The Thrill

I'm writing from Copenhagen where I just played with guitarist Peter Tinning and bassist Þorgrímur Jónsson on the jazz festival. We are playing a couple of more concerts tomorrow and then off to Aarhus, where I've never been. I had a blast today, but later on the phone someone reminded me of my days with Ant Man Bee back in Norfolk, Virginia. They said something like "it's a lot different from Ant Man Bee" and I thought, yes it is.

But is it, really? It got me thinking about the essence of what it is that I do. There are many ways to look at this, but when I perform I'm basically communicating in some way with an audience. If it goes well, there is a connection, just like when a stand-up comic makes people laugh.

And then we went to see our friend Richard Andersson play with a brilliant quartet featuring the German clarinetist Rudi Mahall. This guy had all the musicians in the house laughing. He's a great musician but he's constantly making what I call musical jokes, and this is one of the ways he connected with us.

Somehow watching Mahall and thinking about Ant Man Bee the two things intersected in my brain. I realized how fortunate I was to be in that band at that time. Imagine I'm 16 years old and suddenly I'm playing to packed clubs of college kids who can't seem to get enough of our music. It was a thrill. I can remember driving home after those shows and feeling a sense of elation (without pharmaceuticals mind you). It was a feeling that I had shared an experience with my band-mates and the audience that was unique, and that I had been a part of the circuitry of that connection. It was hard to fall asleep afterwards. Kind of like a musical double-espresso.

Now that I play mostly jazz, and the college kids are less prone to stage-diving at my shows, I feel the same way. Of course there are off nights… or mediocre nights, as there were with Ant Man Bee or with any performer, but that feeling of connection happens more often than not. For that I am truly grateful.

For the love of free

If you're one of those people who likes free things… here are two:

First, the track "Waking" from my new album "Remote Location" is featured on as a free download here.

Second, my song "Icelandic Poptune" is available free here. It features Sunna Gunnlaugs on Wurlitzer and Eivind Opsvik on bass.


Extended Liner Notes

When I was about to send the CD to print I gave the computer to Sunna to look it over. She said "aren't you going to write anything about the music?" All I had were the credits and thank-you's. I hadn't put one word in about the tunes. She was right, there are probably people who enjoy reading about what they're listening to.

So I started writing, but I felt it was too much for the CD jacket. I put an edited version there, but the pdf of the extended liner notes comes with the download on Bandcamp. For those of you who bought the CD elsewhere you can download the extended liner notes here.

Remote Location

On August 28th I'll be releasing my 2nd album "Remote Location" on the Reykjavik Jazz Festival. It has been a long time coming, and I can honestly say that I'm incredibly proud of it. The pieces are all somehow very dear to me, as are the people that played/worked on this project with me.

I'm not going to go into much detail about it here, as I wrote quite an essay in the extended liner notes that accompanies the download of the album here. But I will say that I was wonderfully lucky to have the right people around me, and without them it wouldn't have turned out nearly as well.

I don't have the CDs yet, but you can download the album and pre-order a CD right now on Bandcamp. I'm even offering a free download of my debut album "Found Music" to the first 50 pre-orders. Quite a deal.

In Search of the Golden Cappuccino

You might think that after an extensive tour of the US I'd have more to talk about than coffee. I do, but I'm saving it for another post. The tour was a truly incredible experience and we had a blast playing for new audiences, seeing old friends and making new ones… oh, and we had cupcakes. But on to the coffee.

Three to go from 9th St. Espresso, NYC

Three to go from 9th St. Espresso, NYC

Obviously I love coffee. But with the exception of rare cases, I only have two servings of caffeine a day. So I place a lot of value on each of these daily experiences. It might seem silly, but that's how I roll. Continue reading »

Brimming in Bremen

Truthfully, I'm not really a conference-going kind of guy. However, I had a blast at Jazz Ahead in Bremen, Germany last week. Having gone there to perform with the Sunna Gunnlaugs Trio, it was nice to have the show to look forward to amidst all the schmoozing. Not that I don't like to schmooze, but it does take a lot of energy. I think especially when the subject matter of your schmoozing is your art, there is a level of emotional investment that can be exhausting.

I was walking around the convention center for a day and a half talking to festival organizers and booking agents on Sunna's behalf, but I was also a secret agent for ASA Trio. It was a learning experience for sure.

We had the privilege and honor to perform at Sendesaal, which people routinely reminded me was where one of Keith Jarrett's amazing solo albums was recorded. The expectations were high, and we were not disappointed. The acoustics in the room are so perfect it's eerie. And the drums I got were ridiculously nice: a set of Sonor Delite's with a vintage Phonic snare.

At the convention there is a lot of talk about trading bands amongst the various countries' music export organizations. As in, if we book a band from Iceland, you book a band from our country. It got me thinking about the possibilities of this sort of thing. Right now the attitude is pretty rough, like "what's in it for my country?" But this could develop into a jazz artist residency whereby each participating country agrees to host a visiting musician who would then collaborate with the locals on a project. Just a thought.

But I have to say, I was very encouraged to see all the different countries going all-out for their brand of jazz. The music is important and the people and nations that took part in Jazz Ahead seem to realize its value.

Another Album in the Works

Since moving to Iceland, I've been collecting material for another album. Ironically, the closer I get to the recording date, the more ideas I get for new tunes.

I was scheduled to record late last month at Sundlaug (the Sigur Rós studio), but they had a pipe burst which has put them out of commission for a while. This lead to some other developments: I felt more comfortable bringing in new material for the band, I switched studios, and I feel more prepared for the recording. We are going to record next week in Salurinn, the concert hall in Kópavogur where we recorded "Long Pair Bond." Engineer Kjartan Kjartansson will be with us again, and I'm hoping this will be an extension of the LPB sound.

I can't put into words how excited I am about recording another album of my own. It's about time.

Missing Motian

When I heard the news that Paul Motian died, I was stunned. Somehow it took me by surprise. I was surprised even having heard that his health was not good and he had cancelled some gigs. Even with that knowledge it still seemed as if he would come back. I even hoped he would start touring again and that I could convince the Reykjavik Jazz Festival to bring him here. It seemed as if he would always be there.

Even more than the surprise I felt over the news was my surprise at my own reaction. I've been doing this long enough to see the passing of many of my heroes, but hearing this news was different… and at first I didn't know why.

It felt as if I'd lost someone I knew, yet I'd never met Motian, not even briefly. Of course I'd seen him play on countless occasions, but while I was able to summon the courage to introduce myself to other drummers I admired, Motian seemed untouchable. His dark sunglasses and the fact that he barely ever spoke onstage certainly factored into that. Yet for all his mysterious aloofness, somehow he connected with me in a way that was deeper than I ever knew. Continue reading »

Long Pair Bond

After reading the title of this post, you're probably asking yourself "what the heck is a Long Pair Bond?" If so, you probably don't follow me on Twitter.

Long Pair Bond is the upcoming trio album from my wife, pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs. I'm a little sketchy on the meaning, although Sunna has an explanation on her website.

Needless to say, I'm the drummer on the album. Well, I suppose she could've gotten a different drummer for it, (she has threatened to hire Joey Baron on more than one occasion) but to date I'm the only drummer she has recorded with. This is our seventh album together.

I wanted to blog about it from my perspective. However, I can't give too much away as we're also doing a Kickstarter campaign for it and one of the rewards is a DVD/extended liner notes which will have the whole back-story with interviews and video from the recording session. You can hear 3 pre-release tracks over at the Kickstarter page.

Number 7 is a very special album for a number of reasons. First of all, it's trio. You have to go all the way back to 1997 (the year we were married) to her debut album Far Far Away to find another album of hers without a saxophonist.

It's also the first time since '97 that she's recorded someone's music other than hers or mine. There are three such examples of that on this album. Our bassist Þorgrímur "Toggi" Jónsson contributed a beautiful tune, and we adapted tunes by Rufus Wainwright and Ben Harper. Both of those were unusual choices that challenged us to think differently.

For me personally, it's special in that it's the first album we've done where I used the vintage Sonor drumset I've had for the last 5 years. In fact, the only other session we've done where I used my drums was for Mindful/Songs from Iceland, but honestly, I wasn't crazy about those drums and the drum sound on those albums is not totally what I was going for. This is the first time I feel like I'm hearing my real sound, and our engineer Kjartan Kjartansson did an amazing job at capturing that. He's a drummer himself and he knows me really well, both in regard to how I play and what I like to hear in mixing sessions. That made this a new kind of recording experience for me, and I'm excited that we're about to share it with the world on Nov. 12th at the London Jazz Festival. Hope you can make it.

Get Money Out

Whatever your issues with the US Government (and we all have them), whatever your political affiliation or lack thereof the one thing most all Americans can agree on is that politicians in Washington are under the influence of money, lots of money. Democrats and Republicans routinely accused each other of spending more time fund-raising than doing their job, and they're both right.

No matter what your issues are that you wish Congress would act on, it won't. It won't act on anything you care about. Not unless you're a major contributor to their campaign. Not unless they owe you.

The only way to fix this broken system and restore Democracy is a Constitutional Amendment banning or severely limiting campaign contributions, and since we know that Congress will never propose (let alone vote on) anything that would interrupt cash flow to their "industry," the only way to do it is through a Constitutional Convention.

A Constitutional Convention can convened if 34 states call for it. Check out Lawrence Lessig's explanation here:

Dylan Ratigan has been using his show as an unprecedented form of activism pushing for this Constitutional Amendment and has created a petition which is gathering serious momentum. It really is the only way out of the mess we're in. The money in politics is completely out of control in America and it sabotages any hope of a functioning Democracy.

So, whether you're a Democrat, Republican or none of the above, go sign the petition right now and show Washington that the citizens can fix the system in spite of them.