September 29th, 2008
In December 2007, Wayne Horvitz played piano leading his Gravitas Quartet in the studio recording their follow up album to the 2006 recording Way Back East. Playing with Wayne are Peggy Lee/cello, Ron Miles/ cornet, and Sara Schoenbeck/bassoon.
Here are the liner notes for Way Out East.
“The idea for the Gravitas Quartet has been ruminating for a few years now, but like most things in life it took me a while to get around to it. The principal inspiration for the group really came from the desire to work with these particular musicians and this instrumentation. That being said, it is also true that I was searching for an ensemble that could somehow bridge the gap between the through-composed chamber music I have been focusing on in the last five years, and my lifelong love of small group improvisation. Despite the occasional reference to blues or jazz language, this band is essentially a contemporary chamber ensemble that happens to improvise, and in that regard my approach to writing for the group is for the most part comparable to how I compose for a “classical” ensemble, albeit in a sort of miniature form.
I met Sara Schoenbeck and Peggy Lee at exactly the same moment, as part of the Time Flies series put on by Vancouver’s Coastal Jazz and Blues Society. Based loosely on Derek Bailey’s Company events, Time Flies puts a group of musicians together for four nights of group improvisations in various combinations. I enjoyed the concerts thoroughly, but I was especially excited to meet Peggy and Sara, who played with considerable maturity and subtlety, not to mention impressive technique. More importantly, they had a profound sense of being part of a whole, really being part of an ensemble and seeing each piece as a composition, despite the lack of pre-ordained structure. I find this very refreshing and often missing in a lot of the common language of so-called free improvisation, as unsatisfactory as that categorization may be. Since Peggy resides just a few hours up the road, I’ve had the pleasure of working with her quite a bit in a variety of contexts. Sara stayed in the back of my mind as a person I needed to work with as soon a possible.
Ron Miles is simply my favorite trumpet player. We had worked together on a record I helped him mix, and I had heard him often in a variety of groups with Bill Frisell and used him myself on a project or two. A few years back I was able to bring him to Seattle to do a one-time-only project called Music for Morning with Peggy, Joey Baron and Bill Frisell. (It was about this concert that a local writer, in a preview of the event, praised my “genius” for pairing the great Peggy Lee with guitarist Bill Frisell. He of course meant the other Peggy Lee, and no one had bothered to notice that she had been dead for a number of years.) One of the pieces from that concert appears on this recording: Berlin 1914. In many ways that aggregation got me thinking about this group, and now it has happened, and I couldn’t be more pleased.”