – This is a really short track, and sounds more like a brief idea than a full fledged tune.  These dudes are really cool guys though and amazing musicians.  So far so good.  What’s next?

2. Hermeto Pascoal e Grupo, “Tres Coisas,” from Festa Dos Deuses – Another short track.  I like this album a lot, but this is not one of my favorite tracks…it’s just a spoken word thing in Portuguese…maybe it’s Hermeto speaking? Anyway…NEXT!

3.  Charlie Parker, “Si Si” – I hate Charlie Parker…just kidding.  This tune I’m less familiar with.  Thank you Almighty Shuffle for revealing the mysteries of bebop.

4. Arthur Rubinstein – Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, Var. 12 – OK Shuffle…what’s the deal with all of the short tracks? The longest one so far has been the Charlie Parker track which was under three minutes.  This one’s a beautiful variation from this work, and I highly recommend listening to this piece in its entirety.  Some of this work has the same impact of the Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor.

5. John Coltrane – “Mr. Day,” from Coltrane Plays the Blues – Finally something to sink my teeth (or ears) into! One of my favorite tunes from this album.  Very happy and bouncy. I need to revisit this album for sure.

6. Hermeto Pascoal – “Chapeu De Baeta”  also from Festa Dos Deuses – This is a totally trippy track.  Spoken word and crazy music.  It reminds me of one of those psychadelic music videos from the 60’s.

7.  Arthur Rubinstein: The Prelude from the Rachmaninoff: Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, Var. 12 – I have to admit, I almost skipped this one because it’s only a 7 second track, and this piece already came up.  But it was nice to hear the main theme that this entire work is based on.  Shuffle, make the last three good ones.

8. Michael Brecker,  “The Impaler” from Two Blocks from the Edge – Thank you Shuffle.  This is a great track with amazing playing from everyone.  I’ve been checking out this album a lot lately, along with Tales from the Hudson.  Brecker is in absolute top form here. It goes without saying that his passing was such a loss to music!

9. Marta Argerich – Ravel: Gaspard de la Nuit: Le Gibet – I bought this album a while back, which also has Argerich performing the Prokofiev Concerto No. 3 and the Ravel Piano Concerto in G Major, and admittedly I haven’t checked this album out that much – I have listened to the Ravel Concerto a fair amount, which is totally beautiful.  This particular movement of Gaspard is haunting and very excellent night music.  Once again, this is stuff I need to check out some more!

10.  Wayne Shorter, “The Big Push,” The Soothsayer – See, this is why I love the ITunes Shuffle.  I have hardly ever listened to this album, even though I love Wayne Shorter.  This is a nice way to end the evening’s listening.

I’ll have to do this again when I’m plugged into my full library…



Week 3 at IAR: The Casual Sextet

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Since 2000 I’ve written a number of pieces that aren’t the usual “lead sheet” type of jazz tune.  I formed The Casual Sextet to perform these compositions.  We’ve been playing off and on for about 10 years, and it’s always been with different personnel and instrumentation.  I’m finally going in a more concrete direction with the group, and back in March I organized a show for The Casual Sextet at Fat Cat that included myself on alto saxophone, Natalie John on vocals, Brad Mason on trumpet, Yoshi Waki on bass, Mike Eckroth on piano, and Brian Fishler on drums.  It was the first gig in 3 years with this band, with an almost completely different lineup of musicians, and it felt good to revisit these somewhat unusual works in the Travis lexicon. By the way…my first arrangement of a Bjork song was “Army of Me’ for the Casual Sextet, and it served as a prototype for the Bjorkestra arrangement!

It was a no-brainer then to bring this band into the studio to record for the IAR series. Yoshi wasn’t able to do it, but my friend and amazing bass player Sam Minaie (who also recorded the quartet stuff a couple of weeks prior) came it and tore it up!

In keeping with tradition, here are a few of the rough mixes:

Like Hermeto: This is dedicated to Hermeto Pascoal, one of my musical idols.  The chromatic eighth note line is inspired my his music.

Dreaming in Teflon: One of the first songs I wrote for The Casual Sextet, features a 7/8 ostinato figure, a chromatic melody, a blowing section, and a gospelly vocal solo.

Tyranny in Paradise: This is another extended composition that has an intro for saxophone and voice duet, which gives way to a more sinister melody (the tyranny, maybe?), followed by a more hopeful tune.


Hermeto Pascoal yesterday at Lincoln Center

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Man…I go through the everyday drudgery that can be life in NYC, and then I experience something that totally validates why I live here.  Yesterday I got to see one of my musical idols, Hermeto Pascoal, perform a free concert with this band in Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center.  His group was a seven piece unit, and it was nothing short of mind blowing.  He had this amazing vocalist performing with him, singing these incredibly intricate rhythmic lines, with an extraordinary range, and they were playing these very fast Brazilian grooves so relaxed.  Such a fun show to watch too.  Hermeto is like a musical Santa Claus.

Opening up for them was the Asphalt Orchestra, a group that’s come to my attention only recently, becoming friends with its leader Ken Thompson on Facebook.  They were really cool, and I was surprised to find out how many people I knew in the band: Sunny Jain, Alan Ferber, the Kneebody guys Ben Wendel and Shane Endsley, and Alex Hamlin.  Very cool modern marching band music!

So, I guess I’ll stay in New York.  😉  This IS where the music is happening.