For the past few months, I’ve been recording a number of guitar duos that will be released on my Glacial Erratic Bandcamp label starting in September 2018. The series will be called Arcade Guitars. All of the recordings feature yours truly teamed with a great, young guitarist you may or may not yet know about. I can say without hesitation that these players are unique, skilled and artistic. These duos are only a sample of the range of music and potential they are capable of. As a faculty member at New England Conservatory and New School, I get to work with amazing young guitarists every year. All of the guitarists on the Arcade Guitars series were students of mine. While I proudly call them my students, they are all much more than that.
The common thinking about students in schools like these is that they learn everything about music, playing, composing, and improvising from their teachers. Nothing could be further from the truth. These schools are hard to get into. The auditions are very competitive. It takes a high degree of skill just to get in. Most students are already playing some professional gigs in high school. Many are skilled improvisers when they arrive, but they want to attend college to learn more. My job is to help them add to what they know -- to do everything I can to not damage their ideas, their choices, their possibilities in the process. I see them as talented young artists already with the same potential as anyone else who has ever tried to play. Most of them are not used to being asked about what they find interesting, or how they think they ought to play. And so I start there. I listen to them and do all I can to hear them so that I can help them to hear themselves and find the voice that is trying to emerge. I am quite proud to say that in all these years, I have never had two guitar students who sounded the same. I like to teach by improvising with my students. Considering I am doing that to help them expand their own voice, this process often results in a unique musical dialog.
Free Music is a platform that encourages free thinking expressed in music, and these amazing young guitarists—like the players of other instruments that I work with—either already understand that or arrive at a personal understanding of it over the course of our time together. Many become great imaginative interpreters, and/or inventors; or I should say, many engage in the process of attempting to do as much as possible with any and all of it. One example of this is the guitarist Andrew Clinkman who, along with another great young guitarist Steve Marquette, performs in the group Marker led by Ken Vandermark. Andrew, whom I know from his years at NEC, has performed beautiful and unique solo interpretations of Thelonious Monk’s compositions and also done great work playing the music of Captain Beefheart, Ornette Coleman, and Anthony Braxton. His original music is diverse, challenging, and frankly beyond a narrow, limited description. He’s on my list for a duo recording in the near future, I hope.
Over the years I’ve arranged a number of performances and recordings with musicians I came to know in my role as a teacher, including a multi-city series called Arcade. But it’s been harder for some reason to include all of the guitarists I know. I still hope to do a series of performances with just guitarists, but so far the plans I’ve made for that have fallen through, so I decided to do these recordings of duos—and I couldn’t be more excited about the results.
To date, I have duo recordings for this series with Wendy Eisenberg, Will Greene, Christian Cahill, Drew Wesely and Robert Murphy. Soon there will be recordings with Andres Abenante, Luca Ferrara, Aaron Rubenstein, and more. All of the music is completely improvised. The playing, ranges from completely acoustic, to electric guitar with no effects, to heavily effected loud electric. It’s melodic, dynamic, expressive, noisy, intense, and often inexplicable, as it should be.
All of these guitarists are already busy working making original music. These duos are a way for me to document our playing together and to do a bit to show that there are great exciting things happening on the instrument. The new music being made on guitar is as strong and as daring now as it’s ever been. While I am called the teacher, I can say with great pleasure that I learn something from each and every one of these musicians
In case you are interested, there are already two-guitar duo recordings on Glacial Erratic on entitled Storms, the other entitled Swath featuring me, and the amazing Chris Cretella, also a former student. In November 2018 Rogue Art will release a CD of duos I made with another former student Mary Halvorson. Those CDs will be available on Catalytic Sound.